Would you know if you were in the presence of greatness? Attendees at the annual awards breakfast of the Central States Numismatic Society May 12 in St. Louis certainly did. They were assembled to honor Eric Newman, a man whose long life and scholarly numismatic pursuits have made him a living legend.
James Moores, a member of the CSNS board of governors, was given the honor and duty of presenting a special award to Newman. It is a Lifetime Achievement Award that was given, “In recognition of your contributions to numismatics for over 80 years and for your role as one of the founding members of CSNS.”
CSNS was founded in 1939, Newman was the first secretary, but his credentials don’t stop there. Moores hit some of the highlights.
Moores noted that Newman began in the hobby at the age of 10, more than 85 years ago and at one time owned all five 1913 Liberty Head nickels.
“I’m a living fossil,” Newman declared when it was his turn to speak.
“I’m extremely grateful for the honor.” He said it came in “recognition of all the fun I’ve had.”
He reminisced. His mentor was Burdette Johnson, a St. Louis dealer who would not sell him a coin until he had read a book about it. “He was the greatest numismatist in the United States in any language and any period,” Newman said in tribute.
Newman cited a number of other anecdotes and mentioned other historical hobby figures, but he also knew his audience. He mentioned that he attended the first CSNS convention in 1940 in Burlington, Iowa. Guests didn’t get any sleep then because the hotel was right over the rail switching yard and cars were banging together all night long.
He also recalled that B. Max Mehl, the famous Fort Worth, Texas, dealer who died in 1957, “asked me to be a shill in one of his mail auctions.”
The CSNS membership loved it. They knew they were in the presence of greatness. I was lucky to be there.