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The E-Sylum (6/16/2013)

Book Content

In his June 11, 2013 column in Coin World, Dave Bowers discusses the Bushnell sale of 1882, illustrated with an image of the rare Bushnell token by A.G. Sage. -Editor

Bushnell token

Ira S. Bushnell, a New York City attorney, was a leading numismatic scholar in the 1850s. Many of his findings were published years later in 1875 by S.S. Crosby in Early Coins of America. Bushnell’s pioneering An Arrangement of Tradesmen’s Cards, Political Tokens, also Election Medals, Medalets, &c. Current in the United States of America for the Last Sixty Years, 1858, set the stage for the widespread collecting of these series.

Augustus B. Sage, a New York schoolteacher with a sharp mind and a love for coins, contributed a series of articles in 1857 to the New-York Dispatch. An anonymous reader, “Numismatist,” took exception to certain of Sage’s comments. Not long afterward Bushnell, who used that pseudonym, became acquainted with Sage and they became friends.

In 1859, Sage, by then the founder of the American Numismatic Society and a leading rare coin dealer, commissioned George H. Lovett to create the Numismatic Gallery series of medals. The first honoree was Bushnell.

Bushnell died Sept. 17, 1880. His magnificent collection was purchased by Lorin G. Parmelee, a Boston numismatist who had a private cabinet second only to that of T. Harrison Garrett in Baltimore. Parmelee extracted pieces of interest and then sold the Bushnell coins to the Chapman brothers — S. Hudson and Henry — who created an auction catalog unlike anything ever seen. More than 140 pages in length and printed on impressively large folio sheets, it described 3,000 lots. Copies with photographic plates were available for the unheard of price of $5 (nearly a week’s wages for a factory worker at the time). Descriptions included extensive historical information.

To read the complete article, see: The Bushnell sale of 1882 (

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