Here's the Money Tree Out on a Limb account of my discovery, and their later sale, of the publisher's backstock hoard of the American Journal of Numismatics, courtesy of the Newman Numismatic Portal. I've left in the asides and digressions to capture the full flavor of cataloguer Ken Lowe's personality and writing style. I corrected some typos and several OCR errors.
The highlight of this issue is the offering of the "HOMREN HOARD" of issues of the
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF NUMISMATICS, a hoard that had been ignored, overlooked, and/or
forgotten for half a century. We are thrilled to tell you the tale. We are also honored to be
the exclusive distributors of these issues. [See page 22]
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF NUMISMATICS BACK-ISSUE HOARD DISCOVERED
[NOTE: On Monday December 8, 1997, this news release was sent to the numismatic media
and also was sent out over the INTERNET]
The Money Tree, numismatic booksellers of Rocky
River. OH have announced an extraordinary discovery of an old publisher's backstock of the
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF NUMISMATICS (AJN). Published initially bv the American
Numismatic and Archaeological Society in 1866, the journal continued under various
editorships until 1924. Many important articles on U.S. and worldwide numismatic subjects were initially published within its covers. Complete sets are rare and highly sought,
commanding up to $10,000 in auctions.
The present hoard was apparently stored in a warehouse for half a century. It was recently
purchased by Wayne K. Homren of Pittsburgh. PA. Mr. Homren is currently serving as Vice-President of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS). "I've been hoping to build a set
of AJN's for years, but It's been hard to locate many of the issues. They just weren't out
there. 1 was astounded to learn of the existence of the publisher's backstock 'hoard' in October, and moved immediately to purchase it. My wife and I travelled on Thanksgiving
weekend to pick it up."
The hoard consisted entirely of original, unbound issues. There are many complete volumes
although only about half of the journal's 53 volumes are represented. In addition, there are a number of individual issues for assorted years spanning the entire 1866-1924 period.
"I love numismatic literature, but I only need one copy of each." Mr. Homren said. The
remainder of the hoard has been consigned to The Money Tree for sale. "This is truly a remarkable find - I'm still a bit overwhelmed by its size and scope." said Ken Lowe, a partner
in The Money Tree. "It is like finding an original mint roll of bust half dollars - it's unheard
of these days."
And now for the inside story....
"YOU'LL NEVER GUESS WHAT I HAVE"
Thanksgiving weekend, Sunday night, November 30, 1997. My phone rang. The Caller ID
indicated a call from Wayne Homren. Neat. For the uninitiated. Wayne is the Vice-President
of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, the longtime owner of Rebellion Numismatics, and
perhaps more than anyone is responsible for the renaissance in numismatic organizations in Western Pennsylvania, although he is far too modest ever to acknowledge this. He was a tireless worker at the 1989 A.N.A. convention in Pittsburgh, has held numerous offices in the Western Pennsylvania Numismatic Society. PAN. and is a major reason why the PAN show
has grown large so over the last several years. Additionally, Wayne, or Mr. Pennsylvania
Numismatics, as I have tagged him, has an absolutely wonderful numismatic library.
Also, in our last issue, we noted that Wayne was engaged. We are pleased to note that
Myron. Daryl, and I attended Wayne and Dee's wedding in Pittsburgh July 5. 1997. A sunny
day. A magnificent celebration. The wedding was held at an historic and majestic church. Dee
was as lovely a bride as has ever been. And as for Wayne ... in the words of John Burns,
"The boy cleans up real good." The reception was limited to the population of the known
world. Good food, a wonderful hall, and great company. At the reception, we were seated at a
table with Pat McBride and his friend Dawn, and Glenn and Jean Mooney. I have long been
familiar with Mr. Mooney and his important numismatic writings and research, but had never
gotten to meet him. Mr. Mooney was among the prominent group of post-war Pittsburgh
numismatists including Howard Gibbs, Ray Byrne, and Sidney Eastwood. Suffice it to say, I spent virtually the entire reception in splendid conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Mooney. What
a thrill! Such warm, engaging, wonderful, and generous people. I can clearly see his legacy
and his influence in the large number of the active, excellent younger numismatists in
Wayne's regular calls usually consist of his having some important news, his giving me some
information about numismatic literature, his requesting for information about numismatic
literature, his sharing with me various treasures he has discovered and obtained [Wayne's
numismatic sources are so deep and extensive, I secretly refer to him as "Deep Book"], and
some good old rambling conversation that enriches both of us and the phone company.
Anyway, as Wayne began his side of the conversation he stammered slightly, seeming a little
distracted. He began, "You'll never guess what I have." This is the exact phrase I used
several years ago when I called Armand Champa to tell him that I had the longtime missing
5th copy of Thian's REGISTER... in my hands. It was then that Wayne told me of his having
bought this hoard of AJN's. He also mentioned that he was in physical possession of the
issues and that they were spread out in piles in his dining room. [At the October PAN show,
Wayne and Dee invited Myron & Daryl, David & Sherry Sklow, and me to their lovely and large
new home.] As wonderful as Dee is, I cannot imagine that she was particularly thrilled at
having all of these AJN's on the large dining room table and all over the new carpet.
