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The JRCS Hall of Fame honors those who have contributed to our knowledge of the early U.S. silver and gold coinage — it has two “wings” for inductees. The Veteran Category is for efforts in the Pre-JRCS era, while the Modern Category is for efforts in the JRCS era.
Daniel W. Valentine was born in New York City, on March 7, 1863. Little is known of his early years, except that he was educated in public and private schools, and later received his D.D.S. from the New York College of Dentistry in 1887. With the exception of one year spent in Vienna, he practiced dentistry in New York City from 1887 to 1896, and later moved to Englewood, New Jersey, where he practiced for another thirty-five years.
He married Ada Belle Colwell in 1896, with whom he had two daughters, Marion and Margaret Beattie Valentine.
Dr. Valentine became interested in numismatics very early in life, and although he was a general collector, he confined himself primarily to United States issues. He was very active in several numismatic organizations, including the American Numismatic Association, American Numismatic Society, and the New York Numismatic Club, for which he served as President for two terms, in 1918 and 1920. He was commemorated on a New York Numismatic Club Presidential medal, designed by J. M. Swanson, of which there were eight silver and fifty bronze medals struck.
Valentine assembled several notable collections, including a comprehensive collection of United States fractional currency, for which he published Fractional Currency of the United States in 1924. This publication was issued in a cloth bound edition of 225 copies at $5.00 each, and in a limited, leather bound edition of twenty-five numbered copies at $15.00 each. He also assembled a collection of United States one dollar gold coins, complete by mintmark.
Dr. Valentine is perhaps best remembered for his extensive collection of United States half dimes, which he exhibited at the American Numismatic Society in 1914. He published his monograph United States Half Dimes in 1931, with the American Numismatic Society, as #48 in their series Numismatic Notes and Monographs. This work has been reprinted twice, in 1975 by Quarterman Publications, and again in 1984 by Sanford J. Durst. In each of the reprints, the original photographic plates were copied, but were printed as ‘screen’ prints, comprised of a series of dots, like a newspaper photo, which cannot be magnified or enlarged for greater detail. Collectors and researchers are advised to locate a copy of the original ANS NNM #48 for its quality ‘collotype’ prints of the photographic plates, which like a photograph can be magnified for detailed study. For the Liberty Seated series alone, Valentine identified 257 different die marriages, greatly expanding upon the previous work of Will W. Neil, published in The Numismatist in 1927. While some of the die descriptions in the Valentine half dime reference are vague and ambiguous, and it often appears that he was unaware of the distinction between die marriage and die state, he provided us with the most comprehensive reference on the series to date. Critics might argue that his die descriptions, particularly for the post Civil War dates, are so brief as to be almost meaningless, but I suspect that some of this brevity might be attributed to an imposed publishing deadline. Valentine published his monograph late in 1931, and died, evidently of apoplexy, or stroke, on January 24, 1932. As a medical professional, he would have been acutely aware of his declining health, and apparently rushed to complete his work before health issues would no longer allow him to continue.
All of Dr. Valentine’s collections were sold at public auction prior to his death by Thomas Elder, in three sessions, on December 8, 9, and 10, 1927, in New York City, except for his remarkable collection of half dimes, which remained intact at the time of his death.
Ard Browning wrote The Early Quarter Dollars of the United States in 1925 with an appreciation of the die marriages used in the production of the coins at the first US Mint uncommon for his time. He assembled a reference collection and described 88 of the now known 96 die marriages of the series — a remarkable accomplishment in the early 20th century. Walter Breen was quoted describing his book as “the most perfect numismatic book written on the first try.”
Despite his accomplishments his life history was largely forgotten by numismatics. Popular opinions, at one time, were that Ard W. Browning was actually a nom de plume — most likely of the publisher of Early Quarter Dollars, Wayte Raymond. Ard was eventually rediscovered by Carl Herkowitz, and others, nearly 60 years after his death. Born on January 12, 1869 in Chicago he migrated to New York where he was employed as a stenographer at Central Islip State Hospital. He remained at his post till just days before his death, May 24 1933. His obituary did not mention his life’s numismatic accomplishments.
