The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 16, April 21, 2024, Article 13


E-Sylum Feature Writer and American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on author Oscar Schilke. Thanks! -Editor

  Oscar Gottlieb Schilke (1903-1965)

If you were in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1960, you could have gone to the Piscataqua State Bank to view the coin collection of Nationally Famous Numismatist Oscar G. Schilke. The exhibition was promoted with a quarter-page display ad in The Portsmouth Herald for April 26, 1960. Visitors were invited to see the collection, talk with Mr. Schilke and bring in coins and bills for a free appraisal. A 1952 ad in the Poughkeepsie Journal stated:

The collection is comprised of old coins, medals, tokens and paper money dating back to early Roman and Greek coins of about 2000 years ago. It includes huge Swedish plate money; the first dated silver coins of 1484; early American Colonial oak and pine tree coins dated 1652; half-dimes dated 1792, the first coin minted in the United States mint with the portrait of Martha Washington engraved on the surface; the 1787 Fugio cent, the coin authorized by the U. S. Government and designed by Benjamin Franklin.

I noted the collection included not one half-dime but rather half-dimes of 1792. I had not been aware that he had even one.


A 1953 ad in Newport Daily News indicated the collection included, 30 Pieces of Silver paid to Judas. I would have been impressed if they had just one, but having all thirty was truly amazing.

Similar ads in other papers indicated that he presented his exhibit more than a dozen times from 1952 to 1960 in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Sometimes he was called a World Famous Coin Expert.

At one banking exposition, he met a man who had discovered a vault in the floor of an old Boston Customs House. The two went to Boston to break into the strongbox in the cement floor. They found a hoard of 1826 large cents and no other dates.

Schilke was not considered a coin dealer who sold to the public. Coins acquired at the banking expositions that he did not want for his collection were sold to local dealers.

Oscar.G. Schilke.01 Oscar Gottlieb Schilke was born on April 8, 1903, in West Cornwall, Connecticut, the son of Gottlieb Peter Schilke (1863-1951) and Helena Wildemann Schilke (1877-1948). He had an electrical contracting business until he retired about 1957.

He married Olga L. Schlosser (1904-1978) and had a son and a daughter.

I'm not sure he was nationally famous, but he was very active in Connecticut and the New England area. He frequently attended the regional coin shows and was the master-of-ceremonies for club dinners. He helped to form several of the coin clubs in the area.

The Waterbury Coin Club was formed in January 1935 with Oscar G. Schilke as founding president. The club was disbanded in December 1937.

He joined the ANA (as Oscar S. Schilke) in January, 1937, as ANA member 5791. He attended the 1937 convention and was appointed the District Secretary for Connecticut. As the district secretary, he enrolled many new members for the ANA and helped to organize new clubs in the area. In 1939 he was appointed district chairman for National Coin Week.

In 1938 he was a founding member of the Connecticut Numismatic Association, gathering together the local coin clubs.

During 1940-41, he was the second president of the Fairfield County Numismatic Association. They honored him with a 1.25 inch medal.

In 1948 he was first president of the Naugatuck Valley Numismatic Association. He was honored with a 1.25 inch brass medal.

In 1950 he was founder of the Uncas Numismatic Association in eastern Connecticut. Schilke was immediately given an honorary life membership.

He was president of the New York Numismatic Club for 1954-55. The club honored him with one of their 1.5 inch presidential medals by Karl H. Gruppe.

In 1955, he was one of the founders of the Metropolitan New York Numismatic Convention. Schilke financed the construction of the dealer and exhibit cases.

In his later years, he and his wife lived on Dodge Pond in Niantic, Connecticut. One wall of the home had his extensive numismatic library that was later purchased by Hank Spangenberger.

America's Foreign Coins.01 Schilke wrote America's Foreign Coins with Raphael Solomon published in 1964 by Coin and Currency Institute. It covers coins that had a legal tender status in the United States.

Schilke died following a heart attack at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Niantic, Connecticut, on May 23, 1965, and is buried at Grove Cemetery in Naugatuck.

An editorial (James C. Risk) in Numismatic Review described the late Oscar G. Schilke, one of the most loveable figures who has ever moved across the numismatic landscape in recent years.

Much of his collection was sold privately. I don't know who acquired his thirty pieces of silver or his 1792 half dimes.

Federal Brand Enterprises conducted an auction for the Blue Ridge Numismatic Association convention on August 5, 1965. Coins from Schilke were in the sale but not specifically identified. Parts of his collection of world coins were sold at auction by Lester Merkin in his sale of December 8, 1972.

Schilke got a good return on his investment in coins. One strategy was to buy coins from the public at the local bank at a price level where they could be resold to dealers at a profit.

  Schilke Medal Set.1940-41

In 2020 I was offered the opportunity to acquire a set of the Schilke medals issued by the Fairfield County Numismatic Association in a plastic holder. There were a hundred pieces issued in brass and are not frequently seen. Only five were struck in aluminum making it a scarce medal. Two pieces were struck in silver. The gold medal is unique.

A number of coin clubs have honored a member with a unique gold medal. They seldom appear on the market. The Schilke gold medal for the New York Numismatic Club was sold at auction by Heritage in 2016 for about $2000. It was later repatriated to the club.

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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