Longtime New Orleans coin dealer James H. “Jimmie” Cohen died March 28 at the age of 91.
Mr. Cohen was a third-generation coin dealer and the middle link in a chain of five generations of dealers going back more than 100 years.
His grandfather William Feldman started selling coins in his antique store in the early 1900s in the same building in New Orleans where the family still operates its business.
By an unusual twist of fate, Feldman’s daughter married Joseph Cohen, who himself had been dealing in coins, part-time, before they met. For some years after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Cohen worked for her father, running the coin department in the antique store.
James H. Cohen grew up in that business, working for his Grandfather Feldman part-time as a child and full-time when he returned from World War II in 1946.
Mr. Cohen and his wife Beverly broke away from the family and started their own coin store in 1958. They owned and operated it ever since.
Sons Steve and Jerry began working in the coin store with Mr. Cohen as children and never left. Steve’s son Barry is the fifth generation having joined the business in 2002.
Son Steve recalls that in 1960, when he was 11 years old, he and 8-year-old Jerry attended their first American Numismatic Association convention with their parents. It was held in Atlanta.
Mr. Cohen’s family business is located on world famous Royal Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
A 1961 photograph shows how the shop looked. Visible on the wall are the 35-cent blue Whitman coin albums (mandatory in all coin stores of the day) and a number of Civil War era muskets and swords, among the firm’s other product lines then and now.
Over the years Mr. Cohen handled numerous coin and paper currency rarities. He often spoke of the best coin he ever owned, one of the four original Confederate half dollars. He sold it to New York dealer Lester Merkin in 1964 for the unheard-of-price of $10,000. The next reported sale of that coin was by Stack’s 50 years later for about $600,000, said son Steve.
Many of Mr. Cohen’s customers became lifelong friends. Relationships were always more important to him than business deals.
“Dad was always ready to kill a deal during negotiations if he felt that consummating it could harm a friendship. Needless to say, he was part of the original cadre of dealers who lived by the motto ‘my word is my bond,’” Steve said.
“You can bet that he constantly preached to his sons and grandson that no one in our family was ever allowed to break a promise. Integrity was always first,” Steve said.
Mr. Cohen ws the general chairman of the 1972 ANA convention in New Orleans. He receieved the Glenn Smedley Memorial Award in 2001 and the Medal of Merit in 2004.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today
More Collecting Resources
• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2018 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.
• The Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money is the only annual guide that provides complete coverage of U.S. currency with today’s market prices.