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    Eric P. Newman Research Files:
    The USAOG $20 Controversy

    Newman, Eric P. Archives on the Controversies Relating to the United States Assay Office of Gold $20 Pieces and Other Western Gold of Questioned Authenticity. Four boxes of correspondence, reports, photographs, laboratory analyses, original and photocopied publications, clippings, drafts, inventories, appraisals, sale catalogues, memorabilia, and other assorted items, all relating to the long-running controversies surrounding the authenticity of various Western gold coins, ingots, and other objects. Thousands of pages present. Materials are generally well-organized and well-preserved.

    The story of the USAOG controversy is familiar to many. Briefly, it begins in the late 1950s, when Paul Franklin claimed to discover a hoard of 1853 USAOG pieces, many of which were subsequently marketed by John J. Ford, Jr., of the New Netherlands Coin Company. A PNG arbitration panel was convened at the 1966 ANA Convention when Paul Garland alleged that a $20 proof USAOG piece he had purchased from Tom Ryan, and which came from this hoard, was fake. Eric P. Newman prepared a report on the matter to present to the panel, in which he presented his argument that the hoard pieces were modern counterfeits. The following year, Ford presented his defense of the pieces. The PNG panel eventually rendered a decision that while they were unable to determine the authenticity of the piece, they did believe it not to be a proof, thereby rendering a verdict in Garland's favor while avoiding involvement in the larger question at hand. Sadly, the controversy pitted many of the biggest names in U.S. numismatics against one another, and it was the final nail in the coffin for Newman's relationship with Ford. That the arbitration panel's decision was truly satisfactory to none of the parties involved did much to make the bitterness stirred up by it linger. The controversy spilled into the arguments for and against the acquisition by the United States of the Lilly collection, which was held by some to include a number of questionable items, and has since broadened to the entire field of Western bars and ingots.

    As lengthy as it may seem, the following description provides only a brief overview of the contents of this archive. Materials from the 1960s and earlier include: correspondence (1966-1968), documentation, and photographs related to the PNG arbitration of Garland v. Ryan, regarding the authenticity of an 1853 U.S. Assay Office of Gold $20 gold piece (correspondents include Eva Adams, John J. Ford, Jr., Herbert Bergen, Ted Buttrey, Ronnie Carr, Paul Garland, Charles Hoskins, Arthur Kagin, Paul Kagin, Lester Merkin, the Museum of Fine Arts, John J. Pittman, Margo Russell, Tom Ryan, Max M. Schwartz, Arthur Sipe, Don Taxay, Douglas Weaver, and Leo Young), including the reports submitted by Newman, Ford, and Walter Breen; personal memoranda and correspondence, 1964-1967, related to scientific analysis of the 1853 USAOG $20 gold pieces; and correspondence, 1968-1970, related to Newman's attempt to secure inventories of the J.K. Lilly accession delivered into the Smithsonian (correspondents include Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli, James Bradley, Paul Rawley, Hillis Howie, Grover Criswell, Henry Christensen, and others).

    Other materials include: Ford's 1973 appraisal of the Henry Clifford collection, and a composite appraisal of the collection by both Ford and Abe Kosoff; correspondence between Eric P. Newman and Buttrey, discussing controversial Western gold pieces; correspondence related to Eric P. Newman's theory that pioneer gold coining equipment made its way from the San Francisco Mint (following the 1906 earthquake) into the hands of Nagy, where it may have been used for restrikes; Newman's clip file on Nagy, including correspondence, references to Nagy-sourced pieces, requests to the Philadelphia Police Department for information on Nagy, and personal memoranda; correspondence with Buttrey, 1973-1983, related to false Mexican gold bars (supporting material includes personal memoranda and correspondence with other individuals including Dana Linett, Miguel Muñoz, Lester Merkin, Bruce Smith, Margaret Thompson, Neil Harris, Charles Hoskins, Douglas Ball, Ray Byrne and Ed Reiter); correspondence with John J. Ford, Jr., Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli, Ronnie Carr, Lester Merken, Herbert Bergen, Paul Franklin, covering various topics including the Stephen K. Nagy estate; efforts to identify "F. Korff" (a reputed source of gold bars), and Newman's comparison of "F. Korff" and Paul Franklin-sourced correspondence; and correspondence and drafts (1973-1977) related to the Tubac ingot article by Theodore Buttrey (correspondents include Virgil Hancock, Neil Harris, Laurence Rosenthal (counsel for John J. Ford, Jr.), and Theodore V. Buttrey.

    Later materials include: a copy of Walter Breen's report on 18th-century Mexican gold ingots, accompanied by cover letter from Craig N. Smith to Newman (Breen's well-known letter to Stanley Apfelbaum of April 9, 1981, reporting status on his investigation and his fears regarding it, is also included); correspondence with a number of individual on various aspects of western private gold, including Ken Bressett, Q. David Bowers, John Dannreuther, and Michael Hodder; drafts of various articles and talks by Buttrey; the findings of the ANA Authentication Bureau with respect to the 1853 $20 USAOG piece; a 1998 letter from Kleeberg to Buttrey, summarizing Clifford's correspondence in the New Netherlands archives at the ANS; much material on the "Great Debate" between Buttrey and Hodder, and its publication by the ANS, including correspondence from Peter Gaspar to Buttrey (1999) and Gaspar's notes taken at the Ford presentation at the 1999 ANA convention; a draft of Hodder's article for the American Journal of Numismatics, and various materials and correspondence relating to it; materials related to litigation following the publication of Buttrey's article on western gold bars in the American Journal of Numismatics; and much else.

    This is an extraordinary archive comprising an enormous amount of information on what is likely the most important controversy in the history of American numismatics. A unique opportunity. Estimate $10,000.
    Ex: Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society.


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2018
    7th-10th Wednesday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 228

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    Truth Seeker: The Life of Eric P. Newman (softcover)
    A powerful and intimidating dealer of the 1960s, backed by important colleagues, was accused of selling fraudulent gold coins and ingots to unsuspecting numismatists. Who would go up against a man like that and, over the course of decades, prove the fraud? Who would expose a widely respected scholar as a thief, then doggedly pursue recovery of coins that the scholar had stolen from an embarrassed numismatic organization, all over the objections of influential collectors who had bought coins with clouded titles? Eric P. Newman would - and did. Reserve your copy today.
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