Collections in Collision - Coins & Books / Books & Coins

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by dadams, Jan 4, 2018.

  1. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    I became a collector in the mid-1990’s, but before that I was a voracious reader so it was a natural progression to colleting books. Only after a number of years did I gain a focus in the book collecting field: Fakes, Frauds, Forgers & Hoaxes. Curious and limited as such a specialized field may sound the material is quite available, for almost as long as the word has been written there have been available works made with the intention of deceiving as to authorship, origin, date, age, period, culture or source.

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    To date there are some 500± volumes in my collection spanning the years of about 1649 to present.

    To the consternation of many of my biblio-friends I took up coin collecting about 5 years ago after the rediscovery of my childhood collections that had survived intact in my mother’s attic. The thought that two collections, two intense interests, could coexist seemed unfathomable to them.

    Coin collectors, however, have no doubt of the importance of books in their endeavors as the tutelage given all budding numismatists is “buy the book before the coin.” I myself have, and continue to follow this sound advice and have begun to build a small numismatic library, but this seems not to count among my more literary minded friends. I must continually stress to my biblio-friends that a book is a book and that my love for books has not diminished in the least, even though I may divert some of my resources to the numismatic collections that would have in the past been directed into the literary collections I still find I’m able to enjoy my paper collections and metal collections equally.

    I had not thought it possible to merge my two interests – coins and books – seamlessly into each other but I’ve discovered a few instances where my two hobbies joyously collide:

    MARK WILLIAM HOFMANN (1954 - )
    The Mormon Bomber​

    Mark Hofmann, a book and antiquities dealer operating in Salt Lake City, began his illicit career in his young teenage years by “improving” coins, whereby he would add mintmarks making a common coin rare. Later, he progressed to forging Mormon scrip money and then documents and manuscripts relating to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Because of the extraordinary gains he would take to ensure their authenticity, the best of Hofmann's forgeries were accepted by experts and passed numerous physical tests, despite their sensationalistic nature. Hoffman seemed to take pleasure in challenging accepted historical perspectives, and seeing his forgeries pass the scrutiny of those with whom he felt he was competing. In the following pages, from Hofmann's Confessions he describes how he got his start:

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    (Hofmann, Mark) Hofmann, Mark. Hofmann's Confession.
    Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987. [In three volumes.]

    Hofmann evidently became quite proficient in creating numismatic rarities and in fact operated as a teenage dealer under the business name of "Mark's Mint Mistakes". In 2002, Hofmann made claim to creating the controversial 1959-D Lincoln Cent Mule, which notably passed Treasury Department inspection but remains an anomaly.

    According to a New York Times article, Hoffman’s forgeries were the most sophisticated ever seen, fooling nearly all the top forgery experts in the country. Charles Hamilton, the preeminent document dealer and expert in forged manuscripts, wrote that “Mark Hofmann was unquestionably the most skilled forger this country has ever seen”:
    He fooled me — he fooled everybody.… Investigators have said that Mr. Hofmann was as successful in selling forged documents in New York as he was in Utah. They say he may have collected more than $2 million selling rare documents purportedly written or signed by such literary and historical figures as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Jack London and Jim Bridger.… The Federal Bureau of Investigation said they could find no evidence that [his documents were] forged.

    The crown of his forging career was his creation of the “Oath of a Freeman” in 1985. The Oath was reputed to be the first document ever printed in the American colonies; though the historical record contains references to this document, no copies have been seen in modern times. Hofmann fully expected his version to pass the rigorous examinations of the Library of Congress, where he had offered it for sale, but the length of time needed for the assessment led him into trouble with his creditors.

    Hofmann’s response was to create and plant pipe bombs around Salt Lake City, first killing a document collector named Steven Christensen, then the wife of one of Christensen’s business associates — who Hofmann targeted to put the police off his trail. While attempting to set another bomb, he injured himself after it exploded in his car, leading police to investigate him.

