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Betts, Charles

Born at Newburg on the Hudson. The life of Betts could be divided into two parts labeled scoundrel and scholar. His scoundrel years were prior to 1864. He withdrew from school because of ill health. He began to collect coins as he was recovering. He also spent his time learning to make dies. He carved crude designs on smooth coins and transferred the designs to other coins that had been smoothed. He inserted the coins between two dies and hit the combination with a six pound dumbbell. Some of these were accepted as crude colonial coins before they were proven to be Betts fantasy pieces. Although his obituary in AJN credits Betts with discovery of the New Haven dies for Fugio Cents, Breen has found no evidence to support the claim.

Betts entered Yale College in 1863. This began his scholar phase. He graduated in 1867. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1869 and was admitted to the bar. He completed graduate study at Yale University in 1871.

He secured employment with his brother Frederic H. Betts in the firm of Whitney and Betts. They later formed their own firm of F. H. & C. W. Betts.

He resumed collecting coins in 1884 and joined the ANS. He contributed several papers published by the society. Author of Counterfeit Half Pence Current in the American Colonies in 1886 with a reprint in 1960.

Betts died in New York City. He left his medal collection to Yale College. At the time of his death he was working on the manuscript for a book on American medals. It was completed by his brother Frederic with assistance from Lyman Low and William T. R. Marvin. Author of American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals in 1894 with a reprint in 1970 and 1972.

obit: AJN 22 Jul 1887 page 22 see: CAT Stacks 3/18/93


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    American colonial history illustrated by contemporary medals 1894

    American colonial history illustrated by contemporary medals


    Voted #13 in the Numismatic Bibliomania Society's 2009 survey of American numismatic literature. NBS summary:

    “Medals are original documents in metal,” notes the preface of Betts.  Thus, the six hundred plus medals here catalogued serve as tangible evidence of the American experience from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.  The beginnings are humble, for America remained unhonored in medallic form until well after the age of Columbus, surprisingly unable to compete with lesser European subjects.  Even then, the first allusion, in 1556, is merely set within the context of Spanish hegemony.  The end, of course, gets better for the Americans, as a host of issues extol the Independence of 1776.  In between, Betts describes everything from Admiral Vernons to Proclamations to Indian Peace Medals, a comprehensive European view of American history for the period covered.  Editorial notes posthumously prepared by William Marvin and Lyman Low add useful citations of the AJN (#11) and other sources.  Betts has only occasional engraved illustrations – an updated version with substantial photography would be a thoroughly welcome addition to the literature (Davis notes additional photo illustrations in the 1972 Quarterman reprint).  As it is, Betts remains the greatest work - solely dedicated to medals - in the library of the American medal collector.

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