Every so often, something truly unique enters the American Numismatic Society’s collection. Thanks to a generous donation by Vicken Yegparian, Vice President of Numismatics for Stack’s Bowers Galleries, this took place once again. On the eve of this past Thanksgiving, Vicken reached out to see if the ANS had interest in receiving more than 2,000 plastic slides of various coins. While the basic description may not seem very appealing, both the physical slides and the coins they portrayed proved extremely interesting and quite important.
On the morning of January 7, I entered my office to find two rather large boxes on my desk. They each contained nine (9) double-row red boxes for storing coins in 2” × 2” holders—for a total of 18 boxes! After opening some, it was quickly apparent that the slides were not commercially manufactured. They were produced in the late 1940s by William Guild, of West Newton, Massachusetts, a real estate agent and relatively-unknown coin collector.
The slides are made of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), also known as lucite or by its trademarked name of Plexiglas (fig. 1). They are 2” × 2” with a thickness of roughly one-eighth of an inch. They are all completely transparent, except the depiction of the coin. After Guild pressed a coin into the heated lucite, the exact details transposed over in a translucent white, very similar in appearance to a soft cameo. The slides were made by pressing real coins into hot plastic for an exact replication of the design. Since the plastic was clear, a positive image was visible by simply looking through the other side, despite the fact that the initial impression technically created a negative. Most of the coins were from the United States, though included some foreign and ancient coins as well. The most-heavily represented of any single type, however, were of United States pattern coins—a specialty of Guild.
Guild was apparently an early mentor and collaborator of Walter Breen. It is believed that Guild and Breen co-authored United States Pattern Coins, Experimental, and Trial Pieces, despite the fact that the name of J. Hewitt Judd, M.D. graced the cover (fig. 2). Judd, it is now thought, was more of a financier for the project rather than a contributor of information. As such, the Guild collection of patterns (forever memorialized in these slides) played an important role in the completion of the project.
In addition to the slides of coins, the donation came with some supporting materials. These included a few pieces of correspondence between Guild and some local clubs, such as the Thursday Club of Brookline, which used some of Guild’s slides for presentation purposes in 1949. Perhaps the best piece of supporting material is Guild’s personal copy of The Coin Recorder—essentially a checklist. This contained many details into both Guild’s personal coin collection, as well as the production of the lucite slides.
Excitedly, I began to dive further into the production of these slides—both historically and physically. With minor research into the ANS archives, it became quickly apparent that Guild had a history with the Society, with most of his communications having occurred in 1947 and 1948—just when it was thought he produced the slides. To my surprise, I found that one of the very first individuals that Guild shared his slides with was none other than ANS Curator, Sydney P. Noe (1885–1969), who not only offered advice on how to perfect the slides, but also loaned coins from the ANS collection to Guild for this purpose!
As I unpacked more and more from the archives, it became clear that a much larger study is needed about William Guild, his plastic slides, and the role that the ANS played in their creation. Until then, please review the following list provided by Vicken, which breaks down the collection into major categories. If you have any interest in knowing what specific coins are represented in any of the groups, please do reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. And do keep an eye out for any future publications on this fascinating collection. Thank you, again, Vicken!
The William Guild Archive of 2″ x 2″ Plastic Slides of US, World, Ancient Coins, etc. Donated to the American Numismatic Society by Vicken Yegparian, 12/30/2020
|Category||Approximate Quantity of Slides|
|Medals and tokens||92|
|Three Cents (Nickel and Silver)||12|
|Commemorative Gold Coins||28|
|California Small Gold and Related||44|
|San Francisco Mint Silver Bar||1|
|Commemorative Silver Coins||138|
|Private Patterns and World Patterns||38|
|Sing Sing Prison Tokens||20|
|Private photos and photos of numismatic literature||163|