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Viewpoint: Thanks, Alan, for all those answers

Readers join us in paying tribute to Alan Herbert, an outstanding writer, numismatist, gentleman and friend, who died last month at the age of 86.
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Editor’s Note: Readers join us in paying tribute to Alan Herbert, an outstanding writer, numismatist, gentleman and friend, who died last month at the age of 86.


Today, on Jan. 27, I decided to rummage through some numismatic records (my fancy way of saying clutter) in search of some old letters. In the process I found a long misplaced book on Czechoslovakian coins (in Czech) and opened (to my regret) a sealed mailer containing a Delaware State Quarter First Day Cover, but in the end I found what I was looking for.
Before the days of the email deluge, or at least before email had taken its toll on our sanity, there were few people I knew in the hobby, beyond bylines and pictures in magazines and books. In a way similar to Robinson Crusoe, it was basically just me and the coins.
Alan Herbert was one of those rare individuals who I actually wrote letters to in the hopes of relieving myself of some of my many burning coin questions. Because so many collectors regularly sought his counsel (on a range of subjects only a polymath could handle), he assigned file numbers to each writer so he could quickly remember who was writing if that person wrote again. My scouring only managed to dig up two written replies from Alan, both of which I have attached to this message should the editor feel inclined to publish them. My file number was 33,700.
Alan’s recent passing has been very sorrowing. Needless to say, I was a fan of his perennial “Coin Clinic” column in Coins magazine and its sister publications. So much of what I know today can be traced back to reading his monthly (and weekly) wisdom. I don’t think that should be taken lightly, nor his impeccable record of courteously answering my every question that couldn’t be satisfied by his columns, even when he started to hear from me via email.
I remember congratulating Alan on his “Numismatic Mysteries” column right after seeing the first one in the May 2003 issue of Coins magazine. His reply was: “Thanks for the kind words. I expect to enjoy writing this column because it fits in with my work so well. A little fatter pay check doesn’t hurt either.” His practical mindedness easily showed through in his writing, which I believe is the mark of every great numismatist: someone who is not carried away by abstractions, but who can be counted on for the facts, honestly and accurately presented.
Of all the people I have emailed over the years, Alan’s address was one of the very few I was able to memorize. Maybe that was partly because “Answer Man” fit him so well.
Thank you, Alan Herbert, for all the good you have done, and for putting up with me. I, for one, will miss you very much, consoled only by the fact that someone has finally received his heavenly reward.
Mark Fox

The passing of Alan Herbert is very sad news. I exchanged many emails with “AnswerMan” over the years, and like everyone, my memory is far from flawless, but I’m fairly sure I met him at one or more Long Beach shows. I will truly miss his writing, his vast knowledge of numismatics, his friendliness to strangers, his attitude that “the only stupid questions are the ones that are never asked.”
I send out my most sincere sympathy to his family. R.I.P. Mr. Herbert. You taught me a lot.
Harv Laser

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Alan Herbert. It feels like I have lost my favorite uncle.
He was always ready with answers on coins. Every time that I wrote to him, he always sent a personal answer. In his “Coin Clinic” column, he always answered the questions whether simple or profound. I enjoyed his column every week.
He was the only one who ever helped me with the details of sending coins by mail. The post office would tell us that we could not send them that way but Alan gave us the regulations by number to win our case. He was a vast source of knowledge on all things numismatic and will be missed. Now where do we go for answers?
Rich Vatovec

We just received word of the passing of noted numismatist Alan Herbert. We have known Alan for many years and John served on the ANA Board with him. Alan was one of the most knowledgeable numismatists we have ever known. We always joked with Alan that he not only should be the AnswerMan for Krause (F+W) Publications, but also the ANA – he would have to answer the hard questions.
We will never forget the Tucson, Ariz., ANA convention held some years back. It was the time the ANA was debating what to do with the Keith Stock. J.T. Stanton, Alan Herbert (always ready with his camera) and myself (John) were at the Krause Publications booth. Probably J.T. got the idea that he would put his hand in the cookie jar (representing the ANA Keith stock), and I would shake my finger at him. The photo was taken by Alan and appeared in one of the upcoming Numismatic News stories. In any instance, the Keith stock stayed solvent then as well as it is today.
Alan was a gentleman of the highest degree and always had a calm and cool presence about him. He was not only an employee of Krause, but a dedicated numismatist for many organizations, especially ANA.
We remember one time at the ANA Summer Seminar where we saw Alan unloading his car at the headquarters loading dock. He was almost done unloading about a dozen boxes of numismatic references he was donating to the association. It was a fine assortment of books and not auction catalogs (which have little value).
Alan also donated financially to the Association. He was a member of the 1891 Alliance and gave the Association $1,891 on a regular basis as long as this program lasted. Even though Alan had health problems for many years, he still came to the ANA conventions and helped where he could.
We will miss seeing and talking to Alan at conventions. We think that his life was almost 100 percent “numismatics.” He served the hobby in an exemplary and dedicated manner in many capacities. Not only did he serve on the ANA Board, but other hobby groups as well.
Alan was an expert in error coins and was the author of several fine references dealing with that subject and others. Alan was the recipient of ANA awards. In 1994, he was the recipient of the Medal of Merit and, in 2001, the Glenn Smedley Memorial Award. He also received numerous literary awards. He will be greatly missed by his thousands of friends throughout the United States.
Our sincere sympathies and condolences to his family. Rest in Peace Alan, as we will never forget you.
John and Nancy Wilson
Ocala, Fla.

I was saddened by the news of Alan Herbert’s passing. It caused me to reflect on his tutelage to me and literally thousands of others!
People recognize my expertise in error and variety coinage, but rarely do they hear how I started my journey. All credit goes to Alan Herbert.
I first communicated with Alan in the mid-1980s when I found a 1970-S Lincoln cent that I was sure was the infamous double die. Of course it was not, but Alan let me down gently and followed it with a healthy dose of encouragement.
Over the years Alan became a friend and was always ready to answer any questions I ever had and he always had the time to just sit and visit, something that I do with many people in the numismatic community because Alan taught me that, too! He led by example and I will miss him.
Mike Ellis, Governor, ANA
Camilla, Ga.

Alan Herbert and I coincidentally shared several things in life: we were both born in Chicago, both former broadcasters, both married women who were born in Germany, both served on the ANA Board and both of us shared an interest in error coins.
But what I’ll remember most about Alan was chatting with him at ANA conventions across the country and his sharing of great stories about people, places, events and numismatics.
Donn Pearlman
ANA Board of Governors, 1989 - 1993
Las Vegas, Nev.

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