Long Beard's Blog

17 Jul 2020

How Coin Dealers Came To Be

Coins | Long Beard

If you are a follower of my weekly blogs, not long ago I covered the switch from the Large Cent to the Small Cent in 1856 and the impact this new small sized copper had on collecting as we know it. This weeks blog looks into the man who deserves credit for laying the very foundation of coin dealers and how they operate. Along with his brother, these two men pioneered the business with both foresight and true out of the box thinking. Enjoy!

Henry Chapman (1859-1935), became an employee of John W. Hasseltine at a Philadelphia coinshop in 1876, followed by his brother Samuel. Of note, at the beginning of the eighteenth century,the specie and money exchange brokerage market had been the precursor to"coin dealers or"shops".As the composition and design changes in silver, gold and copper coinagebegan occurring, new collectors also entered the market and there by transitioning somewhat to coin shops. Althoughmarket was brisk, it was still short of making a living for those dealing in coins alone. Many offset their shops to include stamps, fossils, autographs, and manuscripts among other things. As the two brothers entered, and the market growing substantially, they quickly learned about coins and more importantly, met many mint officials first hand. On more than one occasion performing behind the scene sales and deals for Hasseltine. In 1868, Henry, sensing the lucrative possibilities of an exploding market, placed an ad for 1856 Flying Eagle Cents in exchange for 1793 Large Cents in fair condition. Only a few at the time knew of the rarity the small cent had and this proved highly profitable, not to mention name recognition as a man to acquire rare coins once the collector community took notice that it was indeed rare.

In June of 1878 they set out to make a mark of their own, unaware ofhow they wouldcreate a market which would be copied and improved uponover the next 142 years. As aggressive businessmen, it was Samuel whorevolutionized the standard of auction catalogs Unlike the traditional catalogs of the competition, that of their first auctionon October 9, 1879 featured illustrated photographic plates. Highly unusual in the era. As the accomplishment of the Chapman's auctions mounted, particularly with purchases of famouscollections such as that of Charles I. Bushnell, jealousies and animosity ran rampant from other dealers. Yet the more they railed against the brothers, themore successful they'd become. While dealers disliked them, the collectors felt the opposite. By 1906, with thirty years of experience to their credit, both found themselves at the top of the coin market with many of the competitors passing away or retiring. The year also market a parting of the brothers, with Samueldealing primarily in world coins and concentrating on the auctions while Henry stuck with United States coinage. As in the past, seeing a future opportunity, Henry used his Philadelphia mint contacts to stock up on the new 1907 High-Relief Double Eagles direct free of defects otherwise found from banks or in bulk. Likewise again for the 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter. Quite possibly his greatest acquisition was theten 1921 Mirror-like proof Morgan Dollars of which are the only known.

Several years after the death of famous collector Virgil M. Brand, Henry and St. Louisdealer B.G. Johnson had been commissioned to inventory the estate which occupied most of his time until his own passing in 1935. As a dealer, Henry had amassed a sizable collection himself over the many years. From a near, if not complete collection of colonial coinageto many, many high grade rare coins. A large portion of which were purchased by renowned collector Louis Eliasberg towards completion of his truly epic collection.

Image courtesy of the Numismatic Biblomania Society



Level 5

Very interesting. I am trying to work on learning some of those big names in the numismatic world. Great blog!


Level 3

These brother truly invented the coin dealer and introduced auctions with photographs in the late 1800s? Both men were truly visionaries. I am sure their auction catalogs would also be a collector's item if it exists. I also liked how each brother branched into their own specialties. The coin market was growing and trying to be knowledgeable for so many coins would have been far more challenging. A good coin dealer today would be knowledgeable about most coins but they would also have far deeper knowledge of a specific set of coins. Henry & Samuel Chapman, by branching into their respective specialties, also set the stage for the modern coin dealer in choosing the coins they specialize in.


Level 4

I never placed much thought into the history of coin dealers. A very well-written and informative article! You have me intrigued to hear more stories similar to this one. Well done, LB!


Level 5

Great blog. The Chapmans are definitely on my shortlist of people that I would like to go back in time to visit with.


Level 5

Nice blog and insight.


Level 6

Great subject. I learned a lot about the birth of our hobby. Thanks well researched. I enjoyed this read.


Level 3

A well written, informative, educational and entertaining article. Thank You.


Level 6

Fascinating history LB, is that you in the picture? JUST KIDDING. I loved your article.


Level 7

I would love to go back in time. And meet people like this. I have written blogs about growing up in the 1930's and knowing then what I know now. Meeting gentleman like this. I always said timing is everything. I got the short end of the stick. Owning a shop that sells anything that you could collect like you mentioned. Thanks for the blog as always interesting. Loaded with things I didn't know about but know now. Thanks for sharing you knowledge. Mike


Level 5

Amazing history of coin collecting. Would love to travel back in time and meet the brothers and see coins of the era. Very interesting post, and really enjoyed.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

That was a great article... I thought I read somewhere that there was someone in Philadelphia who minted some pattern coins for the Confederacy. Secretively done of course. Was that him?

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