George Kolbe of Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers had an interesting question regarding my most recent column in ANS Magazine (“Bumps in the Road as ‘Coin Zerbe’ became the Dean of Coin Collectors,” 2016:1).
It relates to some correspondence in the ANS Archives documenting a dustup between coin dealer B. Max Mehl and legendary numismatic evangelist Farran Zerbe. Zerbe had become quite perturbed upon learning that Mehl had, without permission, reproduced Zerbe’s article on Lesher Referendum Dollars in Mehl’s own Numismatic Monthly.
The article had first appeared in the 1917 volume of the American Journal of Numismatics. In those days, the ANS routinely supplied its authors with fifty offprints of articles published in the AJN, and Zerbe apparently had big plans for his—namely, selling them. But when the article appeared in Mehl’s publication—“killing whatever market or appreciation there may have been”—his enthusiasm evaporated, and he never bothered obtaining them. Years later, he asked Howland Wood if they were still available.
That is what prompted George to write. “I could not recall ever having seen or handled a copy of the AJN reprint of Zerbe’s Lesher article,” he says. “Were the Zerbe Lesher reprints ever produced and, if so, did Zerbe take possession?”
Good question! And, though it’s not often the case, this is one time when it was pretty easily and conclusively answered with a quick dive back into the correspondence. It turns out the reprints were indeed printed. In fact, Zerbe writes of having received two when the article was published. As for the others? Wood went poking around in the basement of the old building at Audubon Terrace and also wrote to the printer. But no luck. “They must have gotten lost or been destroyed,” he told Zerbe. “Such is the way of things.”
Were Zerbe’s two copies the only ones to survive? And what became of those? I know that George spent some time looking around, consulting his and other sales of the remnants of Zerbe’s library (e.g., Katen’s sale of Chase’s World Money Museum numismatic library in 1986 and 1987) but he found no clues. The ANS Library does not have any of the reprints in its catalog, so there are no “official” copies on our shelves. But I will be keeping an eye out!
Has anyone encountered reprints of Zerbe’s article? It originally appeared in the 1917 American Journal of Numismatics, volume 51, with the title, “Private Silver Coins Issued in the United States”? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.