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NNP Blog

Jul 01 2019

Chapman Brothers Correspondence at the American Numismatic Society

The ANS acquired a sizable group (19 boxes) of Chapman brothers archives, c. 2000, related to business activities of this Philadelphia rare coin firm at the turn of the 20th century. Handling some of the most important collections of the period, beginning with the Bushnell sale in 1882, the Chapmans did much to define the practice of auction cataloging. Descriptions grew less terse, and the usage of photography increased. “Deluxe” editions signaled the numismatic community that it was perfectly acceptable to collect books. Today their sale catalogs are avidly collected. The Chapman archives at the ANS include correspondence with the most advanced collectors of the day, and reveal tidbits found nowhere else. 

The Newman Numismatic Portal is sponsoring the scanning of the Chapman correspondence, which is expected to take several months. Scanning will proceed alphabetically by correspondent last name and appear online as it is scanned. “A” correspondents have started to populate, with one item of interest being the Appleton file. This contains 1904 correspondence between William Sumner Appleton, Jr. and the Chapmans, discussing the estate of Appleton, Sr. (1840-1903).  Some thought was given to consigning the material (15,000 pieces including 3,000 medals) to the Chapmans. In the end no arrangement was concluded with the two brothers, and the material went to the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS), and also appeared at other dealer sales (Steigerwalt 5/1907, 1/1910, Elder 5/1913, 10/1913, and finally from MHS to Stack’s 5/1973). One can only imagine that Appleton might today be more widely known had the Chapmans presented the entire collection in a unified group of sales.

Link to Chapman Brothers correspondence on Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/americannumismaticsociety?and%5B%5D=ANS+Chapman+brothers&sin=&sort=-publicdate.
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