Born in Philadelphia. Graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He studied the American Indians. From 1837 to 1844 he worked in archaelogy in the Mississippi Valley. He dug over a thousand Indian mounds and collected 40,000 relics and artifacts. He donated this collection to the Philadelphia City Museum.
John J. Egan painted a panorama based on the sketches of Dickeson called Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley. The painting in tempora on muslin was 7.5 feet by 348 feet. It was used to illustrate Dickeson’s lectures.
Author of The American Numismatical Manual of the Currency or Money of the Aborigines, and Colonial, State, and United States Coins in 1859, 1860 and 1865. It was important at the time as the first comprehensive encyclopedia of United States coinage.
Dickeson sold his collection of 84 New Jersey coppers to Dr. Maris in 1876. His coins were included in 15 auctions, mostly in 1869 to 1871.
Dickeson produced copies of colonial coins including the Sommers Islands Shilling, Continental Currency, and others. He was the intermediary in the sale of dies used to produce the 1804 large cent restrikes. He used a postal die and a new reverse to produce fantasy pattern cents dated 1792.
He died at home in Philadelphia.
bio: Attinelli (*gives DOB as 6/18/1809); CW/NM 3/31/76; NYHSD; NUM/NIN 5/94 obit: AJN 17 Jul 1882 page 23
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One often thinks of the "Red book" as the first standard guide, but Dickeson is the true eye opener. Here is the straw man, the first attempt at a comprehensive overview of American coinage. While the plates look like play money and technical errors abound (for example, the 1797 half dollar is unlisted), Dickeson represents a necessary stepping stone in American numismatic scholarship. An accumulative science by definition evolves, and Dickeson could have done much worse as he drew upon the few written sources along with personal contacts in the nascent numismatic community. The result was the first comprehensive, illustrated view of aboriginal, colonial, federal, pattern, and territorial coinage. While modern guides are far more accurate (and affordable), they do not convey the wonder of birth that one senses in Dickeson. Voted #70 of the top one hundred items of numismatic literature by the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Note: the first edition (1859) is titled the American Numismatical Manual. Later, "numismatical" was shortened to "numiismatic."