George F. Heath, M.D.

By any reckoning, George F. Heath, M.D., is one of the greatest figures in American numismatic history. In 1888 he established The Numismatist magazine, and in 1891 he was the prime factor in organizing the American Numismatic Association, for which he served as president in 1892 and 1893. His service to the Association continued on the Board of Governors 1899 to 1901, secretary 1899 to 1904, and treasurer 1905 to 1907. He signed his name as Geo. F. Heath, M.D.

Heath was born in Warsaw, New York on September 20 (or 21), 1850. At the age of 10, after his mother’s death, he was sent to live with his uncle in Poultney, Vermont. As a teenager in 1863 he began collecting stamps and coins, soon concentrating on the latter hobby. In 1864 he commenced his business career as a drug clerk in Poultney, where he remained until 1870. He then went to Warrensburg, Missouri, where for nearly five years he held a commission in the postal service under President U.S. Grant and conducted a general store. He married Lucy May Rayhill, a native of Warrensburg.

In 1876 he was again in the drug business, and from 1876 to 1879, had served two terms as alderman in the Council of the City of Warrensburg. In 1878 he entered the Medical Department of the University of Michigan, graduating in 1881. He was president of his class for two years, and on graduation was elected by the State Board of Regents of the University to be surgeon and resident physician in charge of the State Hospital. He resigned from this position in June 1884 and entered the general practice of medicine at Monroe, Michigan. He was also the division surgeon for the Michigan Central Railroad between Detroit and Toledo.

His first magazine, The American Numismatist, was dated September-October 1888. Apparently, Heath was unaware of C.L. Leal’s publication in New Jersey of a periodical of the same name. Subsequent issues were changed to The Numismatist. With a personal library of over 1,000 volumes on various subjects, he had no shortage of research material. His hobby interests also included Indian relics, autographs of prominent people, and rocks and minerals. His great passion was taking train trips throughout the Midwest and making notes (never published) of his journeys. He enjoyed his editorship of The Numismatist and the extensive correspondence he conducted in connection with it.

Lucy May died in 1895, and in 1897 Heath married Miss Edith B. Schliska, of Detroit. Heath passed away from a fit of apoplexy on June 16, 1908, survived by two children from his first marriage, his second wife, and a daughter Ruth by his second wife. Farran Zerbe, then president of the American Numismatic Association, purchased The Numismatist, but not for the ANA as had been expected, but for himself. In 1910, Zerbe sold the publication to Canadian W.W.C. Wilson, who gifted it to the ANA. 

Join our mailing list

Don't miss an auction!

Subscribe to our newsletter.


Contact Us

West Coast Office • (800) 458-4646

Midwest Office • (800) 817-2646

East Coast Office • (800) 566-2580

[email protected]

Hong Kong, China Office • +852 2117 1191

[email protected]

Follow Us

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter

We are sorry, an unexpected error occurred!
Please enter a valid email address

I'm Interested In...

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Stack's Bowers Galleries e-newsletter.