There was hardly an important coin fair where one did not see the always friendly smile of Paul Rabin. Sitting at the table of a coin dealer, carefully looking at the dealer’s entire stock, bashfully offering his own goods for sale, never pushy, always modest and always with a favourable attitude.
And yet there was actually no reason for Paul Rabin to be so friendly to everyone, as life was not friendly to him. With his thoughtful manner, alien to any form of speed or efficiency, he belonged to the coin dealers of another generation. He appreciated the beauty, rarity and historical importance of a coin even if it was not extremely fine and sure to make a high profit. He would have liked to find a long-term position as the loyal employee of a coin shop, but none of his many positions was permanent. He did not fit into an age of profit optimisation. To him, thoroughness was always more important than speed, but many employers could not and would not afford that.
Paul Rabin worked for many dealers. In the USA, he is said to have enjoyed his numismatic training at NFA and Goldberg. He came to Switzerland around 1992 to work for Frank Sternberg, who was already over 80 at the time. The employment ended in a devastating dispute. There was a rumour that Paul Rabin had stolen something. Anyone who knows him knows that this can’t be true. The rumour destroyed a life. It caused a dramatic turn in Paul Rabin’s career. Although some people supported him afterwards – he worked for Münzen und Medaillen AG, for example, until its liquidation in 2014 – he did not find a permanent position, perhaps he did not even want to find one after the disappointments. Paul Rabin earned his money as a small, independent dealer. Without a lot of financial resources and without the possibilities the internet offers today, especially to small dealers, he travelled from coin fair to coin fair with his little box full of cheap pieces. He could just about keep his head above water with it. A few jobs from other dealers – often at conditions that no one else would have accepted – generated a little extra money.
And all this despite the fact that Paul Rabin was extremely conscientious about his work. Despite the internet, he did not want to buy any coins that he had not examined in person. His colleagues rave about how carefully he annotated his catalogues. He fulfilled his mandates loyally and honestly to the point of self-sacrifice in the interest of his clients.
Although he was already over 70 years old, Paul Rabin was still working: on behalf of the Winterthur coin cabinet and as catalogue author for the Zurich auction house Nomos. Paul Rabin probably had no other choice.
He passed away after a long illness in February 2021. Together with his beloved wife Anke, we mourn a man who was too good for this world.
We received many comments on Paul’s passing. They were so touching that we do not want to keep Paul’s many friends from reading them.
I was really touched by your biography of Paul Rabin, a gentle soul who, as you so correctly state, was “too good for this world”. Everything you said was perfect, and I will miss him terribly. Events like this sober you up and make you realize how the world tends to change unexpectedly, right under your feet. I, too, had become accustomed to seeing Paul at most every show I attended, and it always was a pleasure. It had even become an expectation, but no longer!
His attitude toward life and toward people was miraculous considering the many challenges he faced – especially considering he somehow didn’t fit into the expectations of the world.
Unfortunately, his footprint (though in fact broad) will be nearly invisible ten, twenty or thirty years from now… and that is a shame. Maybe there will be the occasional appearance of his name as a pedigree in an auction catalog, or something of that nature. But that will be it.
The ways in which Paul contributed to the world, and to our field, are not the kind that are carved in stone or preserved on paper – in fact, they’re the kind that do not endure, except in the memories of those who survive him. And once we’re all gone, so will be the footprint of Paul Rabin.
For me, nothing but good thoughts remain – and how many people in the world can you say that about?
I would love to know more about his childhood and early history. For the hundreds of times we talked, we never touched upon that. Now that Paul’s gone I wish I’d had that now-impossible conversation.
I just read your article on the passing of Paul Rabin. I’m deeply saddened and heartbroken at the loss of such a nice and kind man as well as a lifelong friend and colleague. I first met Paul over 40 years ago. He would come by our store in Encino and spend hours talking to my dad, Michael Shubin and myself. He became best friend with Michael Shubin and would stop by and visit every time he was in the Los Angeles area. I was lucky enough to have had many nice conversations with Paul about not only numismatics but life in general. Paul was a genuine and lovely human being who will be greatly missed by myself and many other friends and associates.
I will miss Paul.
That is so sad about Paul. I knew him and liked him very much.
I came to know Paul quite well in the last twenty years. He was from Boston, as is Richard Lobel, but apart from both being of Jewish heritage they had little in common except a passion for coins.
He had worked long ago for NFA, near the end, and had had the chance to observe closely how Rubinger, Freeman and the great McNall worked. He had amusing anecdotes to share with people who took the time to accompany him.
Yes your article makes him out to be a bit of a sad person, and he clearly was not successful as a dealer, but he understood himself and his limitations, and his grumpiness and cynical views were a machine for his extroverted and gregarious nature. He loved the buzz of being with coin people and delving into their perverse ways and often dysfunctional personalities. We always had a very lively and frank conversation. He had no malice or jealousy, except of course for maybe the people involved with the Sternberg causa.
He had a passion and determination to work with coins and he achieved his ambition, that was enough to make him very happy.
I lost track of Paul when I stopped attending the annual NYINC show. In the 80s he lived just outside the city as I recall, and was a great companion on street rambles after the show or during the extra days I spent just enjoying New York, even in December. Sad to learn of his passing, good to be reminded of him and learn that he never left the profession.