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    This unassuming document marks the end of Mark Hoffman’s career as forger. Suffering slight burn damage, this document is a rare survivor of the October 16, 1985 explosion of Mark Hofmann’s MR2 Toyota sports car.
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    [Mark Hofmann]. INVENTORY AND INSPECTION REPORT of Public Property belonging to the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau. Folio 13 x 8.25, partially printed document, signed on the verso E[dmund]. B[rooke]. Alexander as Provost Marshal General, for the State of Missouri. Dated May 23rd 1865.

    After their discovery of his basement workshop, Hofmann pled guilty to his crimes in order to avoid the death sentence. He is now incarcerated in the Utah State Penitentiary serving a life sentence.

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    There have been numerous books written about the Mark Hofmann document forgeries and murder case, but Hofmann numismatic related material seems a bit less common.

    In 1998 Harry F. Campbell, author of Campbells' Tokens of Utah, self published this spiral bound volume titled Hofmann: Mormon Money Forgeries - Historical Aspects

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    At the Utah State Penitentiary, Charles Larson guarded Mark Hofmann. Through conversation and discussion Larson learned many of Hofmann's counterfeiting 'trade secrets' which resulted in the 2004 publication of Numismatic Forgery

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    First published in 1984, Alvin E Rust's Mormon and Utah Coin and Currency has become a standard reference work on the subject. Later editions include an addendum on the Mark Hofmann forgeries

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    From Alvin Rust, I obtained numerous Checks which he had received as part of the terms of restitution as a victim of Hofmann's frauds.

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    At present, there are no coin/scrip/token forgeries created by Hofmann in the collection, but I'm keeping my eyes open and hope to add something in the future.

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    RENIER HUBERT GHISLAIN CHALON (1802 - 1899)
    Bibliographical Trickster​

    Born in Mons, Belgium in 1802 Renier Chalon's many passions included books, archaeology, numismatics and photography and was a member of several learned societies. He was among the founders of the Society of Science, Arts and Letters of Hainault (1833) as well as the Belgian Numismatic Society (1841) and was the author of two monographs; one on the numismatics of the County of Hainaut (Recherches sur les Monnaies des Comtes de Hainaut) and another on the numismatics of the County of Namur (Recherches sur les Monnaies des Comtes de Namur) which were the first studies of their kind in Belgium.

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    A carte-de-visite portrait of the Belgian numismatist, photographer and bibliophile Renier Chalon who has inscribed and signed the carte recto in the lower margin. The inscription reads: ‘Souvenir d’amitié à mon confrère M. Ducpétiaux / R. Chalon’ [English: A souvenir of friendship to my colleague Monsieur Ducpétiaux].

    Although much regarded during his time as a leading numismatist, Chalon is better remembered today as the perpetrator of the greatest literary hoax ever conceived.

    When book dealers and members of collectors' societies began to receive notices of a sale which would occur in the summer of 1840, they responded with intense excitement. The sale was of the library of an unknown Count de Fortsas in Binche, near the French border in southwest Belgium. The catalogue seemed calculated to excite the interest of collectors and all the book-hunters of Europe were in wild anticipation of the sale. What made the Fortsas library so intriguing is that it was composed entirely of unique copies. If the Count discovered one of his books in any other library or in a bookseller's catalogue, he would purge it from his shelves. As a result, his library only numbered fifty-two volumes, but each of them was incredibly desirable.

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    (Fortsas Bibliohoax). Catalogue d’une très-riche mais peu nombreuse collection de livres provenant de la bibliothèque de feu M.r le Comte J.-N.-A. de Fortsas. Mons: Typographie d'Em. Hoyois, Libraire, [1840].

    When collectors thronged to Binche for the sale, they immediately encountered problems. No one could lead them to the notary listed on the catalogue, Maître Mourlon, or his offices at No. 9 rue de l'Eglise, a street which didn't seem to exist. Beyond that, their discussions with the local citizens revealed that the count de Fortsas was not known to the residents.

