The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 37, September 4, 2011, Article 13


Alan V. Weinberg writes:

I have known Paul Bosco for several decades & have always found him to be vastly intelligent and his humor boundless. His occasional auction catalogues always contain amusing barbs & timely political opinions related to the fascinating items he offers.

Seldom do I guffaw aloud over what I read in The E-Sylum but Paul's reminiscences over NASCA, Melnick, et al had me slapping my knee in laughter. Particularly the mention of Melnick's hammering down six auction lots to Paul when he was bidding on only three. If Paul hadn't chosen numismatics, he could have been a major stage comedian. Happily, he has managed to combine the two talents as I recall from our ANA conversations.

Ken Berger writes:

I remember NASCA quite well as I bought a number of colonial/continental notes from their auctions. One event I remember quite well is the following. I attended in person the T. James Clarke Sale on 26 June 1978 (I believe this is the correct date). I was seated next to David Sonderman, a dealer whom I knew, as I had bought a number of notes from him.

I was especially interested in Lot #108, a one dollar 11 October 1787 Indent. It was described as Poor condition with "signatures faded, 30% of note missing at bottom right with staining and splits elsewhere, left border trimmed, note is aged and dark." Not many people were interested in colonial/continental currency back in 1978, especially a note in such awful condition.

Anyway, David was interested in the note and I told him I was also. He asked me if I really wanted it and when I said yes, he said OK I won't bid against you. I obtained the note for $55.75 which included the buyer's fee. I should mention that it is only within the past few years that I have seen other 1787 Indents for sale.

David Lange writes:

Congratulations on a particularly interesting installment of The E-Sylum. It made for an excellent read.

I particularly enjoyed Paul Bosco's recollections of NASCA and the people involved. I love gossipy, behind-the-scenes stories of the numismatic business that never appear in authorized articles or ads (I have a number of my own, but those will have to wait for some years yet). I was a subscriber to NASCA's catalogs for several years, though I was never a serious collector of banknotes.

This proved to be an excellent value, as I paid for the annual subscription just once, and the company sent me catalogs for at least four years. I also received Walter Breen's then-new book on USA proof coins as a subscription bonus, the whole package costing me just $15. I don't know how the company survived as long as it did with such a generous policy.

Richard Margolis writes:

I've always felt that the Buyer's Fee, for which we are evidently indebted to the late, lamented Herb Melnick, should more appropriately be dubbed the Buyer's Curse.

Martin Gengerke writes:

I greatly enjoyed Paul Bosco's tales of NASCA. Paul tactfully omitted many darker episodes on the part of the major players (of which there were many), and curiously omitted any mention of his own role.

One famous incident regarded Paul's role as cataloger for the firm. In cataloging some Egyptian material Paul added a footnote about how itinerant rug dealers, upon returning from a mideast buying trip, found they had been cheated by being sold cheap polyester rugs. They were heart to loudly protest "he gypped" me, thus giving "Egypt" its name! Somehow this went over the head of the firm's typists, and even got past the firm's proofreaders.

This, of course, did not sit well with Chairman George Ball, who, as part of his ongoing role as advisor to many presidents, was involved in mideast peace negotiations!

Incidentally, Werner Amelingmeier bought not only Raymond's foreign inventory, but was also the "dumping ground" for tons of U.S. coins that John Ford did not wish to soil his hands with - things like rolls of mint red Indian Cents and Proof Trade Dollars - anything "middle of the Red Book," which Ford considered boring. The true "full" history of the firm would make quite a story!

BTW - In my work with Herb and Doug I was fired or quit six times. I'd just show up for work the next morning as usual.

Dave Bowers writes:

First and foremost, NASCA was completely the brainchild of John J. Ford, Jr. I had detailed discussions with him during its inception. Ford worked behind the scenes. He was no longer associated with New Netherlands Coin Co. He envisioned an auction company that was staffed or drew upon the talents of some of his favorite researchers and writers. The idea was to have numismatics the core, but also to reach out to create authoritative catalogs on Western Americana, historical documents, and the like. Although the idea was a fine one, in practice I do not believe it earned much for its projectors.

Regarding Herb Melnick, last week Paul Bosco wrote:

He was the auctioneer of choice for most other company’s auctions, even calling some of the first Garrett sale after George Bennett nearly passed out from exhaustion.

Dave Bowers writes:

Herb Melnick NEVER called even a single lot in one of my sales. In the late 1960s Melnick was in Texas and issued some price lists. He came to New York in the 1970s and created a flash—with excellent advertising skills and a knack for publicity. His ego got in the way of some of his friendships, and John J. Ford, Jr., who had Herb bid on some lots for him in Garrett I, later became distant. I viewed Melnick as a somewhat brash competitor, never had any close dealings with him, and he was never involved in even the slightest way with any of our auction catalogs or the sales themselves.

Paul Bosco writes:

Did Melnick call some of Garrett? That’s what Carl Carlson told me the day after, but QDB is thought to have the largest memory in numismatics, and maybe the most useful. Unless anyone else remembers Herb at the podium, I think I must defer to Dave.

From sunny Budapest Dave Hirt writes:

The latest issue was very interesting for me. I especially enjoyed Paul Bosco's submission on NASCA, and its principals. It brought back memories of when I sold my coin collection through Pine Tree Auctions and Herb Melnick.

In 1975 I was living and working in Maryland. My coin collection was in a bank in Pennsylvania. I decided to sell, and contacted Pine Tree and Herb Melnick. He made an appointment, and met me at the Pennsylvania bank to inspect my collection. I soon heard an expression that I was to hear several times as he examined the coins. It was "That's a blazer!" He later told me that Water Breen was impressed with my coins. When we finished we went to a local ethnic club for some drinks and lunch together. Melnick was amazed at how cheap the prices were. But this was small town Pa. not New York.

My coins were auctioned in Nov. 1975, and Feb 1976. I was satisfied with the results. However after the first sale quite a bit of time passed, and I had not been paid. I decided to call Mr. Apfelbaum, the president. I explained my problem to him. Soon I received a call from an angry Melnick for going over his head, but, I got my check. I later gave Pine Tree other small consignments with good results. Herb Melnick was an interesting person, and it is a shame that he died so young.


Wayne Homren, Editor

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