The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 37, September 13, 2015, Article 14


John Lupia submitted the following information from his Encyclopedic Dictionary of Numismatic Biographies‎ for this week's installment of his series. Thanks! As always, this is an excerpt with the full article, bibliography and more images available online. Collins is a key figure in American numismatics. Other reader comments and anecdotes are welcomed. How many other numismatists could say they hosted an ANA convention at their home? -Editor

John Lupia adds:

Totally appropriate for Sunday, September 13th, Grandparents Day, is the biographical sketch illustrated with Chapman correspondence of B. H. Collins, who left his coin collection to his grandson Benjamin Perry Collins.

Early Life :

COLLINS, B. H. 1928 Benjamin Hudson Collins (1845-1928), was born on May 18, 1845 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, son of William Collins (1815-1878) and Mary Anderson Collins (1820-1905), both natives of Delaware.

He served in the Civil War in Company E, New York 158th Infantry Regiment from December 23, 1863 to June 30, 1865, at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was wounded September 29, 1864. He was transferred to New Orleans where he purportedly worked as a scout under General Philip Henry Sheridan (1831-1888). After his duty under Gen. Sheridan he was again transferred to General G. O. Howard at Washington, D. C. and Maryland, assigned duty in the Freedmen's Bureau. In 1869, he was still working as a clerk in the Freedmen's Bureau at Baltimore as a civilian. About June 1871 he began to work as a clerk for the Treasury Department and eventually became the chief of the tobacco division of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in June 1890, succeeding Israel Kimball. In 1875 he married Katherine "Kate" Hayden (1855-1917) and they had two sons.

Numismatic Career :

Sometime after the Civil War Collins assembled a vast collection of 2,500 specimens of Confederate paper money, which eventually was bought by Charles M. Williams, and insurance salesman at the time (later as heir apparent made vice president of the Western and Southern Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati and president in 1950); later on in November of 1955 it was sold by Abe Kosoff at Encino, California.

In 1883 he began to buy and sell coins and collectibles with the Chapman Brothers of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The 1889 and 1890 Washington D.C. City Directories lists him as a Numismatist located at 610 14th Street, N.W.

It is purported that in 1891 Collins bought a gem 1793 S-2 at the coin shop of W. S. Lincoln & Son, London, though no passenger list has been found to support this opinion. That same year he proposed that a commemorative coin be issued for the centennial of the U. S. Mint.

In 1894, it is purported by Walter Breen et alia that he acquired a bag of about 1,000 uncirculated 1828 13 stars half cents. The story gets muddled or perhaps conflated with another about an 1811 half cent also said to be uncirculated that was in the same bag. According to that version of the account Collins was given the 1811 half cent first thinking the entire bag was of the same denomination, date and condition and sold it at a bargain price to the Chapman Brothers telling them he had a bag full. Regardless, in December 1899 he told John F. Jones the hoard numbered about 50 half cents. Dave Bowers, American Coin Treasures and Hoards has the best description and analysis of the coin hoard to date, except his doubting the date 1884 when Chapman claimed it was first discovered and offered to them.

He retired from the government in 1894 when he became a full-time Washington, D.C. coin and curio dealer specializing in American coins, especially large cents and half cents at his shop at Seventh and Eleventh Streets. His mailing address was 821 17th Street, N. W. Washington, D.C. He remained there until 1926.

In 1895 the ANA convention was held at the home of Collins at 1106 G Street, Washington, D. C.

On March 2-3, 1897, Ed Frossard’s 144th sale, auctioned his collection of U. S. Cents and Half Cents.

Collins exhibited his Large Cent collection at the ANA convention of 1910.

In January 1919 he acquired the gem 1800/1798 First Hair Style Large Cent.

He died from complications of a fractured hip sustained from a fall in February 1926. He was feeble due to this injury yet managed to attend the ANA convention of 1926 held at Washington, D.C. He passed away in the Washington Sanitarium, Tacoma Park, on Sunday, April 29th, 1928. He was nineteen days short of his 83d birthday. He is buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery. He was survived by his son William Hayden Collins (1878-1950), and his grandson Benjamin Perry Collins (1911-1970), both of Washington, D.C.

He left his coin collection to his grandson Benjamin Perry Collins upon his twenty-fifth birthday if and only if he developed an interest in numismatics and collecting to be determined or judged by B. H. Collin's son, William Hayden Collins, the father of Benjamin Perry Collins. Otherwise his September 20, 1926 will allowed his son to direct a sale and dispose of the money as he sees fit. As it is well known his remaining large cent collection contained the finest specimens, which eventually was acquired by B. Max Mehl in 1937, when Benjamin Perry Collins was 26 years old.

Collins left his coin collection to his grandson as a grand-paternal gesture, i.e., a grandfather's doting love for his grandson leaving him something that was special to him with the hope the same love of numismatics and collecting would be instilled in him, thereby passing on something beyond mere monetary value.

To read the complete article, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

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