Numismatic literature dealer Charlie Davis submitted these remembrances of the late Al Hoch. Thanks!
Every now and then in life, you meet people who are large souls. Al Hoch was one of those. No person in numismatics did so much for the hobby while shunning any recognition. I have very fond memories of him, a few of which I will share.
In 1990, I approached him to publish a book I was writing. I dearly wanted the Quarterman QP logo on the spine, as that would give the book more credibility than if it were just privately published. Al agreed, but said that it would be to my advantage to pay the printing/binding bill and receive the entire print run rather than sending it to the warehouse for his distribution. As we were using one of his regular printers, the contract came with Quarterman's credit terms - payment 45 days after delivery. By the time the bill came due, the project was already in the black costing me nothing out of pocket. Other than two working dinners at Legal Seafood in Cambridge, he refused to take any compensation.
The Quarterman imprint has always stood for quality. Al used a 200-300 dpi screen when reprinting most plates at a time others settled for 100. His reprint of the Maris Woodburytype plate, which he did for me in 1987 using what he called the “fancy process,” is so deceptive, that when it and an original were shown to a New Jersey specialist side by side, and he was asked to select which was which, he picked the wrong one as the original. In a rare show of satisfaction with his own work, Al asked me to mark the reprints “copy” on the reverse.
While Al had published several volumes under his own name for TAMS, and with Ted Craige the first reprint of Dalton & Hamer (incorrectly referred to as the Seaby reprint; all they did was slap their own dust jacket on it), he opened Quarterman in 1972 reprinting needed works in the token, medal and early coppers fields. But they weren't just straight reprints with most adding extra value.
His edition of American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals included a photo supplement of medals from the collection of Leonard Finn, Al shooting the photos on Finn's kitchen table. Today, his reprint of Betts often sells for more than the unillustrated 1894 original.
New forewords, supplements and corrections marked almost every one of his productions. Changes in Penny Whimsy are subtle, as he and Sheldon made corrections in the text which were typeset in matching font on strips of paper and pasted over the old text on the repro master making a true 1st revised edition. Early Coins of America contains a 28 page foreword by Eric Newman, and A Historic Sketch of the Coins of News Jersey has one of 4 pages by Walter Breen. And his monumental reprint Medallic Illustrations of the History of Great Britain and Ireland brought that unwieldy 18 fascicule elephant into a single, if weighty, volume. It should go without saying that a library of Quarterman titles has more research value than a library of the originals from which they were made.
For years Al avoided major coin conventions and he preferred to meet in Nashua (NH) at a mall show where I had a table twice a year. There, he once sold me a Bank of New York Fugio for $700 for which I paid cash that he stuffed into the pocket of London Fog raincoat. The Fugio was partly red and I asked him if he wanted to see photos of 1794 cents in the same condition printed as “cibachromes” This of course was the special edition of the John Adams catalogue published by Bowers & Ruddy in 1982 as a fixed price list.
Al gazed at the coins on the plates for a minute, then rolled his eyes and said. “Charlie, I have been in psycho-analysis for 20 years, but this is the meaning of life.” He then got up and started to walk out, oblivious to the fact that $100 bills that I had just given him were falling out of his pocket and were spewing over the mall floor. I retrieved them for him, but I think the Adams large cents had put him in a temporary trance.
The 1960 ANA convention in Boston was a happening, perhaps not recognizable as such at the time, but as the years go by, it is defining itself with an extraordinary assemblage of minds. The banquet photograph depicts a group in the center of the room at a table set for 10 with 5 younger numismatists with their wives or dates - Q. David Bowers, Ken Bressett, George Fuld, Dick Johnson and Ken Rendell. 50 years later each of these has reached the pinnacle of success in cataloguing, publishing and research.
If there had been another seat at the table, Al Hoch would surely have belonged in their company (or would they have belonged in his?). As Al lived most of his numismatic life in Boston's suburbs, I asked him why he was not to be seen in the photo. His answer was that with a growing family, he could not justify $5 for the banquet ticket and he and Walter Breen went out for hot dogs instead.
