Icon of American numismatics passed away

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by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Annika Backe

May 18, 2017 – When the first husband of Catherine Bullowa died more than 60 years ago, she had the choice to work as a teacher again, or to take over and run his Philadelphia-based numismatic dealership herself. She went for the second option and, through her shop named Coinhunter since 1961, became a coin dealer, renowned both nationally and internationally.

Catherine Bullowa attended the New York International Numismatic Convention even in January 1997. Photo: UK.

It had not been on the cards for her, though. Catherine Bullowa was born in Larchmont, New York in 1919. In 1941, she left Connecticut College with a Major in Zoology – to this, she attributed her skilful use of the magnifying glass and the microscope. She started to work as a teacher before she married David Marks Bullowa in 1952. Only one year after the marriage, he passed away. As already stated, she took over her husband’s coin shop and became a coin dealer herself. In 1959, she married Earl Moore but – and this was highly unusual in the 1950s – kept her name. After all, with that name she had gained quite a reputation for herself in the coin trade in only a few years.

That Catherine Bullowa was more than the nice elderly lady, known to many from the coin fairs, is something that only those can truly appreciate who remember the social climate of the 1950s. Surely, this was a time when it was not considered the normal thing for a woman to set up her own business and succeed in the male dominated coin trade. Catherine Bullowa accomplished this task. She dealt in rare coins, and numismatic literature. She published lists and conducted auctions, the last one in Philadelphia on December 4, 2008.

It was only natural, then, that she received the honor of being accepted into the American Numismatic Association’s Hall of Fame on August 19, 2006. Catherine Bullowa was a Fellow of both the American Numismatic Society and the Royal Numismatic Society, a Life Member of the American Numismatic Association, and a Senior of the American Society of Appraisers. She also co-founded both the Professional Numismatists Guild and the International Association of Professional Numismatists. In 1965, US President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her as a member of the United States Assay Commission.

In 1997, Catherine Bullowa was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Professional Numismatic Guild. In 2014, she received the Friend of the Hobby Award.

A part of her private collection – comprising 20,000 world coins, banknotes, and medals – is now in the Washington National Museum of American History, which belongs to the Smithsonian.

In 2013, the American Society of Appraisers conducted an interview with Cathy Bullowa on the occasion of the 94th birthday. Asked how she would like to be remembered, she said: “That I liked to deal with the kids that were starting and that I did my best for the [profession] in every way. In every field; both foreign and US.” We will remember Cathy Bullowa also for another aspect: She was friendly, seemed to know neither envy nor greed. To her, everyone she knew was a friend in whose fate she took an interest. And her friendly face hid a stern discipline and an iron will that enabled her to attend coin fairs to the end, just as it had enabled her to succeed as a female coin dealer in a man’s field half a century ago.

The numismatic community mourns with her family and friends. We will miss Cathy Bullowa!

For reading the article to mark her 94th birthday, please click here.

In 2008, David Lisot conducted an interview with Catherine Bullowa that you may watch on YouTube.

If you want to know how American collectors commemorate her, have a look at this forum.

The correspondence between Cathy Bullowa and well-known collector Eric P. Newman between 1955 and 1998 has also been published.