Dr. Sol Taylor

Celebrating a Personal Milestone

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, February 9, 2008

silver medal is commonly used as a memento for a 25-year anniversary or membership. A gold medal is for a 50-year membership. And for 60 or 75 years, a medal with a diamond is the appropriate honor.
    As most members of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors are aware, I have been a collector since my early school days, dating to 1937. Thus in 2007, I noted my 70th year in numismatics. I did not expect any special observance or memento and was pleasantly surprised when a few SLCC members, led by Jeff Oxman, put together a unique memento: It is a plaque featuring a set of 1937 coins, from the cent through half dollar, and a five-piece 2007 proof set. In the middle is the notation: SOL TAYLOR / 1937-2007 / 70 YEARS IN NUMISMATICS.
    Earlier in 2007, the SLLC celebrated its own 25th anniversary, and the April issue of the Lincoln Cent Quarterly was a special printing with a silver-toned cover and pages from early issues of the Lincoln Cent Quarterly.
    My collecting began in 1937 when I would scan the coins my dad brought home each evening from his Brooklyn meat market. I put aside the older issues, the early Lincoln cents, and coins in especially nice condition.
    About a year later, I bought the first of several coin boards (the coin folder had not yet been invented). My Lincoln cent board was 99 percent filled by early 1940, lacking only the highly elusive 1931-S cent. Living in the East, most S-mint coins never reached the East Coast in those days; plus, the 1931-S was a very small issue and widely hoarded by speculators. I finally had to buy one — it was my first modern coin purchase — for 45 cents at Albert Fastove's coin shop in downtown Brooklyn.
    During World War II, I had coin folders up to the half dollar and filled most of the spaces entirely from change. My other sources of change were the trolley conductors who would gladly trade in rolls of coins for dollar bills. I would search for the better coins and fill the rolls with common coins and exchange them for dollar bills at the grocery, bakery and produce market.
    All of this exchanging took place in a three-block area. On a weekly basis, I would not only find coins to fill some elusive spaces, but also replace some coins with those in better condition.
    At least 90 percent of my Barber-series dimes, quarters and halves would grade About Good by today's standards. Most of my Buffalo nickels from 1913-34 had only a partial date. I did complete the Liberty standing quarters when I found a worn 1916 in about 1949.
    I worked weekends at a delicatessen, F&S on Pennsylvania Avenue in East New York, and searched the cash register several times a day for keepers. Of course I replaced each coin taken with another coin. By the time I finished high school, I had several albums 80 to 99 percent complete, entirely from change. I recall buying an 1897-O dime from Ben's Stamp and Coin Co. in Chicago for 75 cents, as it was one of the toughies I never found.
    I founded a coin club at Jefferson High School where I taught from 1955-60. We met in my classroom after the last period of the day, and at least eight to 10 kids, mostly boys, showed up every week to swap coins and talk about coins. I know that one kid, Lewis Berg, became a very well known stamp dealer after high school.
    In 1960 I moved to Whittier, Calif., and started a teaching career at Sierra High School. I found and joined the Whittier Coin Club, formed a year earlier. In my first visit I brought a cigar box with wartime cents (the steel types), each wrapped in foil in mint condition.
    When asked what I brought, I said, "Uncirculated 1943 cents." When asked how much I wanted, I decided 10 cents was a fair price and sold the entire boxful in 10 minutes — a handsome profit of 1,000 percent. I joined as member No. 64.
    In 1964 I was elected president of the club and served three terms. Since the club meet in the evening, I offered a ride to some students so they could enjoy the club without dragging mom or dad along.
    One former student, Craig Kolb, Class of 1964, and I are still in touch. He recently sold me much of his collection that he bought back in the 1960s.
    In 1964 I joined the Numismatic Association of Southern California and in 1975 I served as president of that year's convention. I also joined the American Numismatic Association in 1964 and converted to a life membership in 1971.
    I attended the 1968 ANA convention in San Diego and brought along some youngsters from Whittier. One kid, Guy Araby, became a coin dealer and is still active in the field.
    In 1971 I earned my doctorate in education at the University of Southern California and took a post at Chapman College as academic coordinator and assistant professor of education.
    At the 1975 ANA convention in Los Angeles, I was the host president and attended various meeting and the auction. I was named to the ANA grading panel headed by Abe Kosoff. The outcome was the first grading service, known as ANACS. It was previously an authentication service only.
    In 1975 I served as the grading instructor at the ANA's annual Summer Seminar in Colorado Springs. I served in the same position in 1976 and 1977. My star young numismatist in the 1977 class — he was 17 — was Scott Travers, a well known numismatic author and dealer today.
    In 1975 I formed a partnership with coin dealer Ray Anthony called "Western States Conventions." We held about a dozen coin shows each year at hotels in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco. By 1982, when the coin boom fizzled, we dissolved the company, as many of our dealers were no longer in the coin business.
    In 1975 my old friend, Maurice M. Gould, died, and in 1976 his widow, Jean, appointed me to dispose of the very diverse estate he had acquired when he and Frank Washburn owned the Copley Coin Co. in Boston. I conducted two mail bid sales in 1976 and 1977 and gleaned considerable insight into the man and the other fields of collecting, known as "exonumia."
    In 1982 I founded the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and within a year had signed up the first 100 members. We celebrated our silver anniversary last year with special editions of the Lincoln Cent Quarterly featuring pages from earlier issues. In 2005 we brought in Chuck Daughtrey as the editor of the LCQ. The quality of the publication soared, featuring his column, "Under the Scope." Daughtrey is a skilled artist, photographer and specialist in cent varieties and Mint errors. I published the fourth edition of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent in 1999.
    In 2007 I still attended coin auctions and the summer ANA conventions, when possible. I currently hold the following life memberships: NASC No. 21, SLCC No. 1, ANA No. 805, WCC No. 2, Numismatic Literary Guild, and TAMS No. 79.
    It has been a great life adventure that covered many aspects of numismatics and offered the opportunity to know and work with many of the 20th Century's stars in the field. I do hope to make it to the 75th, 80th and beyond.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.