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Jun 17 2022

John J. Ford, Jr., Speaks on the Browning Reprint


Though meticulously researched, largely accurate, and notably expansive—none of which are necessarily guaranteed in the world of numismatic literature—A.W. Browning’s 1925 Early Quarter Dollars had a print run of just 55, including 5 in deluxe format.  In the words of Walter Breen, it was “the most perfect numismatic book written on the first try.”  But with such quality and undeserved low production, the book quickly became a sought-after rarity (as numismatic bibliophiles know, this is not a problem unique to Browning, much to our frustration).    


Copies remained scarce and largely inaccessible until 1950, when John J. Ford, Jr. helped ease the shortage a little.  In an audio recording of the 1991 Numismatic Bibliomania Society Symposium recently uploaded to the Newman Numismatic Portal, Ford described how he facilitated the production of 25-35 additional copies using the original 1925 glass negatives. (Note: The Symposium as a whole features Ford, John Adams, George Kolbe, Armand Champa, and P. Scott Rubin speaking for a shockingly concise 2 hours about numismatic literature).  After gaining access to the original Browning negatives, Ford approached a firm on 45th Street in New York that he had encountered while “schlepping coins from one dealer to another” to help him make 100 new prints from each glass plate.  He then had the new plates trimmed and bound to the text elsewhere.


Ford himself in recollection was uncertain on the number of copies made, but knew there were 5 interleaved copies made in a crimson three-quarter morocco grained cloth with French marbled-paper sides.  The other traditional reprints—of which 25-30 were issued, Ford didn’t remember—were bound in a crimson cloth.  Some deluxe interleaved copies were produced in full red calf, but it is unknown how many were made.  Notably, all of the reprinted plates are considered higher-quality than the first edition.


Ford advertised the new copies in January and February of 1951, and sold out.  He distributed the copies on the day he started at New Netherlands Coin Company.  Of course, Ford’s copies did not satiate demand; later, larger reprints by Durst and Bowers & Merena mostly filled that gap.  But Ford’s reprints remain in demand today for their quality and, just a little, because Ford made them.  


Link to 1991 Numismatic Bibliomania Society Symposium: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/multimediadetail/515004
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