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The John W. Adams Collection

More than three decades after the name John W. Adams first appeared on the cover of one of our publications, we are honored to again offer rarities from the collection of this legendary scholar and numismatist. In 1982, Mr. Adams selected Bowers and Ruddy Galleries to offer a unique collection of 1794 cents, a grouping collected with connoisseurship based not only upon condition and rarity, but also each coin’s lengthy and well-documented provenance. Adams’ love affair with history has made him one of the most important authors in modern numismatic memory, beginning with the herculean effort of collecting and rating hundreds of 19th century numismatic auction catalogs for the creation of his United States Numismatic Literature, Volume I. Published in 1982, this work was followed by Volume II, covering 20th century auctions, in 1990, by which time John had turned his well-organized but wide-ranging curiosity to the world of early American medals. With the support of his friend John J. Ford, Jr., Adams became a pioneering collector in the field. He acquired substantial groups of medals from the collections of Ted Craige and Leonard Finn, but also bird-dogged medals in auctions all over North America and Europe, in the inventories of dozens of dealers, and via trade from many fellow collectors. John continued to acquire medals in our 2000 and 2001 sales of the Lucien LaRiviere Collection and our 2006 sales of the Betts medals in the Ford collection. Despite a busy life, including numerous visits to see his grandchildren with his wife, Regina, John managed to pen two more award-winning reference works, The Indian Peace Medals of George III or His Majesty’s Sometime Allies and Comitia Americana and Related Medals; Underappreciated Monuments to Our Heritage, the latter co-authored with his friend Anne Bentley of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

We offered medals from the John W. Adams Collection in our January 2009 Americana sale, when we were honored to present his advanced collection of colonial-era Indian Peace medals as our feature consignment. More recently, the series of Spanish-American proclamation medals assembled by Mr. Adams were dispersed in our January 2015 New York International Numismatic Convention sale. In this catalog, we present another chapter from the Adams Collection, an array of medals spanning the decade before the American Revolution to the decade after it. This period, stretching from the Stamp Act to the Constitution, saw the introduction of figures like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin to the worldwide consciousness. Both Washington and Franklin appear on medals offered in this sale, indeed, they appear together on two of them. Medals commemorating a famous battle of the American Revolution (the Battle of Germantown in 1777), the loss of America’s most important trading center (the Dutch island of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean), and the signing of the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolution are all presented as well. So too is one of the most famous rarities of the decade that followed the American Revolution, the legendary Columbia and Washington medal of 1787, struck in Boston to mark a journey to the Pacific that would become the first American circumnavigation of the globe.

It is a pleasure to welcome Mr. Adams’ name back to these pages and present another selection of medals from his remarkable collection. A century from now, collectors will continue to pursue the medals from the era of America’s birth. When they do, the name of John W. Adams will be among the most desirable of provenances. We hope this catalog proves to be of use to this generation and to that one.

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