New Recruits

On July 3, 1885, the Society's first new members in five years were proposed. Ferdinand Sermin recommended Charles Shinkle and H.E. Wilson for Resident membership, while George Rode proposed Lyman H. Low for Corresponding membership. With McKnight and Gies acting as tellers, the three were unanimously elected to membership at the following meeting.

Charles H. Shinkle (August 7, 1885)

In 1878 Charles H. Shinkle was a bookkeeper at Wilcox, Shinkle & Miller, "founders and machinists, grist and saw mill machinery a specialty." The company was located at 39 Water Street in Pittsburgh. Shinkle's partners were John F. Wilcox and William J. Miller, Jr. He made his home at 129 River Avenue in Allegheny. By 1890 Shinkle had gone into a partnership with Edwin A. Myers, forming Myers, Shinkle & Company at 523 Wood Street. By this time Shinkle made his home at Forbes and Craig Streets, in Oakland.

By 1905 Shinkle was president of "The Myers & Shinkle Co., Commercial Stationers, Printers & Binders," at 711 Liberty Street. In that year he combined his business and hobby interests when he first published his booklet "U.S. Coin Values and Lists." The card-covered volume was a forerunner of today's "Redbook", listing values for all regular issue U.S. coins in neat tabular format. The "lists" referred to in the title included "Years in which the coinage was small," "Prices some of the rarities have brought in recent years," "The gold mint marks," and "List of private gold issues." The latter was illustrated by 38 photos "taken from specimens in Cabinet of John A. Beck, Esq., Pittsburgh, PA," produced by Philadelphia dealer Henry Chapman. The inside back cover held a list of the names and addresses of coin dealers from across the nation.

In 1913 Shinkle ran unopposed for the office of 2nd Vice President of the A.N.A., serving under President Frank Duffield.

H.E. Wilson (August 7, 1885)

Nothing is known of H.E. Wilson, not even his full name. There are four H. Wilsons listed in the 1878 Pittsburgh City Directory, and many more in the 1890 directory.

Lyman H. Low (August 7, 1885)

Born in Boston in 1844, Lyman Haines Low served in the Civil War, sold dry goods for many years thereafter, and in 1883, entered the coin business, issuing his first fixed price list from New York City. When he joined WPNS he was still early in his career as a coin dealer. He wrote a standard text on Hard Times Tokens in 1886, and served as co-editor of The American Journal of Numismatics from 1891 to 1907. Ultimately Low would issue 212 price lists and auction sales, the last shortly before his death in 1924.

Monthly Coin Sales Plan

At the same meeting, flush with their success in finally adding some new members, the Society appointed a committee of three (Rode, McKnight, and Shinkle) was appointed "to report on the advisability of having a series of monthly coin sales." On October 2nd the committee reported favorably, and further proposed a set of rules for such sales. The Society would earn a commission of 10% on coins selling under $5.00, and 5% for coins selling for $5.00 or more. The funds would be used to purchase coins for the Society Cabinet. At the following meeting (November 6th) Henry McKnight was elected the first "Clerk for the Coin Sales." No sales are ever recorded as being held. The office of Clerk of Coin sales was expressly left vacant after the June 3, 1887 election of officers.


G. W. Scott (May 7, 1886)

On April 2nd Henry McKnight proposed G. W. Scott for membership. At the following meeting (May 7th) Scott was unanimously elected. By October 1st however, Scott "not having filed his acceptence of Resident Membership his election was declared void." There is a George W. Scott listed as an engineer at 2610 Caray Avenue in the 1878 Pittsburgh City Directory. The Society later had a change of heart and rescinded its earlier voiding of his election, giving Scott another chance to sign up. By the end of the year, he had paid his initiation fee. But on May 4, 1888, his election was declared void again, Scott never having sent a letter of acceptance nor attended a meeting.

A Close Brush with Death

The Society came close to closing its doors in 1886. At the October 1st meeting "it was resolved to hold a special meeting on Friday, October 15th to decide upon the question of continuing or dissolving the Society." The meeting was held at The Monongehela House. Eight members were present: Ramsden, Kelley, Shinkle, Sermin, McKnight, Gies, Book, and Rode.

After the subject had been fully discussed it was moved that we continue the Society. A vote being taken, it resulted - Yeas 3, Nays 3 - being a tie vote the President voted nay and declared the motion lost. The President then announced that it required the consent of all members to disband the Society and as the above showed this had not been obtained the Society would be continued as heretofore.

The Curator reported at the next meeting (November 5th) that the Society's Library consisted of "15 bound volumes, 292 catalogues, and 150 unbound periodicals. The Cabinet contains 111 medals & coins, 3 dies for medals, and 17-1878 + 111-1879 Society's medals."

On display at that meeting was the Society's 1886 Proof set. In December, George Rode displayed an example of Nicholas Veeder's proposed "co-metallic currency."

The Recruitment Circular

In a sign of new vigor, the Society voted to renew its subscription to the American Journal of Numismatics. In addition, a committee of four (McKnight, Book, Rode, and Shinkle) was appointed "to issue a circular inviting all collectors to join our Society." At the December meeting the committee reported that the circulars had been printed, but were not yet mailed. By February, 1887 they had all been mailed. By March, two replies were received, from W. B. Evans and Thomas Harper.

W. B. Evans (March 3, 1887)

Nothing is known of W. B. Evans.

Thomas Harper (March 3, 1887)

Harper was present as a guest at the March 3, 1887 meeting, where he read an article on "Primitive and Prehistoric Money in America." This is the first recorded prepared presentation ever at a WPNS meeting.

