Collection open to all researchers.
Virgil M. Brand papers, 1906-1990, Archives, American Numismatic Society.
Copyright restrictions may apply. Permission to publish or reproduce must be secured from the American Numismatic Society.
Coin collector Virgil M. Brand (1862-1926) was born in Chicago, where he eventually worked as a bookkeeper in his father’s business, the Michael Brand Company Brewery. In 1899, after the death of his father, Brand formed the Brand Brewing Company with his two brothers, Horace L. Brand (1868-1962) and Armin W. Brand (d. 1946), and a cousin. He developed an interest in coin collecting in 1889, eventually amassing one of the greatest private collections of all time. In 1907 he formed the Chicago Coin Company, which was owned by Virgil and managed by Theophile Leon. The company closed in 1915, transferring its unsold inventory to Brand. Brand also served as president of the Chicago Numismatic Society. Brand did not leave a will, and upon his death his collection was inherited by his brothers, who began to sell off pieces during the 1930s. Tensions between the brothers eventually had to be resolved in probate court, and in 1937 the Brand estate was divided between them. The brothers continued to sell parts of the collection, but some coins were inherited by Armin’s daughter, Jane Brand Allen. Those coins were sold in a series of auctions conducted by Sotheby’s, Bowers & Merena, and Spink & Son during the 1980s.
Materials directly from Virgil M. Brand include his accession and inventory books (32 bound volumes), a printed version of a paper he wrote, “The Objects of Coin Collecting” (1905), two letters to his brother Armin W. Brand along with a reply (1909), a small notebook with coin notations dating from 1907 to 1926, and Chicago Coin Company records. There are also records pertaining to his estate, including correspondence, financial records, legal documents, and an inventory of his library (1926-1937). Materials from after Virgil’s death include Armin W. Brand’s correspondence (1906-1910, bulk 1926-1946), much of it with his brother, Horace L. Brand, on topics such as coin sales, the sale of Brand Company Brewery, and real estate transactions. Along with the correspondence are notes, memoranda, and legal and financial materials. A good deal of correspondence has to do with a court case involving Lake Shore Country Club (1906-1910, 1927-1936). Also present are correspondence and financial records relating to the estate of Armin W. Brand (1946-1950), as well as correspondence and inventories relating to coins and other matters (1948-1967) from Armin Brand’s daughter, Jane Brand Allen. Also includes records pertaining to the estate of Mrs. Leon Harlan Walkins (Bertha Grommes), Jane’s aunt. There are also coin inventories and appraisals (1930s-1950s), auction catalogs from the sale of Brand coins (1983-1990), slides and photographs of Brand coins (late 1900s), rubber stamps used by Virgil M. Brand, and photocopies of Virgil M. Brand’s accession books.
Virgil Brand kept an inventory of coin purchases in a set of ledgers that date from 1889 to 1925. In a large Main Ledger, he assigned a serial number to individual and sometimes groups of coins, and noted date of purchase, dealer, quantity, and cost. The serial numbers can be used to find further details about the coins in a set of Secondary Ledgers that give individual coin composition, country, denomination, date, cost, condition, mint marks, and description. In some cases, further details about individual coins that were given a serial number as a group in the Main Ledger can be found listed individually in one of four Extra Ledgers (Ex).
The following key for can be used to determine the year a particular serial number was used (source: Virgil Brand: The Man and His Era, Q. David Bowers, 1983).
Main Ledger, 1889-1925
Secondary Ledgers, 1889-1925
A full set of photocopies are also available.
Extra (Ex) Ledgers
Chicago Coin Company (Ch) Ledgers
Numbers not in V.M.B.'s journals (NiJ) Ledgers
Place (Pla) - coins categorized by place of origin
Photocopies of Ledgers
U.S. Colonial ledger
Hall Collection (blue binder)
Box of slides of Brand coins
Box of photographs and other items pertaining to Brand sales, 1980s
26 catalogs (Sotheby's, Bowers and Merena) for sales of Brand items, 1983-1990
1 box of rubber stamps used by Virgil M. Brand