The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 20, May 19, 2024, Article 14


E-Sylum Feature Writer and American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on long-time Stack's staffer Jim Risk. Thanks! -Editor

James C. Risk was an authority on orders and decorations. He was a long-time manager and cataloguer for Stack's Coin Galleries and editor of their Numismatic Review.

  James Charles Risk (1913-2005)

James_Charles_Risk Risk was born on May 5, 1913, at Forrest Hills, New York. His parents were Frederick J. Risk (1883-1943) and Katherine W. Grasmuk (1886-1953). Frederick was a representative for the Mount Airy Knitting Company.

Risk graduated cum laude from Dartmouth in 1936. He went to graduate school at Harvard before becoming a teacher at MIT. War interrupted his career and he joined the Navy in 1940 as an ensign. He served as a lieutenant on escort ships Dahlgren and Jeffers crossing the Atlantic. He was there at Sicily for that invasion.

He wrote Administrative History of the US Navy in the Mediterranean which led to an appointment to the Allied Commission on the Democratization Of Italy. While in the diplomatic service, he became friends with Pope Pius XII, King Umberto and the Duke of Wellington.

Risk joined the American Numismatic Society on June 1, 1939, and was a member and Life Fellow for 66 years. After the war, the American Numismatic Society published his British Orders and Decorations in 1945.

Risk had studied orders and decorations. Following the war, Queen Elizabeth asked him to catalog and organize England's Royal orders and decorations. Many had been hidden in various locations during the war.

He cleaned and repaired items in the collection and replaced missing ribbons. Queen Elizabeth was impressed with his efforts and honored him with the Royal Victorian Order. He was the first American to receive that honor.

Risk himself received a few decorations. King Umberto granted him the title of Knight of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus and Commander of the Order of the Crown of Italy. Later he was created a Knight of Grace of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George and Commander of the Order of Malta With Swords.

Risk left the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with postings to Vladivostok and Saigon. He left foreign service to take a job with Coin Galleries in New York,

His application for membership in the ANA was published in September 1952. He was assigned number 20277. His address was c/o The American Numismatic Society in New York.

Coin Galleries was the world coin division of Stack's. As manager, Risk frequently travelled to Europe on business and was known to the major European dealers. Back in America, he was a frequent lecturer and award-winning exhibitor.

The full name of the periodical was The Numismatic Review and Coin Galleries Fixed Price List. It was a marketing tool for the company and much more. The articles were scholarly and informative. Risk's editorials were not the all too familiar promotional hype. They offered commentary on the hobby and on the market. Risk attempted to call attention to the lack of education of some collectors and flaws in other publications.

The November 1962 issue of The Numismatist included an article, New Facts About an Old American Coin by D. F. Spink and J. C. Risk. David F. Spink was with the British firm of Spink & Son, Ltd. Of London. James C. Risk was with Coin Galleries in New York. The article followed papers presented at the American Numismatic Association Convention on August 16, 1962. For this the authors received a silver Heath Literary Award from the ANA.

The ANA presentation revealed the existence of the King of Siam Class I 1804 dollar, The revelation caused Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett to pull their book, The Fantastic 1804 Dollar from publication so the story could be added to their book.

Spink had acquired the King of Siam set some years earlier and obviously knew what it was. Risk was co-author of the article and given partial credit for the discovery. It is likely he was more responsible for doing research for the article rather than making the discovery.

As editor for Numismatic Review, he signed his name as The Editor. There were many individual articles credited to James C. Risk. I wonder how he felt about his job as editor.

One editorial stated, This Editor, and I suspect any other of his species, in introspective moments feels that he occupies a lonely chair. Time and time again he expounds basic truths, numismatic or otherwise, only to suspect that he's whistling up a chimney. Nobody pays any attention to him.

For the first issue of Numismatic Review in 1970, James C. Risk published Further Thoughts on the Class I 1804 Dollar and Proof Eagle. In the nine-page article, Risk is generally complimentary of the efforts by Eric P. Newman. Risk, however, took issue with the opinion of Newman that all 1804 dollars were produced illegally. Risk explained at great length that the officers and workers at the Mint were responding to a legitimate request from the president. As Risk wrote, The whole story of the Class I Dollar and the 1804 Eagle shows fairly conclusively that Director Moore felt no compulsion to make pieces that were such accurate copies they would pass muster as original coins struck in 1804, He wanted two pretty pieces for the sets and nothing more. So even the numismatic details give no support to the idea that there was a conspiracy for Mint officers to hide illegal activity on their part.

The History of the Order of the BAth book cover He wrote The History of the Order of Bath and Its Insignia published by Spink in 1972. Stack's published The Yale University Brasher Doubloon in 1981. This was an 18-page booklet written by Risk to promote the company sale of the coin.

James C. Risk died in New York City on October 24, 2005. He had been a Fellow of the Society of Antiquarians of London (FSA), a Knight of Justice of the Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem. He belonged to the Naval and Military Club, the Royal Overseas League, and The Harvard Club in New York City. He had served as Chairman of the American Foundation of Savoy Orders and served on the executive committee of the Saint George Society of New York.

  James Risk Ordersand Decorations

This picture shows Orders awarded to James C. Risk. The ones with the green ribbons relate to the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazares. The ones on the blue pad are related to the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. Who is the expert who can identify the rest?

Great question - can anyone help? -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

Rosa E-Sylum FPL 26 Ad 2

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2023 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster