News from Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers
Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers

Number 50 • Spring 2015

Table of Contents
2015 in Brief
K&F, Abe and Rare Book Prices
Join the Numismatic Bibliomania Society
Live Online Bidding
February 28th Online Sale
Benjamin Franklin In Terra Cotta
Reminiscences of a Numismatic Bookseller


The first issue of The Numismatic Bookseller was published in January 1984. The last ink and paper issue, No. 49, was published in 2009. Kolbe & Fanning are extremely pleased to renew publication, albeit in a different form.

Envisioned in 1984 primarily as a vehicle to list and sell books, this new electronic iteration will act a bit more as a newsletter (though the occasional numismatic book may be offered for sale) and we will unabashedly call your attention to upcoming K&F book sales and other activities.
The early 1980s were an exciting time in the field of rare and out-of-print numismatic literature. The literal “I have a dream” moment of Jack Collins led to the formation of a society for numismatic researchers and bibliophiles whose quarterly journal was first published in the summer of 1980. Our June 1981 auction, highlighted by a remarkable consignment from the Essex Institute, set records galore. Two years later, the outstanding Ted Craige library was sold. In the first issue of The Numismatic Bookseller, we announced upcoming 1984 sales, including the June sale of the memorable Lester Merkin library and the third Kolbe/Spink December New York Sale, featuring highlights from the top-tier library formed by Western (Whitman) Publishing Company.
The world in general and the world of books in particular has changed since then. Yet much remains the same. Books are still the key to uncovering the secrets of numismatics and the numbers of new books being published on virtually all aspects of the topic exceed any other period in history. How books are sold certainly has changed. Many brick and mortar rare and out-of-print bookstores have closed their doors, as have new bookstores. The internet has become the great bookstore in the cloud.
Common books can no longer masquerade as “scarce”; “rare” books, conversely, become manifestly so when none are to be found for sale. Though long true, demand, and values, continue to accelerate at this end of the spectrum. In an earlier era, Percy H. Muir, British author, bibliographer, and antiquarian bookseller, described the phenomenon well: “The common books you may pick up at leisure, rarities must be seized whenever they occur, for you may not see them again, for a long time, and by then the price may have risen against you.”
We “call on booklovers everywhere to close ranks, face the invaders, and give them the works, preferably in elephant folio.”
Kolbe & Fanning are confident that the future of books is bright and fully ascribe to the cri de guerre eloquently expressed by librarian, bibliographer, and author of more than 100 books, Lawrence Clark Powell: “I believe that books—those beautiful blends of form and spirit—have a future fully as glorious as their past; that to disbelieve this is an act of faithlessness, is dangerous, and could lead to the downfall of the kind of librarianship in which the book is central and basic. I know that I am not alone in my belief, my faith, my love, and I call on booklovers everywhere to close ranks, face the invaders, and give them the works, preferably in elephant folio.”
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2015 in Brief

• Our January 10 public auction sale, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in conjunction with the New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC), saw many wonderful books find new owners. The extremely rare 1682 first issue in book form of engraved plates depicting Louis XIV's collection of ancient coins (lot 156, and featured on the catalogue's cover) brought over $20,000, as did lot 230, perhaps the finest extant deluxe copy of Browning's 1925 work on U.S. quarter dollars.
• Wearing our publisher’s hat, Kolbe & Fanning are extremely proud to announce that Richard Margolis’s magnificent new book, Benjamin Franklin in Terra Cotta, is in press and will be available soon. A comprehensive catalogue of the portrait medallions of Franklin crafted by Jean-Baptiste Nini, depicted in full color, the work also addresses other related medallions, and covers in detail the original models by Clodion and Dupré for the Libertas Americana medal.
• All of our auction sales, whether "mail-bid" or public, will henceforth feature Live Online Bidding in addition to traditional bidding methods.

• Our next online sale will be held on Saturday, April 25th.
• K&F are also initiating online book auctions through their internet bidding portal at These new sales will be held in addition to our regularly held public and mail-bid sales with printed catalogues. Our plan is to hold these online sales regularly but to keep them small (300 to 400 lots). Our first online sale closed on February 28th (see full report later in this issue).

