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Through the clouds to meet Bowers

It happened in 1965. Or was it 1966? In order to put our first meeting in context, it is important to relate some background and some numismatic history.
I was in a profession unrelated to numismatics. My position was demanding in both time and travel. I was losing contact with my family and I wished to correct that. My older son started hanging out with a boy who collected coins. I saw this as an opportunity for a common interest with my son and so I got involved. He soon lost interest, but I was hooked.
I started dabbling with coins and if opportunity presented, I bought and sold coins. I was instrumental in organizing a coin club in Kewanee, Ill.
A fellow by the name of Ed Babka lived in Kewanee and owned and published The Antique Trader, which was by far the foremost publication for antiques. Ed had learned about the Lawrence brothers from Iowa who were publishing a nationally circulated coin paper called The Coin Collector. Ed felt it would be a complementary adjunct to his antique publication so bought the paper and brought its operation to Kewanee.


One day I happened into Ed in downtown Kewanee. I described to him a column that I thought would be of interest to his readers. He responded quickly, “Sounds like a great idea. Why don’t you write it?” Well, why not? I called the column “Whatsit?” Anyone collecting coins usually soon acquires some pieces of which they know nothing but would like to find out about them. Starting with some items from my own collection, I put pictures in the column encouraging readers to identify and tell about the piece. Response to the column was greatly favorable and enthusiastic and was influential in expanding subscriptions.
Ed had been listing himself as editor of the paper but felt that not appropriate since he had made his mark in antiques. He asked me to be the editor. I was only to continue my column, write an editorial for each issue and respond to letters to the editor. I went to the people to whom I was responsible and asked them if I could accept. I explained that I thought I could fulfill all my responsibilities to them and still do the editor’s job. They consented and one man even said that might be a means to keep me around longer than otherwise.
One day Ed spoke to me and said there was a man from Dayton, Ohio, who had a nickelodeon collection and he wanted to do an article on them for his antique paper. He added, “The man seems also to be interested in coins. Do you want to ride along?” I surely did! He had a Beechcraft Bonanza; a hot, single engine, low wing, V-tailed aircraft. I had a private pilot’s license and had logged hundreds of hours in the air. I hoped he would let me fly his plane. He didn’t. We left Kewanee on a bright, sunshiny morning and headed to Dayton. When we got there, there was a heavy overcast. Evidently Ed did not have an instrument rating or his plane was not properly equipped. In any case we did not go in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). We started to circle the field. All of a sudden there was a break in the overcast. We could see the ground through a small hole. Ed immediately pushed the wheel forward and we dove straight down through the hole and pulled up under the overcast. We landed VFR (Visual Flight Rules).
The man with the nickelodeons met us. It was Q. David Bowers. That was the first time I met Dave Bowers. Dave was immediately typical Dave – the epitome of graciousness and the consummate host. Dave drove us to his home in Oakwood, a high-end residential suburb of Dayton. His large basement plus some of the first floor was covered with nickelodeons – obviously one of the, if not the, largest collection of nickelodeons in the world.
Now to complete the numismatic history. The Lawrence brothers were numismatic pioneers. I am not certain but I am quite sure The Coin Collector well predated Numismatic News and Coin World. I think it was the first coin paper with a national circulation. I seriously doubt that one-tenth of 1 percent of all those involved in numismatics today ever heard of either the Lawrence brothers or The Coin Collector. This information should not be lost and I am glad to be able to record it here.
Chet Krause began to publish a paper called Numismatic News in 1952 in Iola, Wis. Eventually, he purchased The Coin Collector and moved its operation to Iola. He was kind enough to invite me to come along with the paper. I still had something I wished to accomplish in my other profession so I declined.
I went on to join the staff of Paramount International Coin Corp., which at that time was purported to be the largest coin company in the world. David Bowers and Jim Ruddy had been president and treasurer, respectively. Jim made his mark with Photograde.
A few years later, Dave invited me to call auctions for his company, which I was most pleased to do, and called several auctions all over the nation for him.

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