1887 & 1888: Further Slide

1887 was not to be a good year, however. Evans and Harper were never admitted to membership. Book, Kelley, and Shinkle were suspended for non-payment of dues. Finally, at the January 1888 meeting, Book and Shinkle were expelled.

In February 1888, and again in April, Ramsden and Rode were the only members to show up for the meeting (although in April, Henry McKnight arrived late).

On March 2, 1888, J.E.H. Kelley was notified "to replace the catalogues &c. charged against him, as required by the rules relating to the Library. It was resolved to have 1000 copies of the Library rules printed." At the May 4th meeting a letter from Kelley regarding the catalogues was read, and "it was resolved that Mr. Kelley be given til next meeting to replace them."

At the June meeting, Curator McKnight reported that he had notified Kelley about the cataloges, but had recieved no reply. It was then resolved "that Mr. J.E.H. Kelley be suspended till the next regular meeting, and if nothing is heard from him by that time, the Curator is hereby directed to bring charges against him with a view to his expulsion from the Society." In July a letter from Kelley was read, requesting the Society to purchase replacements for the missing catalogs and to send him the bill. In April, 1888 Kelley was sent a bill for $2.67.

Library Additions

In August, 1888 the Society authorized the purchase of a lot of 453 priced catalogues from Charles Steigerwalt. However, the lot was previously sold. In September a copy of Attinelli's "Numisgraphics" was purchased for $1.25. The Library Committee was authorized to bid on a number of books offered in Woodward's 101st sale. On December 7, 1888 the Society ordered a plated copy of the Robert Coulton Davis collection, and purchased a copy of Snowden's "Mint Manual" for $2.00.

Final Curtain

By June 7, 1889 however, the membership had decided that it was again time to consider the question of continuing the Society. At the time there were only six active members. After re-electing the current slate of officers, the Society resolved "that a vote on the question of continuing or dissolving the Society be taken at our next meeting, and that the Secretary notify each member of this resolution. At the following meeting (July 5th) it was resolved "that the Society proceed to dispose of its property with a view to dissolving." A committee of Rode, McKnight, and Gies was appointed to catalog the property of the Society for an auction to be held among its remaining members.

In August the committee reported that it had cataloged the Library, and recommended dividing the remaining 1878 and 1879 medals equally among the members, with any extra pieces to be placed in the sale.

Meanwhile, Kelley's check for $2.67 had been recieved, but there were still two catalogues missing and charged to him. The Society sent Kelley a second bill, resolving on September 6th to expell him if the second bill were not paid. Kelley's check had arrived by the October meeting, and the expulsion motion was set aside.

The final arrangements for the dissolution of the Society were made at the October 4, 1889 meeting. Present were the six active members, Ramsden, Sermin, McKnight, Wilson, Gies, and Rode.

On motion, it was resolved that the Society's property be sold, at auction among the members, on Thursday evening, October 24th at 7 o'clock P.M. and following evenings until all disposed of, at the office of the Curator; sale to be adjourned if any member, through sickness or absence from the City, is unable to be present.

The group assembled at the appointed hour at Curator McKnight's office. Although Mr. Wilson was not present, the sale went ahead as scheduled.

Mr. McKnight was elected as Auctioneer, and Mr. Rode as Clerk. The sale then took place as per the Catalogue, 324 lots being disposed of, when, owing to the lateness of the hour, it was agreed to adjourn the sale until Friday, Nov. 1st at 7 o'clock.

The group reconvened as scheduled, with all six members present. The remainder of the property was auctioned. The entire 481-lot sale realized a total of $184.06 for the Society. At 8 P.M. that evening, the group held an official Society meeting. They decided that the remaining copies of the 1880 Constitution and By-Laws be divided among the remaining members, and that each member be allocated a credit toward their auction bill equal to their portion of the assets of the Society. Mr. Ramsden then offered to host the next meeting at his residence.

On December 6, 1889, the members gathered at the home of President Ramsden. All were present except Mr. White. It was to be the Society's last meeting for twenty years. After resolving amounts owed to the Curator and Secretary for postage and other expenses, the Society's books were then audited. $41.47 was distributed to each of the remaining members.

Secretary Rode's last entry in the minute book reads as follows:

The foregoing minutes having been read and approved, a vote of thanks was tendered Mr. Ramsden for his courtesy in exhibiting his magnificent collection of Coins and Medals. The consent of all the members having been obtained, a motion was made to now dissolve the Society which was carried unanimously.

The Western Pennsylvania Numismatic Society was temporarily gone, but was never forgotten. In a letter written to the Society in 1939, Thomas W. Voetter stated:

Personally, I have often regretted that I did not identify myself with your organization when I was living in Pittsburgh. It seems that its existence was not brought to my attention. I was just a beginner in collecting and did not then know of the advantages of membership and did not have the initiative to find out about it for myself.

Some of my most pleasant memories, in the numismatic way, are of some of the older members and founders of your society. It was Mr. John Rivett who first opened my eyes to the possibility of obtaining coins other than from circulation or accident, and Mr. Rode was so enthusiastic and imparted his enthusiasm about collecting in such a manner that it was very helpful to me. I also met Mr. Ramsden and obtained a few specimens from him which I still have. At the 1892 Convention I also met others of your early members. Mr. Gies was also another who kept my interest in coins alive. A short time ago I ran across a minor proof set which he furnished me ever so many years ago.

Next: Appendix and Table of Contents