• Future issues of The Bookseller will feature details of what promises to be a very exciting and consequential series of auctions and other activities this year. Stay tuned.
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Last year we greatly expanded our presence on Advanced Book Exchange (, and Kolbe and Fanning Numismatic Booksellers were featured on their website:

Incidentally, a just-released list of “AbeBooks’ 50 Most Expensive Sales of 2014” features titles ranging in price from $9,000 to $43,450. Certainly not chump change, at least until compared to a similar 2014 compilation of the top prices paid at auction sales worldwide for books, maps, manuscripts, and ephemera. There the parameters change dramatically. An early 16th century Book of Hours, The Rothschild Prayerbook, brought $13,605,000 at a Christie’s sale. Cruising in at number 500, an illuminated manuscript on vellum, circa 1450, devoted to astrology and fortune-telling, sold for $79,800. Perhaps the most astonishing result on the list was achieved by a volume, rebound in green buckram, of both the first and second printing states of the first edition of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Estimated to bring between $700 and $1,000, it sold for an utterly amazing $420,161.00. Our friends at Heritage Auctions were well represented on the top 500 list. Over three dozen entries record their sales of rare books, comic book art, and autographed memorabilia.
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Our thanks to all…

2014 was a good year in the rare book world and Kolbe & Fanning are pleased to have enjoyed a most successful year. Our thanks to all of you who made it possible!


Those of you who are not members are encouraged to join The Numismatic Bibliomania Society. Annual dues in the U.S. are $20 for standard mail, $25 for first-class mail and, outside the U.S., $30. Mail your payment to NBS Treasurer, P.O. Box 82, Littleton, NH 03561. One of the main perquisites of membership is the society’s quarterly publication The Asylum. Kolbe and Fanning are so certain that you will deem membership beneficial that we will refund the yearly subscription fee should any new member be disappointed. Additionally, Kolbe and Fanning are key sponsors and contributors to the weekly electronic publication of NBS, The E-Sylum. The E-Sylum is free to all and, thanks to the unstinting efforts of editor Wayne Homren, is required reading for anyone seriously interested in numismatics, bibliophile and philistine alike.
“Godfather to All Monkeys”
Recently, an issue of The Asylum featured a very long article by George Kolbe, entitled “Godfather to All Monkeys: Martin Folkes and His 1756 Library Sale.” Several hundred books of numismatic interest were featured in the sale and are enumerated in the article. Folkes was a noted atheist, to which fellow antiquary William Stukeley disagreed strongly, as evidenced by the epithet cited above. Other articles in the current volume, generally briefer and less soporific, include John W. Adams’s “The Curious Case of William Hesslein”; observations on the remarkable 1925 W.W.C. Wilson sale; a tribute to the memory of John Burns; “C.H.V. Sutherland: A Celebration”; and “Off the Shelf” articles by David Fanning.

More articles can be found on our website at
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Live Online Bidding

Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers announced earlier this year that, beginning on February 28, they would offer a series of online book auctions through their internet bidding portal at

These new sales will be held in addition to our regularly held public and mail-bid sales with printed catalogues. Our plan is to hold these online sales regularly but to keep them small (300 to 400 lots). They will be held using the same online bidding software we’ve been using for our recent auctions, utilizing the platform developed by If you’ve participated through the internet in any of our sales since last May, you’ll know what to expect. If not, now is a good time to set up an iCollector account and see for yourself how easy it is.

These online sales will be posted to our website, with announcements and press releases issued at that time. Absentee bids may be left at any time once the sale is posted. On the day of the sale, it will be held as a real-time online auction. There will be no printed catalogue. While clients are encouraged to participate for themselves online, those unable to do so are certainly allowed to continue bidding in the traditional ways, as long as all absentee bids are received before the day of the sale. A PDF will be posted to the regular site for ease of reference.

We hope our clients will join us in welcoming this additional way of buying and selling numismatic literature.

Our next online sale will be Saturday, April 25th.

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Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers held their first purely online auction of numismatic books on Saturday, February 28, through the firm’s internet bidding portal at The sale offered 380 lots of North American numismatic literature and was a fine success.

This is the first in what is expected to be a series of smaller online numismatic book auctions held by Kolbe & Fanning in addition to their traditional printed and public auctions. The lots were all illustrated and fully described, and bidders were able to browse through the lots and leave absentee bids in the days leading up to sale. Many bidders participated in this manner, so that nearly 60% of the lots had bids on them before the live auction began at noon on Saturday.

Real-time bidding was also quite spirited and those participating in the live sale saw strong action on a variety of lots, with some highlights as follows:

Thirty-one lots of pre-WWII volumes of The Numismatist (lots 3 through 33), did very well, nearly all bringing over estimate. The 1896 and 1897 volumes brought $425 each (all prices quoted here are hammer prices and do not include the buyer’s premium).