Aside from his membership in the ANA and The New York Numismatic club few numismatic contacts were reported by this reclusive outstanding author. His reference collection also disappeared from numismatic references until Rory Rea discovered and photographed many of the original Browning coins in the Eric Newman collection. These plates are referenced in the deluxe version of the Early Quarter Dollars of the United States Mint by Rory Rea, Glenn Peterson, Brad Karoleff, and John Kovach. These Browning/Newman coins then sold for record prices through Heritage Auction. For further description of these coins the reader is referred to Dr. Glenn Peterson’s article in the John Reich Journal, Volume 24, Issue 1, whole number 72.
Relatively little has been published over the last century pertaining to J. Colvin Randall. Randall was a Philadelphia rare coin dealer and collector, starting as best we can tell in the late 1850s to early 1860s. Rather than host his own sales he typically consigned coins to other auction houses of the time; his name appeared on numerous sales from the 1860s until approximately 1885 when W. Elliot Woodward cataloged the Randall Collection of gold and silver coins for sale at public auction by Bangs & Co. of New York City, NY.
Woodward noted in the Preface to the Randall sale catalog, “Handling vast quantities of coins, he has for the last twenty-five or thirty years been a most earnest and persistent collector, and has make it a constant practice to reserve the finest and rarest pieces which have fallen into his hands during all this period, until his collection is now unrivaled in those specialties to which he has given particular attention, notably the gold coins and the larger coinage of silver. The collection now offered for sale is remarkable in these particulars: First, for variety … Second, for condition … Third, Rarity.”
Randall was one of the first numismatists to classify and collect the early U.S. silver dollars, half dollars, and quarters by die variety. In fact, many researchers today believe Randall was responsible for much of the research that was published as the Haseltine Type Table Catalog for early silver dollars, half dollars, and quarters. There is ample evidence of this, with R (Randall Numbers) and HR (Haseltine-Randall Numbers) having been used in auction catalogs prior to the 1881 Haseltine Type Table, along with publications stating that Haseltine and Randall were “engaged in a descriptive list of the United States Silver Dollars, Half Dollars, and Quarters, a work and thorough knowledge of the subject eminently qualifies them.”
Randall passed away in 1901. The December 1901 issue (Volume 14, page 341) of The Numismatist under the heading “Obituary Notes” states,
The old veterans are passing away. From The Curio, published by Chas. Steigerwalt, we extract the following: “J. Colvin Randall, the old-time dealer, passed away during last summer. Mason died in September. Both had reached a good old age. Through Randall’s hands in bygone years passed many of the finest gems that now grace the older collections.”
Albert Charles Overton, was born May 1, 1906 in Coos Bay, Oregon. His family relocated to southern Colorado where he was raised on a ranch, spending his youth working cattle.
Al Overton married Canzada Johnson in 1928, with whom he had two daughters, Etta Lee and Bonnie. To support his family during the depression, he worked in a meat packing plant, and later worked at the Pueblo Army Depot where he was put in charge of munitions during World War II.
Overton joined the American Numismatic Association in 1938, and placed his first ad in The Numismatist. In time, his hobby became a full-time vocation, doing business as the Overton Coin Company in Pueblo, Colorado. He later became nationally known for his mail bid sales.
In 1952, Al Overton “rediscovered” the 1817/4 Bust half dollar, first described by E.T. Wallis, owner of the California Stamp Company, in the October 1930 edition of The Numismatist. He acquired this great rarity from the Pratt collection, and offered it in his January 1953 mail bid sale where it went unsold. Later that year, he sold the coin privately to Louis Eliasberg for $1,500.
The rediscovery and eventual sale of the 1817/4 half dollar kindled Overton’s deep interest in the early half dollar die varieties from 1794 to 1836. He closely examined, checked, and compared over 10,000 lettered edge half dollars before ultimately publishing the first edition of Early Half Dollar Die Varieties in 1967. While the first edition met with mixed reviews, the revised second edition published in 1970 became the standard reference work for a generation of early half dollar collectors. In the process, his personal collection became one of the most complete known.
The American Numismatic Association recognized Al Overton as one of their most staunch supporters. He was chosen to conduct the national auctions at the ANA convention in 1963 and again in 1965. His many hours of work raising money for the home and headquarters building fund in the early 1960s and his strong support for the Colorado Springs homesite resulted in the relocation of the ANA national headquarters to its present location in 1967.
