Matthew Stickney

In 1843, William E. DuBois, curator of the Mint Cabinet in Philadelphia, compiled a listing of amateur coin collectors known to him and sent it to Matthew A. Stickney, of Salem, Massachusetts. By that time Stickney had been collecting about 25 years, buying many of his specimens from bullion exchanges and specie dealers. A 19th century account in the American Journal of Numismatics told of Stickney’s collecting preferences and how he began in the pursuit:

“He was born in Rowley, Mass., September 23, 1805, and was a descendant of William Stickney, an early settler in that town. His education was gained in the public schools of his native place, supplemented by a sufficient study of Latin to be useful in the reading of the inscriptions, etc., on ancient coins and medals. At the age of 22 he settled in what is now Peabody (then South Danvers), where he began his business life in the counting-room of Sawyer & Pierce, dealers in West India goods. Two years later he established himself in the same business, which he carried on there and later in Salem for nearly thirty years, retiring in 1854. His residence for half a century or more was the city of Salem, and in his home there was the constant resort of friends of similar tastes to his own. As a boy he was greatly interested in ornithology, and it is said that before he was 10 years old he had gathered a collection of nearly two thousand eggs—thus early giving evidence of ‘the collector’s instinct.’

“Inheriting from his grandfather a large amount of Continental currency, which had been paid him for services in the Revolution, he was led to make a collection of colonial and Continental coins and money. In this he was eminently successful; he has left several valuable cabinets filled with ancient and modern coins, but especially rich in early American issues, and those of Great Britain which relate more or less closely to this country. Among his choice pieces is a fine impression of the 1804 dollar, Proof sets complete from 1845, and many of the rarer issues of the United States Mint. He did not confine himself to numismatic collections, however; he acquired ancient furniture, and old almanacs, of which he had what is believed to be the most complete set ever brought together in this country, beginning in 1660, printed in England and America; autographs, also, including those of the Signers of the Declaration, American statesmen, and many prominent men of the present century, and other interesting relics of days gone by, found appropriate places in his cabinets. He was a frequent contributor to the Proceedings of the Essex Institute, of which he was an honored member, having served it as Librarian and Curator, and he also published several works on numismatic, historic, and genealogical subjects.…”

Today in 2016 the Stickney name still echoes in the halls of numismatics. Every now and again, but not often, a coin comes on the market with a provenance linking it to one of the most famous early figures in our hobby.