The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 7, February 18, 2024, Article 16


Pete Smith's question about the largest collection(s) in the U.S. prompted these responses from readers. Bern Nagengast submitted these notes on Jim Johnson and his "poor man's Eliasberg collection." Thanks! -Editor

James Johnson Jr Here's a story about what might be called a poor man's Eliasberg collection. The late James G Johnson Jr. (1909-1992), who readers may remember as author of Coin World's Fair to Very Fine and Collectors Clearinghouse columns, assembled one of the most complete US coin collections before he passed away. Jim joined Coin World as associate editor in 1960, retiring in 1974. He started collecting coins in the late 1940's and at some point decided to assemble a collection of every regular issue circulation coin listed in the Redbook, starting in 1793 (no varieties or proofs).

Jim explained that the only way to make this affordable was to restrict it to the lowest collectible grade and limit it to half cents through silver dollars. By the time he passed away he had completed the collection missing only three coins – 1823 quarter and 1796 and 1797 half dollars. He had given up on those three because they had gotten too expensive in any grade for me to afford them. Keep in mind that this was done on his modest salary while raising a family.

Jim at one time owned a circulated 1894S dime and did extensive research on that issue. Jim displayed some of his collection at a meeting of the Shelby County Ohio Coin Club in the 1980's and was asked about the 1894-S dime. Jim's reply – I sold it because it became too valuable to own.

Much of his modern coin collection portion was assembled from searching rolls of coins, including Morgan and Peace Dollars. For many years he would cash his paycheck in silver dollars and was able to eventually find every date and mint at face value, especially after the massive Treasury releases of the 1960's. Jim was very private about his collection, but was known for his extensive numismatic knowledge and his willingness to share it.


Bern supplied Johnson's photo and this image of his circulated 1894-S, known as "the ice cream cone dime." Thanks. -Editor

In a 2017 E-Sylum article, Tom DeLorey wrote:

"James G. Johnson was the founding Editor of Coin World's Collectors Clearinghouse page in 1960. I had corresponded with the department for many years before joining it in 1974, and had visited it several times and knew both Johnson and his Assistant Editor, Ed Fleischmann.

"Johnson was known in the hobby for having assembled a complete set of regular issue non-gold U.S. coins in circulated condition, including a well-worn 1894-S dime! He did not care about condition, partly because he had collected for many years on a teacher's salary before hearing loss had forced him to retire from that profession and offer his numismatic services to CW. He did not care how bad a coin was, so long as he had the date and mint mark represented.

"Fast forward to an ANA convention in Denver, where I was working for Harlan Berk. A gentleman came up to the table with an 1802 half dime that was almost slick from wear, but which had become bent a bit in circulation in just the right way that the date was clearly preserved. After looking at it I told the gentleman that the coin was not for us, but that I had once worked with a gentleman whose collection it would have been perfect for.

"After describing the collection I gave the collector's name, James G. Johnson. Startled, the man burst out "That was my father!" We laughed and shook hands and spent a while reminiscing about Jim!"

Bern adds:

"I had heard that Jim's son had been slowly disbursing the collection after his mom passed away, and Tom's comment does point to that. I always wondered what happened to the collection. Incidentally I moved to Sidney in 1972 and became acquainted with Margo Russell, Jim Johnson, Ed Fleischman, Marilyn Tiernan, Russ Rulau, Courtney Coffing and the rest of the Coin World staff. And later Tom Delorey and Dave Alexander. And Leroy VanAllen who was not part of the CW staff. (I run in to him periodically at the Sidney Post Office!) I greatly admired all of them for their numismatic expertise and particularly for their generosity in sharing their knowledge."

Pete Smith himself adds:

"E-Sylum reader Franklin Noel called my attention to two items on the websites of grading services.

NGC certified more than 7,500 coins, tokens and medals from over 100 nations from the remarkable collection of Eric P. Newman, a renowned American numismatist. It comprises some of the greatest rarities in all of numismatics, including a 1792 Washington President Pattern gold eagle. (

"August 17, 2022: Professional Coin Grading Service ( has been chosen by Stack's Bowers Galleries to grade the Sydney F. Martin Collection, a cabinet of more than 15,000 rare coins spanning four centuries. The collection consists of many rare and seldom-seen treasures owned by the late Sydney F. Martin, a celebrated collector and author who wrote five books on early American coins.

"These represent the modern era where entire collections are certified prior to auction. The Martin collection had twice as many coins certified as the Newman collection."

George Cuhaj writes:

"Pete Smith's question got me thinking, Edward T. Newell of ANS fame, upon his death transferred some 87,000+ mostly Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic coins into their collection (1944.100 is the donation prefix). But throughout his lifetime, donated 20,000 more.

"Archer M. Huntington also of ANS fame had his collection of some 37,000+ coins gifted to the Hispanic Society of America, which loaned it to the ANS while in residence at the Audubon Terrace complex. now partially dispersed."

Thanks, everyone! -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: MAY 21, 2017 : An Encounter With an 1802 Half Dime (

Guth E-Sylum ad03 Expert Provenance Research

Wayne Homren, Editor

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