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Aug 31 2019

Newman Portal Continues Digitization of Chapman Correspondence at American Numismatic Society

One of the treasures of the American Numismatic Society archival collection is a group of business correspondence of Samuel Hudson and Henry Chapman, Philadelphia coin dealers c. 1880 to 1930. This tranche of letters provides an insider’s view of the coin business for the period. An example is the file of William Dickinson, a St. Louis numismatist. Negotiation is a timeless thing, and Dickinson’s missive of March 12, 1892, complaining about consignment rates well illustrates the point:

“…in regard to the sale my Coins, I am appalled by the fact that at your terms proposed for disposing of them every half dollar must realize 67 cents in order for me to obtain its face value, whatever the cost to me may have been….shall I not better dispose of them here at private sale….many of the pieces I took of you paying you 10% [apparently referring to a buyer’s commission]. Now if by you sold I must pay 25%, making 35% for me, more than one third this cost to me. I shall lose less by selling them here…..I feel I am paying pretty dear for a defunct whistle to pay 35% for indulgence in this fad….you can appreciate the occasion of my hesitation to sell at auction….”

Dickinson eventually came to terms with the Chapman firm, and his named sale was presented by the Philadelphia brothers in March, 1894. Newman Portal acknowledges David Hill, ANS Librarian, and Lara Jacobs of Internet Archive for their assistance with this project.

Link to Chapman / Dickinson correspondence: https://archive.org/details/dickinsonwilliam00dick/page/1
Link to Chapman sale of Dickinson collection on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/auctionlots?AucCoId=21&AuctionId=510861
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