By Richard Lobel
Today I heard of the death of one of the true giants of numismatics, Colin R. Bruce II. I knew him for at least 55 years, the exact date I cannot remember, as we were both drinking quite heavily at the time.
Over the years we corresponded first by letter and later by email. My sincere condolences to his wonderful wife, Kandy, and all their critters at their home.
For those who cannot place the name Colin Bruce, whenever you pick up a copy of one of the Krause catalogs of world coins or a volume of Pick on world bank notes, they were done by him. They are in existence because Colin edited them and made them happen.
The late Chet Krause had the courage to invest the time and money in backing them, but Colin made them happen. They worked well together and were close friends for many years, although Colin was a much better driver than Chet.
I remember when the first catalog of world coins was just being put together. Colin and the crew would go around coin shows borrowing world coins to be photographed back in their hotel room. It was an incredible amount of work to even attempt. But when the first “phone book,” as it was known, came out, the coin collecting fraternity looked on in amazement, wonderment and admiration. Over the years, he greatly improved it and expanded it going back to cover world coins as early as the 17th century.
Pick on bank notes was greatly improved and enlarged; again multiple volumes were issued with Colin at the helm. Even if at times it was frustratingly slow, it finally got done.
Without these important catalogs, our industry would be a far less knowledgeable place and no doubt there would be fewer collectors and dealers in existence. They are books that everyone uses even today.
Perhaps the book that was closest to Colin’s heart was Unusual World Coins. This was “his book,” listing all the coins and fantasy issues that other dealers and catalogs ignored.
Chet rewarded him by letting the numbering system be known as Bruce numbers. It is a book that is also close to my heart, as 162 items I have struck are listed there.
Without this book, my items and many other collectible items would not be cataloged. It was Colin’s triumph in his effort to catalog everything numismatic, and he just about did it all.
Claire and I once went to Iola, Wis., to see Colin, Chet and the gang. Colin was dressed like a railway engine driver, as usual, and his corner of the office was, to be polite, a mess. They never gave him an office, as he would only fill it up to the brim.
When he moved to that corner, he left behind 32 unopened crates of material in his other corner. We also have fond memories of both his and Chet’s kindness to us on that visit. Krause Publications was a huge operation at that time and Colin was a very important cog in the wheels at Krause.
Colin corresponded with collectors and dealers all over the world and his knowledge was second to none. The American Numismatic Association for some reason, never saw fit to honor him, something they should do posthumously and quickly!
He did more for numismatics than almost anyone I can think of, but his modesty kept him well under the radar.
He died of cancer and I and many other numismatists will miss him. Cheers Colin, you were a great man and numismatics is a far sadder place without you. Rest in peace.
This “Viewpoint” was written by Richard Lobel of Coincraft, located in London, England.
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