A publisher’s memories of Eric P. Newman

When I started working at Whitman Publishing in 2004, Eric P. Newman was already long established in many fields, including numismatics. He was in his early 90s at the time and going strong.

A few memories:

My first communication with Mr. Newman started in 2005, after he read an early draft of Q. David Bowers’s manuscript for what would become the Guide Book of Shield and Liberty Head Nickels. To say that his comments, edits, and recommendations were sharp would be an understatement. They were razor-sharp, gently but firmly communicated, full of wit, precision, and clarity. “Authoritative” is the word. He pointed out statements that were conjectural. He advised where clarification was needed. He corrected seemingly minute but actually significant errors of fact. He offered changes in wording to make the already strong text even stronger.

At the time Dave’s ~150-page manuscript was just one of several that Mr. Newman was editing for other researchers. “Keep writing and keep numismatics hopping,” he told his longtime friend. Who else but Eric P. Newman could advise Dave Bowers thus!

In December of that year Mr. Newman emailed Dave and several Whitman associates to clarify the dates of the Massachusetts colonial paper-money issues of 1690 and 1691—a complex subject that he explained with his usual authority and clarity. (His explanation would be folded into the manuscript for 100 Greatest American Currency Notes.) In this email, the elder statesman of numismatics illustrated his modesty and his approachable manner, inviting further questions and saying goodbye as “Eric to some of you and, for a little while, Eric P. Newman to the rest.”

It wasn’t long before he was signing off as just “Eric” in his personal correspondence to me. Why do I now refer to him as “Mr. Newman”? I need to work on that! He was always friendly and welcoming, and would undoubtedly laugh at the formality.

Dave Bowers emailed me privately: “Can you please hire Eric P. Newman on your editorial staff? I highly recommend him. He has only made one error in his life, and that was on January 9, 1954, when he apologized for making an error, and later found out that he hadn’t made one.”

In 2006, Mr. Newman wrote the foreword to Q. David Bowers’s Obsolete Paper Money Issued by Banks in the United States, 1782–1866. He described his long friendship (of 50-plus years) with Dave, and he told how he became interested in early American money. He recalled his intellectual spark of some 80 years earlier, and how his curiosity gave no preference to metal or paper, or when a particular piece of money circulated. Everything numismatic was fair game for young Eric Newman’s insatiable interest.

Mr. Newman was, like Dave Bowers, Ken Bressett, and other witty numismatists, always looking for humor in the hobby. In October 2007 he sent an email suggesting a new book: “The intense interest in collecting, buying, and selling fake and fantasy coins, bars, medals, and paper money has increased substantially lately, and perhaps a Guide Book of Fake American Numismatic Collectibles should be prepared, with current values. The preface should caution readers that you will promptly delist items if, after research, they turn out to be genuine. You probably should keep the names of the fakers secret so as not to discourage further production.  You might call the publication ‘The Green Book’ to appeal to simply green collectors, and might include a dedication to Hetty Green. You could even rank the false pieces under a ‘100 Best Fakes’ section. You should not list legitimate circulating counterfeits, as that may be opposed by Federal, Lebanese, or North Korean authorities. You could caution readers that values of fakes may exceed the value of genuine pieces. You could use a condition scale based upon 143 instead of the existing confusing scale of 70. Many pseudo-scholars will be glad to assist you in this encouraging endeavor. You could prevent other publishers from making replicas of the Green Book under the non-intellectual property laws. A former popular specialized numismatic literature publication, Struck Copies of Early American Coins, by Richard D. Kenney, was published in 1952 and this was only a small pamphlet. Featuring reproductions would not interfere with stem cell research.” He signed off, “I am Green with envy.”

While his humor was fun and light-hearted, Mr. Newman’s scholarship always bore weight. In 2007 he offered important suggestions on the structure of Dave Bowers’s in-the-works Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins. He was a substantial guiding force in the book’s development, even from afar. Dave ended up dedicating the monumental book “to Eric P. Newman and his lifetime devotion to early American numismatics.”