S.H. & H. Chapman’s 1895 sale of the E.J.M. Chaloner collection, with plates (lot 96), brought a strong $550 hammer.

Nice copies of the Bushnell and H.P. Smith collections, with reprint plates (lots 93 and 97), also brought strong prices of $375 and $425, respectively.

Lot 228, a copy of the Lyman Low sale of the Benjamin Betts collection, brought $650 on a $350 estimate.

Perhaps the greatest action of the sale came with lot 276, a rare 1861 catalogue of coins and medals for sale by Alfred S. Robinson. This copy had last been sold in 2010, when it brought $220 in the firm’s 119th sale. Several bidders pursued this lot, with two of them going head to head and pushing the sale price to $1700 hammer.

Another fiercely contested item was lot 359, an offprint of a 1949 Saturday Evening Post promotional piece on B. Max Mehl, which ended up bringing $350 hammer.

Sale catalogues of W. Elliot Woodward continued to see strong demand, with plated copies of his 1885 J. Colvin Randall sale (lot 374) bringing $800 and his masterly All the Kingdoms of the World sale of 1884 (lot 372) bringing $650. Several unplated Woodward sales also brought very strong prices.

Kolbe & Fanning plan to hold a second online sale in several weeks, focusing on works on ancient and world coins. Details will, of course, be provided in the near future. Thanks to everyone who participated and helped make this such a fun and successful sale.

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Decades in the making, a new book by Richard Margolis is now in press. Termed “brilliant” by John W. Adams, the oversize volume features fine full color illustrations throughout and is handsomely bound. Further details will be available soon. For now, a conspectus follows:
"Benjamin Franklin in Terra Cotta advances the iconographic scholarship on the portrait medallions and moulds created by Jean-Baptiste Nini, Jean Martin Renaud, and Claude Michel (Clodion). Scholars, art historians, curators and collectors will greatly benefit by acquiring Mr. Margolis's thorough and amply illustrated volume. Kudos to Kolbe & Fanning for producing a beautifully printed reference work that Franklin would certainly have found useful."
—Roy E. Goodman, Emeritus Curator of Printed Materials, The American Philosophical Society Library & Past President, The Friends of Benjamin Franklin.

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By George Kolbe

Published in The Asylum, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Jan.-March 2013)
Numismatic storytelling has a venerable history. From the sixteenth century, when numismatic books first emerged, fact and fable have been interwoven into interesting stories. John Cunnally’s remarkable 1999 Images of the Illustrious cites the 1579 account by Antoine Le Pois “of a bronze coin of the emperor Augustus that was found in Brazil, thereby proving that ancient Roman mariners had reached the New World long before Columbus.” Another example, perhaps more credible, is found in Jacques Spon and George Wheler’s late seventeenth-century travel book, which includes a fascinating account of a voyage to Greece with famous numismatist Jean Foy-Vaillant. Before they left France, near Marseilles, the travelers were alarmed by the near approach of a “Turkish” corsair,  prompting Vaillant to swallow twenty ancient gold coins to avoid their appropriation by said privateers. Sea pirate lore also later played a part in a story adduced to explain the rarity of 1804 dollars.

In nineteenth-century America, Augustus B. Sage and Edward Cogan, fathers of the American coin trade, published tantalizing if brief reminiscences of their numismatic careers in the initial 1866–1867 volume of the American Journal of Numismatics. In recent years, that printer’s devil Joel J. Orosz has written widely and wonderfully about American numismatists and numismatics of our past. And, of times both past and present, no one has contributed more to the genre than Q. David Bowers. Many of the writings of John W. Adams belong in this category, as do others left unnamed here. I make no grandiose claims but do hope that readers of what is intended to be a series of reminiscences and ‘what have you,' will enjoy the perusal, in some degree, of what I am having so much fun writing.
Recently, I published a book entitled The Reference Library of a Numismatic Bookseller. The preface perhaps best sets the stage for subsequent articles, and it follows:
I began collecting coins as a child of nine or ten and, in the mid-1960s, began dealing in coins in a small way. Soon, I was buying current reference works on various numismatic topics, mainly from Bebee’s of Omaha, the premier retail numismatic bookseller of the day. I also began to receive Frank and Laurese Katen’s auction catalogues and fixed price lists of rare and out of print numismatic literature. This opened a new world for me. A love of books since early childhood, combined with a love of coins but decidedly poor coin dealing skills, metamorphosed over several months into a fledgling career as a numismatic bookseller.
Soon I was visiting Southern California out of print and antiquarian book stores on a regular basis. Every month or two I made the trek to Los Angeles and nearby Hollywood, both book meccas at the time. The streetwalker/drug-dealer culture was yet to come to Hollywood Boulevard—at the time there were one or more good bookstores on nearly every one of the dozen or so blocks that would later became notorious for less salutary activities. Nearly always a bounty of numismatic books was the result of an excursion and I began issuing modest lists of Numismatic Literature for Sale in May 1967.

