The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 36, September 3, 2023, Article 17


Greg Bennick's latest interview for the Newman Numismatic Portal is with counterstamp researcher Bill Groom. Here's the first of four parts. -Editor

  Greg Bennick Introduction

C. M. Berry Saloon counterstamp Hi, everybody. I'm Greg Bennick with the Newman Numismatic Portal. You're either about to listen to, or watch, an interview with Bill Groom. Bill decided that he wanted to do an audio-only interview. And as is the case when I do an audio-only interview, I ask the interviewee to send some images so that the visual version of this can have some images to go along with it. It's pretty customary that somebody sends me ten or fifteen images over the course of the interview for people to watch as they listen to what the interviewee has to say. Bill Groom sent me 1200 images. Now, all 1200 didn't fit in the interview, but I did place, by my estimation, about 500 images of counterstamps and things related to counterstamps that he talked about. Those images just show in order, except when Bill is talking about a specific counterstamp. At those points, you'll see on screen the specific counterstamp that he's talking about. With no further ado, let's dive into that interview. Bill Groom on counterstamps.


Greg Bennick Hi, everybody. My name is Greg Bennick. I am with the Newman Numismatic Portal. I do interviews for them and today I'm going to be interviewing Bill Groom. Bill is an expert on counter stamps. We're going to dive right into a conversation about this area of numismatics. Bill, Hi, how are you doing today?

Bill Groom Hi, Greg. I don't know if it's fair to call me an expert. I might have some expertise though.

Greg Bennick That that works for me and that works for all of our listeners too. So that's perfect. I was going to ask, what is a counterstamp? How were they used and when were they most popular in terms of their production?

Bill Groom Well, counterstamping actually goes back to ancient times. Coins were re-denominated with different rulers. And anyway, I focus mainly on U.S. merchant counterstamps and they were….coins were stamped for a great variety of reasons, some as little billboards as Greg Brunk noted to advertise their business or service, their products. Sometimes coins were counterstamped by inventors testing their patent stamps. Coins were stamped for, gosh, dozens of reasons. I made a long list of why coins were stamped at one time, and I don't know if I broached that or not. I don't recall. But then to answer the second part of your question, in the 1850s counterstamping kind of exploded on the scene there - gunsmiths silversmiths, were the most commonly seen, but also there were taverns, all number of occupations. Early photography was starting and people taking pictures and framing them and selling them. And oftentimes many of them stamped their frames. Gunsmiths stamped their guns, and cutlers stamped their knives. So the list goes on and on. And the coins sometimes were made for family members or friends or customers that have a coin. And the merchant would stamp it for them and they would have it in their pocket. And to show other people, Hey, look, so-and-so gave me and he did some work on one of my guns or made some silver spoons for my wife and I. And a lot of times coins were stamped by Masons and a great many of the people who stamped coins back then were Masons, and they were trained in special trades and many of them made their own stamps or they had fellow Masons create a stamp for them. Some on the collectors have probably seen Masonic pennies that were made, but even before that time, people would carry merchants might carry a stamp in their pocket as a form of introduction, as a card, almost like a business card. Say, Hey, I stamped this and I'm in such and such a Masonic order. So it was a way of introducing yourself or creating conversation. And sometimes they would give them to a family member as a keepsake. This past year I picked up the only known specimen of a Derringer counter stamp. It's on an 1826 half cent and interestingly in addition to the Derringer and Philada short for Philadelphia counterstamps on the coin, there are some initials on there. Well, one of the set one set of initials was TTD. So it occurred to me that that might be a family member. Well sure enough Derringer. Henry Derringer Junior there in the 1830's = he had a son named Theopolis T. Derringer. So he probably created that coin probably for his son with his son's initials on it.

Greg Bennick This is amazing. So basically, you're describing a situation where counterstamps are used as business cards, as calling cards, as souvenirs or as essentially gifts sometimes. And you mention, of course, there being merchant counterstamps. There's others as well. And I know you mentioned going back throughout history, others and just for a moment, I figured we touch on, soldier ID tags. Were there other things that they were used for as well? And also, overall, what are the populations like per piece? Meaning if it was just a merchant, a gunsmith, say, or a photographer, how many of these were made?