In 2008 we started talking about crafting a new edition of a hobby classic, The Fantastic 1804 Dollar. Mr. Newman and Kenneth Bressett began working on that book in 1959. Ken was already known as a serious numismatist, though he wasn’t yet identified as “Mr. Red Book” (that title, at that time, was for R.S. Yeoman). The Fantastic 1804 Dollar was finally released in 1962, and the dramatic circumstances of its publication are the stuff of hobby legend. With the 50th anniversary of the start of their collaboration approaching, and with 1804 dollars constantly in the news, I wanted to create a new edition for today’s hobby community. It was an honor to work with Newman and Bressett on the “Tribute Edition” Whitman published in 2009, marking the 50th anniversary of the start of their writing on these famous coins.

More Newman humor: referring to his author portrait for the Tribute Edition, he told me, “I will mail you a color mug shot. I can try to grow a beard if that would be more impressive.” Regarding signed bookplates for a special limited-edition run of the book, he said, “I have two wrists so that if one gets tired autographing the other can take over. Then there will be two varieties of signature from me.”

Mr. Newman may have started his numismatic studies in the 1930s, but he was comfortable in the new century and took good advantage of its technology. In 2008 Dave Bowers recommended that he get a new kind of scanner for quickly capturing high-resolution images of coins and paper money. This opened a floodgate! We were working on manuscripts on half cents and large cents, among others, at the time. “Thank you for making me find, examine, and enjoy some of my collection,” Newman wrote to Dave. Months later Dave was astonished by the steady stream of scanned banknotes and coins coming in from St. Louis, Missouri. He marveled: “I guess Eric P. Newman (age 97) is learning about the latest technology!” Of course, by this time he had been using the Internet for years, for communication and research.

Other correspondence over the years came from Newman’s membership in the Rittenhouse Society, a forum of numismatic researchers, named after the first director of the United States Mint. The society was started by Dave Bowers, Ken Bressett, Kenneth Rendell, Walter Breen, George Fuld, and other dedicated young numismatists around 1957. Their original idea was to limit membership to writers under the age of 30—but Eric Newman, born in 1911, would have been ineligible. The age requirement was dropped. In recent years Mr. Newman has corresponded by email, congratulating and welcoming new members and weighing in on Rittenhouse Society news.

Today Eric Newman may be gone, but he remains an active force in the hobby, art, and science of numismatics through the continuing work of his foundations, including the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society (and its groundbreaking Newman Numismatic Portal), and of course through his voluminous published works, and the benchmarks he set for other researchers.

The great writer, who always considered himself a student, also kept up to date with Whitman’s publications. It was my honor to send him a copy of every new book as it was published, for his library. He read them all, and continued to take interest of all aspects of the field, as he did when he started in numismatics as a youth. “Keep producing books galore,” he once told me. And more advice to Dave Bowers: “Don’t stop writing. Don’t retire. And keep your mind churning, as always.”

I encourage every numismatist reading these words to continue Eric Newman’s legacy by taking that advice to heart.

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Comments

  1. KEITHSTER says

    Sorry did not know much about Eric P Newman was more into Alfred E. But looks like he did a lot of good works ! Will have to check it out . And not to worry coin collecting will go on long after we have gone on !!! Well Good Luck In The Meantime “>”>”>

  2. KEITHSTER says

    Speaking of Alfred E. the mint has also seem to have gone Mad!?! As they have zeroed out the totals on the Order History. Must not want any remembering how much they spent on their stuff at a glance? Why do they make it harder all the time? Glad I printed it off the other day don’t suppose they will fix it anytime soon!! Well Good Luck To Us Looks Like We’ll Need It “>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>

  3. cagcrisp says

    17XA 2017 AM LIBERTY 24K GOLD 1 OZ 26,070 +113
    17XB 2017 AM LIBERTY SILVER MEDAL (P) 51,032 +495
    17XC 2017 225TH ANN ENHANCED UNC SET 210,670 (40)
    17XD 2017 AM LIBERTY SILVER 4-MEDAL SET 26,974 +585

  4. cagcrisp says

    16XA 2016 WALKING LIBERTY 24K GOLD .5OZ 64,762 + 76
    16XC 2016 STANDING LIBERTY 24K GOLD .25OZ 90,802 +161

  5. cagcrisp says

    16AN 2016 ATB SILVER UNC 5 OZ – FT MLTR 17,674 +15
    17AJ 2017 ATB SILVER UNC 5 OZ – EFF MNDS 16,166 +58
    17AK 2017 ATB SILVER UNC 5 OZ – DOUGLASS 16,237 +46
    17AL 2017 ATB SILVER UNC 5 OZ – OZARK 15,782 + 88
    17AM 2017 ATB SILVER UNC 5 OZ – ELLIS ISLAND 16,880 +127

