By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ..........
The recent passing of both John Bordner and Alan Herbert compels us to say something about the study and collecting of coins in its purest sense.
Simply put, the numismatic community lost two pioneers this January. Both men exemplified the science of numismatics and paved the way for untold numbers of collectors to enter the exciting world of error and variety collecting.
Both leave behind unparalleled scholarship in their respective fields and a lifetime of goodwill earned by years of service to the hobby. CONECA will honor the two experts in the March / April issue of Error Scope magazine*. We look forward to reading it.
What we’d like to do now is touch very briefly on their work and impact on the numismatic community, and share our thoughts on the thrill of discovery and collecting for the fun of it. We believe the pure joy of collecting is what drove these men to do what they did.
John Bordner, numismatist, founder of National Collectors Association of Die Doubling, and colleague to many of the hobby’s top variety experts, died on January 11th after a long illness. He leaves behind a wife and a young son. With his passing, the numismatic community loses one of the greatest RPM experts in history.
According to his friend Thomas Kalantzis, Bordner’s painstakingly-assembled collection of small cent RPMs is of unprecedented scope and size. He collected and wrote about these coins, not for financial gain, but because he loved studying them.
ANA Governor Mike Ellis said that he was a “kind, fun and giving man, who always gave as much as he possibly could to the hobby.” To a person, everyone we spoke with shared the same sentiment.
He collaborated with John Wexler and Brian Allen on The Comprehensive Guide to Lincoln Cent Repunched Mintmark Varieties: Volume 1: Wheat Cents 1909-1939. It’s still the most comprehensive volume on the subject. Bordner also contributed to The Hub, NCADD’s one-time bimonthly magazine (for the time being, you can read a copy on their website).
Before becoming one of the leading experts on mint errors, Alan Herbert was a soldier, war correspondent, and, according to his peers and superior officers, a war hero. He served in the 15th Army Artillery in the waning months of World War II and re-enlisted when the United States went to war in Korea. He had recently married, and left the comfort of civilian life behind in order to serve his country.
His broadcasting career grew out of the fantastic work he did detailing accounts of battles during that conflict.
Herbert began collecting coins in the early 1960s, and he started writing about errors in 1967. His career in numismatics as a writer, researcher, and advocate for mint errors spanned the remaining decades of his life.
He was the author of the long running Official Guide to Mint Errors, currently in print as the Official Price Guide to Mint Errors.
He is cited as a kindred spirit by his peers. Our friend and 2012 NLG Award-winning author Robert Ezerman felt that Herbert’s lasting impact on the hobby goes beyond his books and rests in the personal relationships he had with other collectors in the error community. He was always busy researching… and writing. He had numerous columns over the years but still found time for personal correspondence. His talent for reducing the complex into something easy to understand grew his segment of the hobby. “He always made things look easy,” said Ezerman, “and he did it not to maximize monetary gain for himself or numismatic market makers, but to show collectors the true joy in finding something unusual and letting them know how they, through their own knowledge, could level the playing field.
As a result of his generosity and decades of work, Herbert inspired generations of collectors to look at their coins a little differently. He was 86 years old.
Collect for the Joy of It.
Tom Kalantzis will be handling the sale of John Bordner’s cent collection. Tom knows only a handful of experts qualified to know exactly what it is that Bordner put together. For the most part, these coins are uncirculated examples in the raw. No special attention was paid to condition. It was the RPM that excited Bordner, not the population report.
I asked Tom what he thought the collection’s value is. Neither one of us could answer that question. John Bordner collected coins for the fun of it. He studied RPMs and wrote about them, but didn’t really seek to monetize his efforts. Some of the RPMs in his set are undoubtedly rare, and others may go unseen by all but a handful of specialists. What value can you place on that?
Still, people in the know covet Bordner’s RPMs and in a way, that’s the most honest form of flattery. John Bordner did for himself what others couldn’t, and likely won’t do again anytime soon, at least not without spending a lifetime looking at small cents under a loupe.
But what a career! To see things that no one else ever saw and then share them with like-minded collectors is something any serious numismatist should aspire to.
*Authors’ note: If you’re not already a subscriber, you can purchase individual issues of Error Scope by contacting CONECA’s Lee Gong.
FLIP OF A COIN: MINT ERROR AND VARIETY EDITION
Before CONECA, and even before CONE and NECA themselves, there was COME. That’s right; the seminal collectors’ organization for the study of mint errors was called the Collectors of Mint Errors (COME) Club. The organization began its work in 1956, shortly after the 1955 Lincoln cent doubled die lead to an error coin collecting frenzy.
Do you collect clamshells? This is an interesting mint error that looks like what it’s called. Clamshells, also known as hinged or split-hinged planchets, are coins struck on planchets that haven’t separated completely during the minting process. A thin piece of connective metal forms a hinge - similar to the hinge found in clams.
Is the 1982 No FG Kennedy a mint error or a variety? How about the Franklin “Bugs Bunny” die clash? Or the Three-Legged Buffalo nickel? Numismatists have been debating these issues for decades, with no end in sight.