In 1992, I convinced him to go to the A.N.A. Convention in Orlando and participate in the numismatic symposium with John Adams, Dave Bowers and Eric Newman. Not known to him was that N.B.S. had planned a special achievement award to be presented at the club's general meeting. I had the honor of making the presentation from the podium, and as he came forward to receive the plaque, the 100 or so attendees jumped into a standing ovation as if they were sitting on ejector seats and I had pushed a button. I remember the first person up was Michael Hodder, and half a second later the whole hall was up too. The recognition was more than Al could deal with, and he changed his plane reservation home and left the next morning, not wishing to spend any more time in the limelight.
These and other stories are obviously personal and I will hold their memory close. For those not lucky enough to have known him, I would ask you to reflect occasionally when you take a Quarterman title off the shelf or read an issue of his brain child Colonial Newsletter, how fortunate we are to have had Al Hoch in our world. He really did make a difference, and we will miss him.
Other readers wrote in about Al Hoch and Quarterman Publications as well.
Pete Smith writes:
A listing of Quarterman publications in English was published in The Asylum, Vol. IX, No. 3. At that time the list included 24 titles.
George Fitzgerald writes:
My only remembrance of Al Hoch was at a Boston ANA Convention in Boston in the 80's. I met him as Ken Bressett introduced me to Al. I had just purchased one of the Quarterman reprints and had it with me. I mentioned to him that I had purchased it at a discount from some dealer. I knew that Al did not like collectors buying books at a discount.
I mentioned to him that I had over 200 books on Numismatics. I looked at him and he didn't say anything. My only meeting with him, and I do remember that he said nothing after I told him about my vast library.
Rich Hartzog writes:
I knew Al for over 35 years and considered him a good friend. He was generous with his time, and helped me to understand the philosophy of publishing books, and how to deal with printers with exact specifications. We met a few times over the years, mostly communicating via phone and letter.
During the August 2010 ANA Convention in Boston, I rented a car and drove up to see him for the day. He had wanted to attend the ANA, but his Parkinsons and other problems prevented him from driving long distances. He was living in a two-bedroom apartment, soon to be evicted to make way for condos. It was cluttered with posters, filling the dining room, second bedroom and closets, stacked everywhere. He had gotten out of numismatic collecting, into posters and paper items, and considered himself to be quite knowledgeable. Coming from an MIT graduate, this was really impressive.
As I flipped through posters, he had detailed comments on each, not only on the subject matter, but the rarity and desirability of each. He had recently sold some expensive posters and was considering buying rare exonumia as an investment (at age 75!). I suggested he contract with a local seller or myself to sell off his posters, but he could not bear to part with them. He said I should come back for a visit, to learn the poster market, but I failed to make the time.
While there he showed some pages from his recently finished formula for predicting the supposedly unpredictable. Al said he had spent well over 10,000 hours on it over the decades, and thought he would be able to predict stock market moves and make his fortune. While I have a degree in mathematics, his equations were beyond my expertise! An interesting concept, but one that most claim is impossible.
Al had studied his various ailments on-line, and had tweaked his medicines to the point where he was able to control virtually all the effects of Parkinsons and his other problems. We had a nice lunch at a local restaurant (where everyone knew him by name), discussed the book business, posters, the state of the exonumia market and life in general. By the end of the day he was noticeably tired, and I returned to Boston, and then to home. Al was a good friend, and I will miss him.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NUMISMATIC PUBLISHER AL HOCH, 1935-2010
THE BOOK BAZARRE
JANUARY 8, 2011 NEW YORK AUCTION SALE
500 Lots Comprising a Remarkable Selection of Outstanding
Works on Ancient, Medieval and Modern Numismatics Featuring
RARE WORKS ON RUSSIAN NUMISMATICS
THE LATIN AMERICAN LIBRARY OF ALAN LUEDEKING
AND THE JEFF HOSFORD COLLECTION OF CROSBYANA
Catalogue Available at Our Web Site: www.numislit.com
Illustrated Catalogues $25.00
KOLBE & FANNING NUMISMATIC BOOKSELLERS
141 W JOHNSTOWN ROAD, GAHANNA OH 43230-2700
(614) 414-0855 •
Wayne Homren, Editor
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