For his many years of service, the ANA awarded Overton the ANA Medal of Merit in 1967. He was also a recipient of the ANA Gold Medal Award, the ANA Distinguished Service Award, and he was enshrined in the ANA Numismatic Hall of Fame in 2012.
Al Overton was a member of multiple numismatic associations, a past director of the Professional Numismatists Guild, and was appointed to the 1971 U.S. Assay Commission. He was the author of many numismatic articles, and the recipient of many educational and exhibit awards.
Al C. Overton passed away on February 11, 1972 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is interred at Roselawn Cemetery in Pueblo, Colorado.
Stewart “Stew” Witham was described by Bowers and Merena, in the company’s catalog for a September 14-15, 1992 auction, as “one of America’s best known numismatists.” That catalog is a source for this biographical sketch of Stew Witham.
Stew Witham was born in 1916 in New York City. He graduated from Miami University of Ohio in 1938. He then went on to a career in property and casualty insurance, with his last eleven years in the industry as president of the Leonard Agency in Canton, Ohio.
Stew and his spouse, Merriam (Myers), were married in 1942. They had one son, Walter Todd Witham.
Outside of numismatics, Witham was active in many organizations, including the board of trustees of The Presbyterian Church, chairman and president of offices within the YMCA, campaign chairman for the United Way, Man of the Year for the Jaycees, and club president, district governor, and recipient of the Paul Harris Award with Rotary International. Witham provided several years of military service during World War II.
He started his foray into numismatics in 1960 when he began collecting Capped Bust half dollars by Beistle varieties. His interest soon spread to Capped Bust half dimes by Valentine numbers, and then to Assay Commission and American Numismatic Society medals, early half dollar patterns, and medals relating to engraver John Reich and his father, Johann Christian Reich, who was also an engraver.
Witham authored many articles in numismatic publications, including eight articles in the John Reich Journal, and contributed to the publications of many other authors. In 1993, Witham wrote and published the only known biography of John Reich, Johann Matthäus Reich, Also Known as John Reich.
Witham was active in many numismatic organizations, including the American Numismatic Association, the American Numismatic Society, and the Token and Medal Society. Witham also held membership number one in the Bust Half Nut Club! Witham also specialized in material relating to President William McKinley and Treasury / Mint medals.
Those interested in the coins of Stew Witham will find two auction catalogs especially helpful. The first included Witham’s half dimes: 1977 Central States Numismatic Society Annual Convention Auction Sale, Featuring the Harley L. Freeman Collection, Milwaukee, WI May 13-15, 1977, conducted by Rarcoa. Of note, there is no printed attribution of the half dimes in the catalog to the Witham collection. The second catalog included Witham’s counterstamped half dollars, Assay Commission medals, and Washington tokens and medals: The Witham and Sansoucy Collections and other Important Properties, Bowers and Merena, September 14-15, 1992.
In 2015, Martin Luther Beistle was elected to the John Reich Collectors Society’s Hall of Fame in the veteran category. Many numismatists do not know who Martin Luther Beistle was or why he is noteworthy to the JRCS and to numismatics. “ML,” as he was and is now known, made significant contributions but his accomplishments have mostly been forgotten and credits to him are only an occasional auction catalog citation.
Born in Walnut Grove in southcentral Pennsylvania, his only formal education was in a one room local schoolhouse. He became a successful businessman starting both the Pittsburg Calendar Company and, later, The Beistle Company. The Beistle Company still exists today with four generations of the Beistle family in the Company senior management; the company employs over 265 people and manufactures an extensive line of decorations and party goods. ML died in 1935 from a heart attack while at home for lunch from work.
Throughout the first two decades ofthe 20th century, ML’s interests in numismatics developed. By 1929, he researched and wrote A Register of Half Dollar Die Varietiesand Sub-Varieties, the first reference book on bust thru commemorative half dollar die varieties — it was the only authoritative reference available to bust half dollar collectors from 1929 until the Overton book in 1967. His book exists today in four versions: De Luxe leather-bound, green cloth covered, black card-cover, and 1964 BeBee reprint.
