American Numismatic Society
American Numismatic Society



Benjamin Betts (1822-1908)

Benjamin Betts, undated
(Courtesy of Jeanne Powell Davis, Gardiner Powell, Andrew Powell and Anne Powell, great-great grandchildren of Benjamin Betts.)

Quiet. Studious. Hardworking. All words used to describe Benjamin Betts. The 6th president of the ANS, Betts was born in Wilmington, Delaware on June 4, 1822 and largely self-taught. He began collecting coins, medals and stamps in the 1850s.

Betts moved to Brooklyn, New York in the 1860s and began working as an auditor for the Clyde Steamship Co. He joined the ANS as a resident member in February of 1868. Betts was elected First Vice President the following year and, in March of 1870, President. Betts' presidency was not particularly distinguished—in fact, there is little evidence that the ANS met much at all during his three year tenure in that office.

Betts' greater contributions to the ANS came in two forms. First, in April 1869, Betts joined the Society's Lincoln Medal Commitee and was instrumental in bringing to a conclusion the various legal disputes pertaining to that medal. His second, and probably most substantial contribution, came during his tenure as Treasurer, which ran from 1874 through 1888. It was during his tenure that the ANS had its first period of sustained financial stability.

Betts involvement with the ANS diminished after 1888, in part because Betts suffered from ill health. However, in January 1908 Betts' contributions to the ANS were noted when the Society named him an Honorary President for Life. Unfortunately, that honor was short-lived—Betts died later that year on October 2nd.

Betts was particularly fascinated with the history of early America and the Mississippi Bubble speculation and authored several articles on these topics. His collection of American medals and Spanish-American and U.S. colonial coins was sold in two separate auctions. The primary sale occurred on January 11, 1898. The remainder of Betts' collection was sold after his death in December 1908.

To review a bibliography of Betts' works, click here.