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howard newcomb

Howard R. Newcomb

By Q. David Bowers, Co-Founder

Author: Q. David Bowers / Thursday, February 24, 2022 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers

My last article about the 1817 N-16 cent reminded me of Howard Rounds Newcomb, a Renaissance man in our hobby.

Born on December 21 1877, Howard R. Newcomb became involved in numismatics as a teenager—the time that many if not most of the "greats" of our hobby got started. In August 1894 Newcomb attended the American Numismatic Association annual convention held that year in his hometown of Detroit, where he signed up to become member #227. He must have forgotten to pay his dues, for in The Numismatist in December 1906 he is listed as new member #92. It was the policy then, soon discontinued, to fill in any open numbers vacated by dropouts with new names given old numbers. On November 12, 1910, he joined the American Numismatic Society, which at the time had been in its magnificent new headquarters on Audubon Terrace, New York City, since 1908.
By then he was an avid collector of coins by varieties—Morgan silver dollars by minute differences and, in a wider field, mintmarked issues of silver coins. The Numismatist in June 1912 included his article, "Unappreciated Silver Mint Rarities‑Dimes," which related that everyone knew about the famous 1894-S dime as being the rarest in the series, but that other dimes were also deserving of attention, including the 1874-CC, of which Newcomb knew of fewer than a half dozen specimens. Of the 1871-CC, 1872-CC, and 1873-CC With Arrows, only the 1871-CC was known to Newcomb in Uncirculated condition. Further, the 1885-S dime was identified as a sleeper. The same magazine in February 1913 carried Newcomb's descriptions of the different varieties of 1878-1880 dollars known to him, a pioneering discussion of such topics as the number of tailfeathers in the eagle, the shape of the top arrow feather, and other characteristics which would become familiar to a later generation of collectors.
The April 1914 issue of The Numismatist began with an article on the exhibition of United States coins held at the American Numismatic Society in New York City from January 17 through February 18, 1914, where it was noted that the exhibition included "the rarities of the mintmark collection of Mr. Howard Newcomb." Newcomb continued his study and enjoyment of numismatics, including writing in 1925 The United States Cents of the Years 1801-1802-1803, and in the 1930s publishing information on how to tell original Proof half cents from restrikes. By the late 1920s he resided in the fashionable Bel Air district of Los Angeles, having retired from his Detroit business, Newcomb, Endicott & Co., a large haberdashery and dry goods firm founded in the 19th century.

Newcomb passed away on January 7, 1945, having lived long enough to see his book on late-date large cents in print. In February, The Numismatist included his obituary, "Among Us a Prince Has Fallen," by Carl Wurtzbach. His collection was sold in two auctions by J.C. Morgenthau & Co. (Wayte Raymond and James G. Macallister). In 1982 he was elected to the American Numismatic Association Hall of Fame.