The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 32, August 7, 2011, Article 8


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 8, No 31, July 17, 2005 , "John J. Ford, Jr.—Information Hoarder?" and
Vol 8, No 29, July 10, 2005, "Q. David Bowers on John J. Ford"
Glimpses of two very different sides of the personality of one America's foremost—and most controversial—numismatists.

As noted previously in The E-Sylum, Kleeberg and Prof. T. V. Buttrey, Jr. maintain a website about western gold bars and Mexican gold bars. On the site Kleeberg has published his viewpoint on Ford and the gold bars. With permission I've excerpted a couple sections from his most recent piece mentioning the dearth of Ford's published writing on numismatics, which Dick Johnson and others have lamented.

Kleeberg writes: "Yet his career resulted in him being remembered not for the work he did, but for his notorious habit of hoarding information and never publishing it;"

"From Olga Raymond he bought the rights to Wayte Raymond's publications. Unfortunately, since Ford had a phobia about publishing, this resulted in the deep sixing of many useful numismatic series, such as the Standard Catalogue and the Coin Collector's Journal."

"Ford's coin collection and his library were auctioned beginning in 2003. Collectors were astonished. Here were coins, paper money, books, and research papers that they had not seen for half a century. Many researchers were deeply angered by Ford's dog in the manger attitude, which had hidden away from them items that were vital for their research."

[Aside from his auction cataloging, Ford published relatively few articles and nothing of book length, with the exception of his 1967 report to a committee of the Professional Numismatists Guild investigating allegations of false USAOG coins; "The Franklin Hoard of United States Assay Office of Gold Coins: An Answer to Eric P. Newman." Ford tightly controlled the distribution of these, making originals very rare today (although photocopies have been made over the years).

I can't speak for other research efforts, but when I was involved in the research that came together in Fred Reed's book on U.S. Encased Postage Stamps, Ford made available an inventory of his collection and contributed information on how EPS could be altered or switched. Certainly, from other accounts I've heard or read Ford was selective about what information he would disclose and to whom. Just as certainly, no one is ever obligated to share their information with others.

I'm sure our readers have thoughts on the subject. It must be frustrating to work on a research project knowing that information that would be useful is not being made available. -Editor]

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: JOHN J. FORD, JR. - INFORMATION HOARDER? (

Ford has been THE #1 most controversial topic in the history of The E-Sylum, and that tradition continues after his death. -Editor

"Briefly, JJF is one of the most important, most influential figures in American numismatics. It is an irony that John has not been inducted into the ANA Hall of Fame, nor did he appear on the list of "Numismatists of the Century" compiled by COINage magazine, from a survey conducted a few years back. While the COINage survey is history, I herewith nominate JJF to the ANA Board of Directors for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. And yet, JJF has had his share of controversy. The "situation" concerning certain Western ingots and assay bars is still a matter of study and debate—and must be mentioned here, lest readers overlook the main thrust of this article and wonder why I didn't mention it. So there! John might be but a footnote in numismatics today, had he not miraculously walked away from an airplane crash in the late 1940s.

Returning to the "most influential" part, JJF single-handedly revolutionized the techniques of American coin catalogues— introducing, with the help of Walter Breen, many comments about history, mintage techniques, numismatic tradition, and more. If you are in the slightest doubt of this, take a New Netherlands catalogue from, say, 1955, and compare it with the catalogues of anyone else. There is no comparison in readability or the transmitting of information."

"In the 1950s, basic information about rare coins was difficult to locate easily, apart from what might be found in the current edition of the Guide Book. Building a library of old books (there were not many new ones) was not an option, it was a necessity for anyone interested in gaining knowledge and expertise. Most dealers were not interested in such things, which provided great advantages for those who were."

"John was a virtual walking encyclopedia of numismatic knowledge. It would be very difficult to mention anything in the American or Canadian series for which he did not have information."

"I made it a point to attend most of the New Netherlands sales in New York City in the mid-1950s. At one particular event there was a marvelous collection of Hard Times tokens, anchored by multiple examples of the rare variety known as Low-1, with the portrait of Andrew Jackson. John Ford was after some of these for his own account, and so was Donald Miller, the latter also being a fine friend of mine, and an attorney from Indiana, Pennsylvania.

This particular sale was held high on the penthouse terrace of a New York City hotel, in which there were meeting rooms and also a bar, a setting ideal for a wedding reception or some other event. Don had a few drinks too many, and while passing a $500 bill around to the bar patrons to whet their interest and curiosity, found to his consternation that it had disappeared— nowhere in sight, no one knew where it was. To this day it is probably still missing.

Miller was after one of the rarer sub-varieties of Low-1, as was Ford. I don't remember all the details, but whatever happened, the two became involved in a vicious argument and shouting match on the open terrace outside of the bar. Miller grabbed Ford and pushed him against a low wall at the side of the terrace, with the street visible many floors below. A great struggle took place, and it seemed that Ford was about to be thrown to eternity, when a bunch of bystanders, including me, rushed to the scene and pulled Miller away, in effect saving Ford. If Ford had nine lives and used one up in the airplane accident, a second was used here! Luckily, calmness soon prevailed and the auction continued as planned. "

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: Q. DAVID BOWERS ON JOHN J. FORD (


RENAISSANCE OF AMERICAN COINAGE: Wizard Coin Supply is the official distributor for Roger Burdette's three volume series that won NLG Book of the Year awards for 2006, 2007 and 2008. Contact us for dealer or distributor pricing at .

Wayne Homren, Editor

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