Col. Edward Howland Robinson Green

Colonel Green Biography

Green, usually listed as Col. E.H.R. Green, was born in London on August 22, 1868. His interest in coin collecting may have been derived from his mother, Hetty Green, who was popularly known as “The Witch of Wall Street.” By clever trading over a long period of years Hetty amassed a fortune, while living in relative penury. Old-time dealer Thomas L. Elder recalled seeing her “when she had a small room in a plain house in Hoboken, N.J.” After his mother died, Edward inherited her fortune and enjoyed a life of luxury mixed with dissipation, as a roué and hoarder. On July 10, 1917, he married one of his favorite “ladies of the night,” the beautiful redhead Mabel E. Harlow.

Col. Green once sent Elder $5 for some catalogues, but never was a client. Meanwhile, Green was a good customer of Elmer Sears, D.C. Wismer, Henry Chapman, and others. B. Max Mehl had heard of Green’s interest in collecting, and sent him coin catalogues gratis for six years, until in 1921 Green responded with a purchase, after which he did much business with Mehl.

During the period from World War I to the early 1930s, Green bought aggressively in many areas, including boats, railroad equipment, stamps (he was the buyer for the only known 100-subject sheet of 1918 24¢ airmail inverts), all five of the known 1913 Liberty Head nickels, and as many as seven of the rare 1838-O half dollars. He also held dozens of high-grade 1796 quarters.

It is believed that Kosoff acquired the Green coins through Philadelphia dealer James G. Macallister; accounts vary. In his memoirs, Kosoff recalled “that there were about 100 pieces, possibly a few more or less.” Separately, in a conversation with the present writer, June 27, 1996, John J. Ford, Jr., stated that in the 1940s he had inspected the quarters when they were part of the Green estate, but that Macallister had bought them.

In the early 1930s he had residences at Star Island, Florida, and South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, where he enjoyed his collecting hobbies as well as boating and operating his own amateur radio station. On June 8, 1936, Green died at Lake Placid, New York, where he had been living at the Lake Placid Club. His death was due to a “complication of diseases.” After his death it took eight armored trucks to haul his valuables to safekeeping. His estate was handled by the Chase Bank, New York City. The appraisal of the numismatic portion of his estate was done by F.C.C. Boyd of New York City in 1938 and 1939, and a value of $1,240,299 was assigned to them (as compared to $1,298,448 assigned to his stamps by another appraiser).

Many of his estate coins were handled by Burdette G. Johnson, the old-time St. Louis dealer, who worked with Eric P. Newman, then a law student, in the dispersal. Stack’s of New York City handled many coins, and others went elsewhere.

Much (but not all) of Green’s paper money was stored in chemically active cellulose holders which caused them to become brittle and deteriorate. Thousands of dollars in face value of uncut sheets of small-size federal notes were stored separately and remained in Uncirculated condition. There was little market for the sheets, and the Chase National Bank turned them over to the New York Federal Reserve Bank for face value. Fortunately, Col. Green’s coins were preserved with care.