    Soon, a broadside appeared on the walls of the city, announcing that the Count's library would not be auctioned. Instead, according to the document, the town of Binche had made arrangements to acquire the full collection for its public library. The hopeful collectors who were not placated by this news decided that, if they could not own these unique volumes, they could at least examine them in their future repository. To the misfortune of the travelers they learned that no public library had ever existed in Binche and it had became clear to the visitors that they had fallen victim to an elaborate hoax.

    Ultimately, the true identity of the perpetrator of the prank was revealed: a former military officer, Renier Hubert Ghislain Chalon, who was widely known for his intricate practical jokes. His deception was so involved and so effective that it has remained a favorite of book collectors ever since.

    And finally, one of the newest additions to the Fortsas collection:

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    Silver commemorative medal of the Belgian Numismatic Society
    Obv: VISITE DE LA SOCIETE ROYALE DE NUMISMATIQUE BELGE • Lille • surrounding Flanders coat of arms
    Rev: In round SOUVENIR DU 7 MAI 1882 followed by three lines across field PRÉSIDENCE / DE / RENIER CHALON and below, a little ornamented cross; in exergue, on a banner, the name of the member present A. DEMUNYNCK
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
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  3. Gregg

    Gregg MS+++++++++++++++ Supporter

    It is amazing to me that experts could know something is a forgery but not be able to prove it. I wonder to what extent modern scientific analysis has made this type of career impossible.

    I also wonder how many gifted forgers are simply never detected.

    That forgeries could become a collectible is also very interesting.
     
    dadams likes this.
  4. mikenoodle

    mikenoodle The Village Idiot

    I recently was given a book on United States Cents published in 1890.

    I have more books on coins than any other subject. I wouldn't consider myself a voracious reader, but I do read a bit more than most people that I know.
     
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  5. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    Doug- I assume you have this by now, yes?

    Considering your interest in books, books about forgery, and now ancient coins, too, it seems a "must have" for you.

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  6. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 Senior Member

    Fantastic description, and really cool collection!
     
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  7. sakata

    sakata Devil's Advocate

    Fascinating and well-written informative post. Thanks for posting it.
     
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  8. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    That 'read' was suggested (for my edification) by, none other than, physics-fan Pi......marvelous and informative read. :)
     
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  9. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    I'd love a peek at that Bibliophile, OP..........:)
     
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  10. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Fascinating!
     
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  11. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    Not yet, but it is on the list! I bought the Larson book and a signed copy of the Rust so that I would have them before my post here and then a pretty nice Hadrian Tet for my 1st ancient of 2018 and a Ptolemaic from @John Anthony so I'll have to wait a bit.

    PS: Just finished The Storm Before The Storm and now will be anxiously awaiting the follow up volume - TSBTS ended with the death of Sulla.
     
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  12. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    Who me???

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    I'm on the left . . . .;)

    ^^ Edited: I don't know why the pic isn't showing up
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
  13. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    Take the Wayne Sayles book off your list.

    It's on the way, from Sayles himself (via Amazon).
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
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  14. Aethelred

    Aethelred The Old Dead King Supporter

    @dadams This is one of those rare threads that read like a short story rather than a post on a chat board. Thank you for posting it.
     
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  15. Treashunt

    Treashunt The Other Frank

    Great write up.

    I have nearly as many coin books as I do coins.
     
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  16. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    Wow! Thank you Rob. You are very generous and it is greatly appreciated. [​IMG]
     
  17. ronnie58

    ronnie58 Active Member

    What an amazing post with great illustrations. The transcript of Hofman's plea and the photo of his vehicle make for a vivid retelling. And the idea of most of Europe's
    book collectors flocking to the Chalon's 'sale'.
    That half of today's journalism should be this good!

    Being that a day has gone by I hope the OP won't mind a tangent or two:
    (a) wondering if detection methods for electroplated fakes have improved since Hofman fooled the Treasury. His testimony makes me think that eBay should watch for excessive numbers of '16P Mercs heading overseas, for example.
    (b) ANA offers a lending library as part of membership. I am about to join and would be interested to know if CT members are aware of that benefit or make use of it.
     
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