Newman Numismatic Portal releases John J. Ford Jr. correspondence files

The Newman Numismatic Portal has released correspondence files sent between noted New York coin dealer John J. Ford Jr. and esteemed collector and researcher Eric P. Newman, of St. Louis.

From 1949-66, Newman and Ford Jr. carried on an active and lively correspondence covering the gamut of American numismatics, from little-known Colonial coins to the politics of the national organizations.

Their introduction was made by Wayte Raymond, who’s best known today for the Standard Catalogue of United States Coins published in multiple editions from 1934-58. Following Raymond’s suggestion, Ford wrote to Newman on Sept. 7, 1949, requesting information on the 1785 Inimica Tyrannis America Confederatio cent, for a proposed article in The Numismatist.

Newman responded quickly, noting he was “very interested” in Ford’s inquiry and offering to exchange coins in other Colonial series. Newman concluded by saying “you may count on me” for assistance with Ford’s proposal.

The two collectors quickly hit it off, sharing an intense passion for early U.S. issues and an equal disdain for the speculation in contemporary U.S. coins taking root in the 1950s. Their common interest in Colonial coinage led to the first substantial test in the relationship, as the brash New Yorker and the patrician Newman competed for the F.C.C. Boyd estate that was broken up following Boyd’s passing in 1958.

Ford succeeded in placing the Boyd Collection of Massachusetts silver (previously from T. James Clarke) with Emery Mae Norweb, of Cleveland. This came at Newman’s dismay, as he had had a gentlemen’s agreement with Boyd for first right of refusal if Boyd decided to sell.

The final rupture in the relationship came in 1966 as Newman believed Ford was knowingly selling forged copies of the 1853 United States Assay Office of Gold (USAOG) $20 gold pieces. Ford began selling these in the late 1950s, but it was not until the Professional Numismatist’s Guild (PNG) inquiry in 1966 that the situation came to a head.

The PNG took the middle road, ruling a buyer of one of the pieces was entitled to a refund, but stopping short of describing the pieces as forgeries. Newman disagreed, and the break between himself and Ford was complete. Further details, including the David McCarthy discovery of the host coin for the OSAOG forgeries, may be in found in Truth Seeker: The Life of Eric P. Newman, recently published by Ivy Press.

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