  6. cagcrisp says

    16EA 2016 AM EAGLE SILVER PROOF 1 OZ 576,173 + 770
    16EB 2016 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 1 OZ 23,806 +11
    16EC 2016 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ 5,804 +1

    16EG 2016 AM EAGLE SILVER UNC 1 OZ 210,859 +786

  7. cagcrisp says

    17EA 2017 AM EAGLE SILVER PROOF 1 OZ 336,383 +4,561

    17EB 2017 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 1 OZ 7,157 +82
    17EC 2017 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ 1,912 +32
    17ED 2017 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 1/4 OZ 3,073 + 97
    17EF 2017 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 4-COIN SET 9,768 +36

    17EG 2017 AM EAGLE SILVER UNC 1 OZ 131,370 +2,466

    17EL 2017 AM BUFFALO GOLD PROOF 1 OZ 14,369 + 135

  8. cagcrisp says

    BT Uncirculated Gold finally getting some love…TLTL

    17CA 2017 BOYS TOWN GOLD PROOF 1,466 +18
    17CB 2017 BOYS TOWN GOLD UNC 2,362 +110
    17CC 2017 BOYS TOWN SILVER PROOF 24,433 +193
    17CD 2017 BOYS TOWN SILVER UNC 10,184 +63
    17CE 2017 BOYS TOWN CLAD PROOF 16,690 + 67
    17CF 2017 BOYS TOWN CLAD UNC 14,501 +64
    17CG 2017 BOYS TOWN 3-COIN SET 5,217 +16

    17CH 2017 LIONS CLUBS SILVER PROOF 66,319 +495
    17CJ 2017 LIONS CLUBS SILVER UNC 16,710 +66

  9. cagcrisp says

    JQ1 2015 FS GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ – TRUMAN 2,723 +3
    JQ2 2015 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – TRUMAN 1,918 + 1
    JQ4 2015 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – EISENHWR 2,076 + 7
    JQ8 2015 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – JOHNSON 1,864 + 5

    16SA 2016 FS GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ – NIXON 2,607 –
    16SB 2016 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – NIXON 1,700 + 2
    16SC 2016 FS GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ – FORD 2,427 +2
    16SD 2016 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – FORD 1,683 +4
    16SE 2016 FS GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ – REAGAN 3,479 + 4
    16SF 2016 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – REAGAN 1,944 +6

  10. cagcrisp says

    I Believe someone opined that the Sales numbers for the 1/10 oz. Gold Proof and the 1 oz. Uncirculated Gold would Somehow reappear…Didn’t happen…

  11. John Q. Coinage says

    Boy what a bomb is the 4 coin medal set… & 2017 high relief….on sale till 2o2o…..As Kramer wol say: “You really blew it kid” no classic Flowing hair, etc., redone, no sales…

  12. earthling says

    When those Michele O Coins are selling for $10,000 each, how many will be swearing at their own stupidity?😉

    Not me. I buy what I like. 💩

    😎

  13. smalltimecollector says

    Besides the overdone assault on my email inbox the mint mailed another catalog. Filled with many items I have no interest.
    idk if it’s congress, secretary of treasury, the citizens committee, or ?
    Something needs to change before we lose all coinage.
    For now I hold hopes the 50th year Moon Landing coin does not become some pc abomination.
    Curved coin again….. gets a slight smirk from me.

  14. KCSO says

    From the previous thread –

    Thanks for sharing your all’s introspectives as well as commenting on your historical perspectives, I enjoy reading them and it definitely adds a lot to my understanding of why things are the way they are, or will be going forward.

    It takes time and energy to write well thought out and concerted perspectives, so it’s appreciated.

    On a lesser note –

    Yes, Absolutely.., TPG’s and personal agendas on the CFA/CCAC in the coin design selection process has done more ruin the hobby. That is my core belief, I could write a dissertation about it.., though it’s not worth my time, it’s simply – it is what it is.

    “Lastly, only disclose sales after the year closes” – AMEN BROTHER! Yes, that would change the dynamics considerably!