Bill Groom Well, there were some people who stamped coins almost endlessly. And like one of them, Dave Bowers wrote about Dr. George Wilkins in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, and he just stamped a great number of coins. I highly recommend that book to anyone – it's about the mysterious Dr. Wilkins. He was a dentist, but he had some other interests, too. He liked to tip the bottle a bit. But Dave has some interesting observations about this fellow. But to answer your question, we had discussed beforehand, and I looked at my database about the populations of counterstamps. I checked out my database last night, and as of last night, I had 2753 counterstamps listed in my database. Now, some of them, many of them, are multiple pieces of the same individual who issued them. But out of that 2753, I counted 2058 pieces that there were less than 15 or fewer specimens known of that particular counterstamp. Huge numbers of people stamped coins, but very limited numbers of coins generally.

Greg Bennick So other than merchants, I mentioned soldier ID tags. Were they used for other things as well? Or was it mainly merchant use throughout the - you said the 1850s - and beyond.

Bill Groom Okay. All right. For the soldier I.D. tags I've only ever seen and owned one of those. Soldier I.D. tags were produced by sutlers on medallion pieces, not really on coins. So it wasn't it wasn't really a counterstamp per se. A counter stamp would be stamping upon a coin. But these were stamped medals that were carried by soldiers. But as far as the coins go, there's only one that I've ever known. There are a couple that look similar that could possibly be soldiers counterstamps, but I only own one that actually resembles the die struck ones. There were stamping kits that they had to do on those. I wrote the author of a book on those, and he never gave me a reply on it, but I was trying to investigate if he had seen any. But he has none listed in his book. So that really wasn't a common occurrence. Very uncommon. Very rare.

Greg Bennick Now, you've referred to counterstamps in your emails with me as, the final frontier of numismatics. There are thousands of counterstamps that have yet to be identified or connected with merchants or individuals. Is that what you meant by a final frontier?

Bill Groom Oh, yes, pretty much. And what I also meant was this is a frontier that really bears exploration and discovery. And it's wide open because there are thousands and thousands of counterstamps out there that have yet to be researched and identified. And that is the frontier – its really is getting to those pieces. And I know one of the things concerns me is that people will look at a book and they'll take a book once something is in print as gospel, or if it's on a slab and says such and such on a slab. Well, that's it. That's what it is. Well, that's not the case. Many pieces have been misattributed. And that's a problem. The Rudolph counterstamps is probably the one that bothers me the most. That causes me the most concern because that whole attribution is based on a single advertisement of a druggist named Rudolph. and I wrote an article on that, and it was published in Talkin' Tokens on the National Token Collectors Association. And I believe it's a jeweler from Delaware, and I found a similar spoon of his that has a very similar counterstamp, with the same style of letters. Not exactly the same. Well, it's not uncommon for silversmiths to have more than one counterstamp in their drawers.

Greg Bennick So this is interesting. It's like the adage of buy the coin, not the holder that people hear all their lives.

Bill Groom Yes, that's that's very true. And do you do your research on these before you buy them. And one of the things that's nice about coins and buying coins at auction is you have days to actually research the pieces. And I bought many counterstamps at auction. And the best buys are often in bulk lots because the auction houses just throw a number of pieces in there and they're not really - there's no attention or very little of any attention given to attribution of the pieces. And I got some tremendous bargains buying in bulk lots. A couple in the Patrick auction that was held not long ago. And some from Stacks. And it's just it's a way to get counterstamps is to buy a whole deal of a group of them. And that's something your collectors should look for. I don't need the competition, but that's the way it is. I've got more than enough of the counterstamps so… share the wealth.

GREG BENNICK - 2023 headshot About the Interviewer
Greg Bennick ( is a keynote speaker and long time coin collector with a focus on major mint error coins. Have ideas for other interviewees? Contact him anytime on the web or via instagram @minterrors.

To watch the complete video, see:
Bill Groom on Counterstamps (

To read the complete transcript, see:
Bill Groom Interview (Transcript) (

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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