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Did You Know Edward Cogan is Often Regarded as the “Father of U.S. Coin Collecting”?

In the firmament of early U.S. coin collecting in the late 1850s, Edward Cogan, an English-born accountant who became a coin auctioneer, emerges as a seminal figure. From his shops, first in Philadelphia and in New York City beginning in 1867, he conducted auctions of U.S., world, and ancient coins, earning the sobriquet “father of U.S. coin collecting,”

Cogan emigrated from England in 1853 at age 50, settling in Philadelphia. He worked as a “dealer in paintings” – as he was listed in the 1855 Philadelphia City Directory. He started dealing coins in the mid-1850s and conducted his first auction in November 1858. John Lupia’s online Encyclopedic Dictionary of Numismatic Biographies describes Cogan’s entry into the coin business and his early connections to prominent dealers of the time: “Seeing another market niche in which to expand his business Cogan was a very apt student and quickly learned much about American numismatics probably from Joseph Jacob Mickley (1799-1878), a learned man with an advanced knowledge in this field and the twenty-six year old named Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr. (1826-1901), an aspiring coin dealer, who was nearly half Cogan’s age at the time.”

Lupia shares that Cogan picked up coin dealing fairly easily and over the course his career conducted 70 sales including a wide variety of material from numerous collections. In 1869 he published the first U.S. numismatic auction catalog that included photographic plates.

Despite their early connection, Cogan and Mason had a falling out in the summer of 1868 which culminated in a series of warring letters published in the American Journal of Numismatics. Some historians of U.S. numismatics refer to this as the 1868-1869 Mason and Cogan Feud.   

He retired in 1879 and died in 1884. Obituaries ran in a number of numismatic publications.

Cogan’s numismatic footprint is not limited to catalogs and auctions. He issued store cards in 1859 and 1860 which regularly appear in exonumia offerings. He also produced Civil War patriotic envelopes. Cogan was also made an honorary ANS member.

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