By 1928, ML amassed 8,289 halfdollars in his personal collection which he described as grading VF to Uncirculated. By today’s standards, this meant anything from extremely fine to uncirculated. He sold his primary half dollar reference collection to Col E.H.R. Green to fund his reference book. As part of the sale, ML agreed to give credit to Col Green as he says “…it was my intention to give you full credit as having owned the entire collection as described in the book. I, of course, will take credit as the authorof the book.”
ML’s other contribution to numismatics is his “Unique Coin Holder,” a cardboard holder he invented to house his half dollar collection. It later morphed into the “Wayte Raymond” holder; Wayte marketed ML’s holders before and after his death.
Martin Luther Beistle can best be described as a classic self-made man. He rose from a modest background to a very successful businessman, husband, father, and prominent numismatist. In one of his letters, ML stated that he wanted to make a mark on American numismatics. I believe he accomplished that goal.
Russ Logan needs no introduction to the current members of JRCS; however there comes a time when new members only know of our HOF members by the remembrances we leave.
The space here is limited and I encourage anyone interested in knowing more about Russ to obtain a copy of the sale of his collection by Bowers and Merena Galleries November 6-9, 2002 as well as whole numbers 43 and 44 of the John Reich Journal.
Russ’ professional life began as a graduate of Choate (Rosemary Hall) in Wallingford, CT in 1959 followed by a degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 1963. He interned at Sonoco Products Company and later was employed at ALCOA in Massena, NY. He later transferred to their headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA.
His move to Cleveland, OH in 1976 to take the chief engineer position at Chase Brass & Copper in their narrow strip division was fortuitous for numismatics. It brought Russ to the Midwest where he would soon meet David Davis and John McCloskey. He left Chase in 1982 to begin his own consulting engineering firm, Inovent Engineering, with his old friend Clark Hungerford.
He married his wife Brenda in 1963 after his graduation from RPI. He had two children, Robert Russell Logan (1965) and Harriett Russell Logan (1967).
Russ was introduced to collecting by his father James who also “discovered” the Bust Half Nut Club which resulted in Russ’ membership in that organization. Russ avidly collected the Capped Bust Half dollars and eventually began to assemble collections of the other Capped Bust series.
This interest in the Capped Bust half dollars and the Bust Half Nut Club soon brought Russ in contact with fellow Ohio resident Stewart Witham, also a JRCS HOF member. Stew was a renowned researcher of the bust series and the engraver who designed them, John Reich. Stew assembled a magnificent collection of the half dimes, as well as the half dollars. He was also very interested in error coins of the time period. Stew became Russ’ mentor and his interest in the errors passed to Russ who eventually purchased his bust error coins.
There was no standard reference for the dime series, and after meeting David Davis and John McCloskey (two other HOF members) they decided to author a book identifying the dimes by die marriage. Bill Subjack and Allen Lovejoy were added to the team, which published the standard reference Early United States Dimes 1796-1837 in 1984. The five authors subsequently founded the John Reich Collectors Society.
Russ and John McCloskey eventually decided to publish a new work on the half dimes to replace the outdated Valentine reference. Mark Smith was asked to contribute, but he passed away suddenly before the book could be finished. Mark added much expertise to the final work which is dedicated to his memory. The work, Federal Half Dimes, 1792-1837 was published in 1998 to universal numismatic acclaim.
Russ was an accomplished engineer and put his inquisitive nature to work for the advancement of numismatics. “Logan Engineering” was a common refrain for his unique brand of problem solving. It was used to describe his production of a Castaing Machine model as well as the recovery of half dimes from a hotel room sink drain.
He had an affinity for studying the “third side” of the coins. It began with the lettered edge half dollar errors caused by the improper use of the Castaing Machine. This led to counting the reeds on half dimes. He was able to come to conclusions the rest of us never considered, based on this research.
Russ was also a proponent of identifying and collecting die remarriages as an essential part of each series. Oftentimes, dies would be used, removed from the press, and then reinserted with a different mate to produce coins. On occasion they were later re-paired with the original die. This produced die remarriages that were identifiable by the deterioration of the individual dies in the sequence. The half dime series was especially prone to these interruptions. He and John included the remarriages as an integral part of collecting the half dimes in their book.