Over the course of a few discussions held in the next few days, we negotiated a mutually
satisfactory "deal". Wayne offered to draft a news release. He said it take him a day or two
to get it to us. With virtually no tweaking, Wayne's draft turned out to be the actual news
release. However in the interim, I made some phone calls to our friends around the country
to share news of the find. A news release is really only an announcement. One call tell if the
news touches anyone by the actual response it generates. Before Wayne's release had been
faxed to us two days later, I had already gotten a slew of phone calls at the office and at
home. What was extraordinary about this was that many of the calls came from people whom I had not phoned, from people the people I had phoned had not even phoned. Apparently the
news spread kind of like a phone-tree or a chain letter. We got calls from friends, "I'll take one of everything you have." [This is not a joke, we already have 2 firm orders for
one-of-everything, and that's without their even knowing the pricing.] We got calls from
strangers: from Texas, from Chicago, from Ireland, New Zealand, California (northern and
southern), Boston, and from 2 libraries — one public, one university. Small problem, not only
had we not decided what to price them at, we hadn't even seen them yet.
Wayne had assured us that these issues had not been touched since 1947. But one of the
basic laws of numismatic literature is that numismatic literature attracts water: the rarer
the book — the more water it attracts. So Myron & I arranged a quick one-day trip (Sunday,
December 8, 1997) to drive to Pittsburgh, close the deal, pack the AJN's in the car, and drive
back to Cleveland.
A brief but necessary digression. For our new readers: [Our regular readers already are all-too-aware of this.] Myron and I could get lost in a closet. When we travel we don't miss
cities, we miss states. If we had been Christopher Columbus, we would not have advised him
to sail west, we would told him to sail ... straight up, or in circles. Amazingly, we arrived in
Pittsburgh early as we did not get lost. As for the ride home [Russell Logan, you may want
to sit down at this point] we got back on the PA turnpike and were making great time ... going east. Except Cleveland is west, unless we had planned to circumnavigate the PA
Turnpike. Simple solution, we got off at the next exit [Myron, was it the Rhode Island exit?]
to turn around. Simple. Myron asked me which was the entrance ramp back on, I pointed left.
We drove left. Myron hit the brakes. In a moment of clear inspiration, Myron decided to drive
back up the entrance ramp in reverse to get a view of the overhead sign. Amazing, or in
retrospect maybe not, had Myron not done this, we would have again continued on our merry
way east. A small matter of driving over a median got us to the correct entrance ramp. And
we were on our way homeward.
Back to the story, we got to Wayne's house and took a gander at the hundreds upon hundreds
upon hundreds ad infinitum of issues. Virtually all of these issues were original and
unopened. That is, its component sections had never been trimmed at the edges or silt open
with a paper knife. Thus the untrimmed edges slightly overlapped the covers. Also one could
not open the pages all the way because the pages (folded in the printing process) had not
been sliced open at the top. Yes, these were as advertised, absolutely untouched.
Some of the covers had some minor chipping at the periphery. Remember, in earlier days,
printers bound their books or periodicals with flimsy paper covers recognizing that most
collectors would send their books to their respective bookbinders who would remove any
original covers before rebinding them. Subsequently, these books would be finely bound,
generally in leather. For years, periodicals continued to be issued with flimsy covers. However, many of today's collectors want their older periodicals with the original covers. Further, in many cases much valuable information was printed on the covers. Thus, that
these covers were only trivially chipped and slightly soiled, if at all, is of special note.
The contents were generally untouched, never opened. I want to use the word "Pristine" but
Myron won't let me because a page here or there may have some dustiness, or a corner fold.
BUT! I can say that I have seen no copies superior to those here. I spent some hours over a period of several years with the famous, original, unbound set which Armand Champa bought
from Dave Bowers and which Armand subsequently had bound [Bowers & Merena, CHAMPA II, lot 1012, illustrated on color plate 21 by Alan Grace. This set was described, and accurately
so, as "virtually unimprovable". The "Homren Hoard" does not contain a complete set of
AJN's. However, the Homren volumes and individual issues are in fact at least the equal of
those in the Champa set.
I spent the better part of 10 years assembling the best set of the first 4 volumes of the
AJN, largely because these volumes each consisted of 12 issues, and of volumes 3 & 4
containing the 3 photographic plates that are both historic and valuable: the U.S. Mint
Building, the famous "Levick" plate of large cents, and the "Hall" plate of type coins. The
"Homren Hoard" had many copies of these important, rare (or at least decidedly-eluslve)
plates. Let's just say that the best of my issues and or plates is inferior to the worst or more accurately, "least best" of the "Homren Hoard".
We cannot overemphasize how special these issues are. We have handled and seen many
AJN's during our time in business and before. We have never seen anything to match these.