Early on, in a hole-in-the-wall store in the City of the Stars—on the eastern outskirts of the book scouting section of Hollywood Boulevard—a volume was purchased which I described as follows:
    HEATH, GEORGE F. Ed.: The Numismatist 1888–1893. The first six volumes
    bound together. ALL ORIGINALS. Very rare. Price on request.
It was acquired quite reasonably (determined to be a better bookseller than a coin dealer, I had also asked for and received a modest discount). The “on request” sale price, a mid-three figure amount, was reduced a bit to the sole prospect and a celebration was in order when payment arrived. Nowadays, needless to say, the price would be in five figures and a full-page description and color illustrations would be required; then, twenty-odd words sufficed.
In addition to frequent book scouting forays, I had the good fortune to make contact with Charles Z. Mihalyi, a prominent Glentown, New York real estate broker and a noted numismatist. His exceptional collection of Hungarian and Transylvanian coins and medals was sold posthumously at auction in 1977 by Stack’s in a catalogue bearing his name. From the 1920s through the 1960s, Mihalyi methodically formed his extensive collection by participating in coin sales worldwide. And he saved nearly every catalogue! I bought his entire holdings, a large box or two at a time, over a period of a few years. It was an education. Not only did I encounter virtually all of the numismatic auction sales catalogues issued over nearly a half century, I learned how to value them, however modest those prices may have been at the time.
A hiatus in the early 1970s corresponded with an acceleration of interest, spurred in the United States by the Katen sales of the George J. Fuld library, and in Great Britain by the emerging career of Douglas Saville at Spink & Son Ltd. and the superb catalogues which were beginning to be issued by David Edmunds under the John Drury banner. Following a few successful fixed price lists, the first Kolbe mail bid sale was conducted on February 28, 1976. The business had dramatically changed. A market capable of supporting a career as a numismatic bookseller had somehow emerged in a matter of several years. In 1977 and 1978, the outright purchase and subsequent sales of the fine numismatic libraries of Floyd Hazelwood and Bill Castenholz led to a public auction sale in 1979, the first of many to come.
After operating for a decade under the name of “G. Frederick Kolbe,” it became clear that an expanded appellation would be beneficial. In 1978, after being addressed one too many times as “Fred” or “Frederick,” it became obvious that a name adopted to facilitate mail sorting had become a negative, and my full name, “George Frederick Kolbe,” was henceforth adopted.
By Sale Two, descriptions had begun to improve and a bibliography of “Some Works Cited” was printed on the rear inside cover of the catalogue. Though comprising only ten titles, it was the beginning of a concentrated endeavor, culminating in the library described here. Beyond providing an invaluable source of professional information, its formation became a challenging and most enjoyable pursuit. It should be noted that no claim is made as to completeness, particularly in the case of more recent publications and those of an obscure nature.
Early positive influences were many. The “John Drury” catalogues, replete with bibliographical citations and scholarly commentary, were an inspiration, as were the painstakingly detailed descriptions of rare American numismatic publications written by John J. Ford, Jr. in several of the New Netherlands Coin Company catalogues of the period. A close friendship was formed with Douglas Saville, whose understanding of the worldwide rare and out of print numismatic book world is second only, perhaps, to his marketing abilities. His encouragement to develop an international numismatic book business was instrumental. The infectious enthusiasm and exhortations of Jack Collins resulted in the publication of catalogues with higher production values; often graced with illustrations attributable to his photographic talents.
From Sale One, John W. Adams was a steadfast friend and an invaluable mentor and supporter. Later on, the advice and encouragement of Jonathan Kagan was key. John Bergman was another inspiration, particularly in terms of his serious devotion to the topic and his sterling ethics. The support of my wife Linda and my father and mother were indispensable. The satisfaction and joy derived from being a numismatic bookseller for over four decades is due, in the main, to the rather wonderful world inhabited by numismatic bibliophiles and researchers. To the many not mentioned here, rest assured that you do not go unappreciated.
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Please contact George Kolbe with any questions or comments on The Numismatic Bookseller at

The Kolbe & Fanning office in Ohio can be reached at (614) 414-0855; fax (614) 414-0860; email
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