  15. KCSO says

    cagcrisp says, “BT Uncirculated Gold finally getting some love…TLTL”

    And some people don’t learn (see previous thread)

  16. KCSO says

    My Trump Rally Puck just shipped from JMB, anyone have theirs yet?

    Hope they’re DMPL and void of that milky haze sheen I’ve have on other pucks

  17. datadave says

    If I finally have my spreadsheet numbers correct, the 2017 1/4 oz proof gold eagle just passed the 2013 low in the club house with 12,841 versus 12, 782. The 1/2 oz gold proof is still 1,036 back (11,680 versus 12,716) and and the 1 oz gold proof is way back with 16,925 versus 23,630. The last is the most shocking since this is a 30+ year series.

  18. KCSO says

    Just FYI. –

    Limited Edition Silver Proof Set 2018

    https://catalog.usmint.gov/limited-edition-silver-proof-set-2018-18RC.html

    SAN FRANCISCO (S)

    – I believe the (S) is a recent addition to the Product Schedule and it appears that all other items and their associated striking mint locations are accurate,

    – this would imply that the 2018 LESPS will be ALL ‘S’ coins and WILL NOT include the ‘W’ ASE also being offered in 2018.., NOR will the 2017 LESPS be the only LESPS will ALL ‘S’

    Just a little speculation for fun.., you’re looking at either potentially a new ‘W’ or ‘S’ low in 2018 based on the premise that there is only so much demand, and ASE fatigue after 2016 & 2017 ASE offerings.

  19. cagcrisp says

    Let me see…

    I’ve posted many times that All my current purchases are dealing with Civil War Gold, Select Carson City Gold and Silver, 200 year old Silver and finishing out my Gold Sets of Specific dated Gold $1 Liberty, Gold $2.50 Liberty and Indian Head, Gold $3, Gold $5 Liberty and Indian Head, Gold $10 Liberty and Indian Head and $20 Liberty and $20 St Gauden.

    That being said, I was just updating my files on the differences in Price Guide pricing of Old SPECIFIC coins (that I’m buying) vs. Modern coins (that I’m Not buying).

    I thought it would be interesting to update my files concerning where Old coins are stacking up vs. Modern coins.

    I used 100 years as a cut off because all that I am purchasing is Over 100 years old.

    I used PCGS graded coins price guides.

    I wanted to see the Highest appreciating coins vs. the coins that have Lost the most value.

    I wanted to use as long a period as possible and 10 years was the Longest.

    I used 10 year Winners (current price vs. 10 years ago) vs. 10 year Losers (current price vs. 10 years ago).

    In the Last 10 year for Winners, there were 94 coins out of the Top 100 Winners that were 100+ years old.

    Thus there were 6 coins out of Top 100 Winners that were Under 100 years old that were on the 10 year Winner list.

    In the Last 10 years for Losers, there was 1 coin out of the Top 100 Losers list that was 100+ years old.

    Thus there were 99 coins out of 100 Losers that were Under 100 years old that were on the 10 year Losers list…

  20. KEITHSTER says

    So I stop by the bank today on a hunch and the teller see’s Me and goes how many? But even I didn’t catch on and go what? She goes how many you want so I’m like how many can I get and she’s like I don’t care! Witch is a new one on Me”> How about 10 then and back she comes with 10 rolls of the new quarters. So I put them in My shirt pockets and she says better hope you don’t have to run to fast and I’m like I can just throw them at them and that should slow them down? So winner or loser don’t matter got them for face but come check with Me in a hundred years and We’ll go see what there going for? SO Good Luck All “>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>

  21. NCM Collector says

    It is hard to stay enthusiastic about collecting modern commemoratives when the designs are so bad. Mintages continue to drop which I see a plus. Maybe in a few years that will result in higher prices. Time to explore other options.
    There is also a lot less chatter on the blogs about speculating in modern stuff. I assume enough people have been burned.

  22. KCSO says

    Good catch Ron – so, I guess we’ll be looking at a potentially new low for the ‘W’ Congratulations Set at well – YIPPEE!

    Geez.., talk about ASE fatigue – time for a COMPLETE MAKE OVER of the AGE & ASE’s – 30 years + is enough.

  23. Louis says

    I agree about eagle fatigue and wrote a piece on that last week for my Coin World blog which should be up after the holiday.
    I also agree about overall fatigue with USM products and most modern stuff.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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