To give you a perspective of Russ’ collection, it included all 91 die marriages and 30/31 remarriages. His dimes were complete at the time, as the 1827 JR14 had not yet been discovered. His Capped Bust quarters were the newest of his collections but still he had accumulated 68 of the 73 known die marriages. The half dollar series has 453 die marriages of which Russ had obtained 447! His collection included more examples of bust coin errors than had ever been offered for sale in one auction in numismatic history.
In addition to being a founder of JRCS, Russ was Treasurer, webmaster, and census keeper for all the series until his death in 2002. He frequently contributed articles to the JR journal, totaling 53 submissions which garnered him 4 Reiver awards for best article.
His loss to numismatics was immeasurable. Q. David Bowers wrote in the forward to his auction catalog of Russ’ collection that “Russ Logan was a collector’s collector (he) will be long remembered.” His friend and co-author John McCloskey wrote, “The sudden death of JRCS board member Russell J. Logan on March 2002 was a real tragedy, not only for his family and friends but also for hundreds of collectors of early federal coinage.” I wrote “The Logan family has lost a husband, father, and brother. The hobby has lost an ardent supporter and noted researcher. The JRCS has lost a founding father and leader. I have lost a mentor, friend, and confidant. There will always be an empty feeling in those of us fortunate enough to call him friend…Russ enriched our lives, increased our knowledge, and inspired others to test their limits. He left a legacy of integrity and passion for collecting that will far outlive the short time he was with us.”
Words never seem to be enough to express what someone means to posterity, but it is all we have to give.
Russ’ legacy will live on in JRCS and numismatics, as long as there are collectors of the early Federal coins he loved.
Mark Borckardt of Heritage Galleries, in a letter to bidders in the 2006 Heritage catalog of the Jules Reiver collection, described Jules Reiver as “a collector's collector.” He was “a specialist who shared his knowledge and collections with anyone willing to learn, knowing that through sharing, numismatic knowledge was more than doubled.”
Jules Reiver was born to parents Hyman and Ethel Rothman Reiver on September 25, 1916. A lifelong Wilmington, DE resident, Reiver was a mechanical engineer with DuPont until called to the US Army in 1942. Jules rose to the rank of Major by the end of the war. Notable accomplishments in World War II include commanding the first anti-aircraft battery to land on Omaha Beach in Normandy in June 1944; turning back a German offensive aimed at a gasoline dump during the Battle of the Bulge (for which he earned the Bronze Star Medal); and being in the vanguard of the liberation of Paris. Reiver continued to serve post-WWII in the Army Reserve, retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1966.
Jules and his wife Iona raised four children in Wilmington, DE while Jules worked with the family flooring and window covering business (he was President of the Hyman Reiver & Company until his retirement in 1978). Jules was known as a dedicated father and a family man.
Reiver’s hobbies included photography, convertible cars, and coins. Although he started collecting coins at age seven, his interest in coins changed over time. His collecting focus shifted to die marriages and die states of all United States copper and silver coinage minted during the period 1793 to 1839. Interestingly, grades of coins were mostly irrelevant to Reiver. He was interested in owning any coin he could find that was a different marriage or die state from those he already owned.
Reiver wrote many books, pamphlets, coin auction catalogs, and articles on a host of topics in numismatics. He was also known as a frequent speaker at coin shows and local and national coin club meetings. Reiver hosted a weekly radio show in Wilmington, DE in which he would answer questions about coins for anyone who called.
Jules was part of the team that organized the JRCS. He recruited many of the early members to the society and contributed with articles for the journal. His commitment to sharing numismatic knowledge is recognized by the JRCS. The Society’s annual award for the best article published in the John Reich Journal is named “The Jules Reiver Literary Award.“
Reiver passed away on February 11, 2004. Heritage Galleries and Auctioneers sold thousands of Reiver’s numismatic treasures in “The Jules Reiver Collection“ in 2006. The three catalogs of Reiver’s collection are still treasured by collectors who seek die marriages and die states of early US copper and silver coins.
(Our apologies if you are not familiar with the names of our colleagues and inspirations. By the end of 2016, we will detail the contributions that earned each this recognition.)