The copies which usually appear in the marketplace generally have had at least several
owners, have been moved, opened, dropped, bent, folded, underlined, damaged, poorly
trimmed, and been subject to a variety of blblio-crlmes and misdemeanors. The "Homren"
issues were not only untouched for 50 years, prior to that they had also been in storage at
the ANS. Each of the photographic plates is virtually perfect [I'm sorry, Myron, the plates
are pristine.] The surface emulsion is perfect; no folds, no bends, no stains, no chips, no
breaks in the "luster".
I am aware that, sadly, that many collectors do not collect 19th century numismatic auction
catalogues. Thus, many collectors did not actively seek catalogues from the spectacular
Wylie Hoard nearly 2 decades ago.
However, I cannot put this any more straightforward. Each and every collector of numismatic
literature should have copies of the AJN from the "Homren Hoard" in his or her library. Many
are rare in any condition. All are rare in such high condition. They are invaluable sources of
numismatic information — first-hand accounts by the legendary figures from the earliest
days of American numismatics. This is truly a special, and probably unique opportunity.
For those who lamented that they either did not buy important and high quality numismatic
literature years ago, or that they weren't alive 50 years ago to buy these things — this is
your opportunity to go back in time and obtain fine, important, rare, and untouched examples
of Numismatica Americana.
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING. We have not picked over the hoard. With the exception of Wayne's
putting aside one of everything (and only one) for himself [He's probably entitled, don't you
think?], and one other set as described in the next paragraph, nothing else has been bought
or taken out or "cherried". Myron and I have not bought, been given, or taken anything. A
Money Tree precept, "You're either a dealer or a collector." We have contracted with Wayne
that we will only buy if anything is left at the end. It is entirely possible that Myron and I may not be able to buy anything from the Homren Hoard: we would not at all be surprised to see this Hoard sell out. Again, as noted, NOTHING HAS BEEN PRESOLD OR SORTED OUT.
The hoard has not been picked. We did contact George Kolbe about his buying volume 53 part 2
(a scarce volume devoted entirely to ancient coinage), but he passed on the opportunity.
THE ONE EXCEPTION: we have taken one of everything including some items of which only one copy existed [and are not offered in this fixed price list.]. That one-of-every thing will
be offered in our 30th mail bid sale in late winter 1998.
The prices we are charging for the AJN reflect what individual volumes and issues bring in
the marketplace when offered and their excellent condition.
Listed below are the various complete volumes which were present in the "Homren Hoard"
[not to be confused with the Leroy Hoard who is back-up running back to Robert Smith - a former student of mine, an extraordinarily and non-stereotypically intelligent and
well-spoken young man - for the Minnesota Vikings].
Remy Bourne and I had lamented this past summer that with the Katens' apparent retirement
[You can't count them out. Frank had announced his retirement for the first time in 1989],
and with the "Wylie Hoard" long having been disseminated that we had probably seen the last
of the hoards of 19th century literature. In the words of that great American, Gomer Pyle,
"Surprise, surprise, surprise!"
No matter how you cut it, Wayne uncovered a gem, and bought it.
What a trip down Memory Lane! Here are a few notes I can add.
"You don't understand - I have THOUSANDS of these."
When I began building my numismatic library back in the pre-internet days, I took out an ad in AB Bookman, the primary publication for used book dealers, noting my interest in books, periodicals, and catalogs on coins, tokens or paper money. Every week I could get letters (yeah, physical letters) describing items for sale. Not everything was of interest, but I did acquire a number of nice items this way, from single books to a box or two at a time. I kept what I needed for my library and sold off the rest, sometimes at a profit.
Along the way I bought a number of things from a dealer who specialized in libraries - in a big way. He would buy tractor-trailer loads of deaccessioned books, often repackaging and shipping them in containers overseas to new, expanding or rebuilding libraries around the world.
I'd purchased some runs of periodicals, and even some plated auction catalogs from him, but all were ex-library with markings and not in the best condition. Once he wrote to me asking me if I'd be interested in issues of the American Journal of Numismatics. Since we'd done business before I just wrote back asking if he'd mind just shipping them to me for an offer, and I'd ship them back if we couldn't make a deal. He called me on the phone and said, "You don't understand - I have THOUSANDS of these." He'd purchased a book distributor who had these in their warehouse somewhere.
We negotiated a deal and I borrowed my sister's larger vehicle for a trip to the Philadelphia area. Most of the issues were still wrapped into bundles covered in paper as received directly from the printer, and these covers kept the issues clean and original through all their decades of storage. Amazing.
Luckily everything fit into our ride and we brought it all back to Pittsburgh. As Ken noted, my wife was a trooper through it all, bless her heart. We were literally knee deep in AJNs after sorting everything by year and month into the piles around our dining room. The Money Tree sale brought in enough to pay for the deal and more, and as a bonus I had myself a nice collection of the nicest AJN issues anywhere. What a memorable experience.
To read the complete lot description, see:
The Best of the Homren Hoard
Wayne Homren, Editor
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