The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 37, September 10, 2023, Article 19


Greg Bennick's latest interview for the Newman Numismatic Portal is with counterstamp researcher Bill Groom. Here's the second of four parts, where Bill talks about how he got involved in numismatics, and how counterstamps are produced. -Editor

Greg Bennick Well, how did you happen to start collecting coins and exonomia?

C. M. Berry Saloon counterstamp Bill Groom My dad was a Teamster. And one day he came home. He was a moving man. And one day he came home and he had found a couple of coins in a trunk that someone had abandoned. And he gave them to me. One of them was a 1795 silver dollar. It was very worn, but it was identifiable. And the other one was a 1918 half dollar, which I later found out was a lead counterfeit. I still have that one. The 1795 dollar, it got me curious and I started researching coins, and my mom had bought me a sort of encyclopedia, which was a big expense at the time. Back in the mid 50's. $300. That set of encyclopedia. But I used to pout through it. And whether it was homework or just I saw something on TV and wanted to look it up and I guess that's what got me in the habit of researching coins and that. But with those coins I ended up trading the 1795 dollar to a minister who was a coin collector and he gave me a whole bunch of coins for that. Now that 1795 dollar at the time was worth about $40 we figured, back in the mid 50's in that low grade, and that started me on coin collecting. Then I got a newspaper route when I used to get old coins and I'd look for them. I told my customers I was looking for old coins - some of them would give me old coins that they had in their drawers at home. And eventually I got into a coin club where I lived in western New York, it was the Jamestown Coin Club, and started to meet dealers. I should have mentioned, my first Civil War token I bought was when I was a teenager at a mall on Long Island. It was on a Gimbel's store in the mall and they had a coin counter and I saw a token there with Lincoln on it, and it was dated 1864. And I thought, Wow, that's curious. So I asked to see it. And the reverse was okay. It was $12.50. And at the time, minimum wage, which I was earning, was a buck and a quarter. So that was 10 hours of work for me. But I had to have that piece. And the reason I wanted it was, I thought it was amazing that it was a coin that Lincoln was still alive in 64. I knew that as a teenager and he got to see his own image on a cent - a circulating civil war token. So I just thought that was so cool. I had to have it.

Greg Bennick And it's very cool. It's very cool. Now did your collecting interests evolve over the past 60 plus years? Where did you go after that time?

Bill Groom Well, I went to college, spent five years in school, and I taught school after that - middle school - and I got into civil service. I became a probation officer for 25 years in New York. And then I retired in 2001. So about 20 years ago I retired. But after I graduated college and finally got out where I was making a little money, I got back interested in the coins and started going to the shows. And going to auctions and participating in auctions. And so it just evolved from there. And I had gotten into collecting Lincoln cents quarters, and Buffalo nickels. I had to put together a full horn set of Buffalo nickels, that was a fun thing to do. So I got in matching condition coins and I created sets that had coins with the same condition. And I got into type coin collecting, which I loved and had a beautiful typeset, but the tokens always called out to me. And then I got a counter stamp, my first one with a counter stamp I bought for five bucks at a local show and it was an Erie store card. At the time, I didn't realize it was cataloged as a civil war token and I didn't have the big store card book I think came out in 75, but this was about 77. I didn't have the book at that time and that was stamped with a merchant. It had his name, his address, selling dry goods, and it was on an 1859 Indian cent. That was my first counterstamp. And I thought, That's neat. And I started wondering if there were any more. And I started looking and I started buying more gradually. And then as I started going to some of the bigger shows in the eighties, when I was a little more affluent and I can recall being able to buy groups counterstamp coins. Richard Rossa. Some people I know him, Rossa and Tannenbaum were big into tokens and Richard Rossa at one show, I think it was Pittsburgh ANA in about 1988, maybe sold me a bag - 30, 40 pieces for a little over ten bucks apiece. And when I got to researching those counterstamps in that bag, I mean, I pulled out three gunsmiths, a silversmith. It was just an incredible group of pieces. And that one really got me intrigued. In fact, I spent a week in Philadelphia at the library. This was before they had the computers there. I spent a week at the Philadelphia Library researching because Philadelphia was really a hub of counterstamps. I went to Chicago for a week and spent a weekend in the library there. I didn't do any sightseeing. I just sat the library all the time looking up these counterstamps. It became something of an obsession, I guess you'd say.

Greg Bennick Now, you mentioned an Erie store card. For those who know what that is, for those who don't, could you describe real quick what an Erie store card is?

Bill Groom Well, the Erie store card - there are two types of civil war tokens, two major varieties, ones is patriotic ones that have don't have any merchant advertising on them. Store cards are tokens produced during the Civil War that have advertising, whether it's a goods or service on them. And there are 10,000 different varieties of civil war tokens and the Erie store card was issued. It's the only one from Erie, Pennsylvania, and that's not far from where I lived, about 50 miles from where I lived at the time. So I was able to do some research on it. And I think I recall writing an article for the Civil War Token Society called The Erie Store Card and so on. If someone looks in your early journals they will find that article.

Greg Bennick What sort of coin and exonumia articles have you written? You mentioned your research. Where have those articles been published?

Bill Groom For about the past six years I've been writing a series of articles. I call it Punch Lines. For counter stamps, strictly about counter stamps. And they've been published in the journal of the National Token Collectors Association, and the journal is called Talkin' Tokens. I believe they're even offering a free subscription, temporary subscription. So you can go in and research the journals. And I think it's a very modest cost online. I think it's $18 a year. And I've also written with the Civil War Token Society a number of articles starting about 40 years ago now, I started writing articles for them on Civil War tokens and actually more recently on some counterstamps and a few of the counterstamps that I wrote about were actually produced during the Civil War period.

Greg Bennick Counter stamps were produced punched letter by letter, meaning the name of a merchant. I just thought to ask this just now - or were they done with some sort of punch that that struck all of the merchants name at once? I mean, I've seen examples of both, but what was more common?

Bill Groom Okay. That's an excellent distinction to make. With individual letter punches you have to really be careful about those because anyone with a set of punches can produce a counterstamp coin. This is one of the reasons pictures are so important of known counterstamps. There have been some fabrications of counterstamps and individual ones can easily be fabricated. There's one of the popular counterstamps which is called Vote the Land Free, and that's a prepared counterstamp. Now that counterstamp still exists in the Kansas State Historical Society. But there are some people who have created their own Vote the Land Free with individual letter punches. And they are not contemporary to the time, which was the 1840s. Now generally collectors should look for stamps that were created with one punch - it might have the whole name. All the letters are evenly aligned, they might be in a box or serrated box or a shape - some sort of almost like a little billboard to use Greg's term. Counterstamps that have initials, names, towns, occupations stamped not with individual misaligned letters but with a prepared punch. Because for someone nowadays to get a prepared punch done it could be costly and they are less likely to be fabricated.

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:


LIBERTY SEATED SILVER COINS. The new 2nd edition of Q. David Bowers's Guide Book of Liberty Seated Silver Coins is available now. 608 pages of fascinating Bowers-style coverage of half dimes, dimes, twenty-cent pieces, quarters, half dollars, Gobrecht dollars, silver dollars, and trade dollars. Order your copy online at , or call 1-800-546-2995.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2023 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster