The Biggest Coin Collection, its Collector, and the Hall of Fame of the Chicago Coin Club

Virgil M. Brand (1862-1926). Photo courtesy to Hadrien Rambach.
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The Chicago Coin Club was founded in 1919, exactly a century ago. On the occasion of this jubilee, the coin club presents some of his famous members to a broad public. Every month, the Chicago Coin Club nominates a new member of its Hall of Fame. And one of them is a coin collector everybody knows: Virgil M. Brand.

Virgil Michael Brand Nominated Fourth Member of CCC Hall of Fame

The Chicago Coin Club (CCC) has inducted as fourth person into its Hall of Fame the noted collector Virgil Michael Brand, 1862-1926, who formed the greatest private collection of coins in the world. Twelve Hall of Fame inductees have been selected. Each of the remaining will be announced at the rate of one per month, during the Chicago Coin Club’s centennial year, 2019.

Courtesy of the CCC we republish here the Hall of Fame entry of Virgil Michael Brand:

The Biography of an Eminent Collector

Virgil Michael Brand was a charter member of the predecessor Chicago Numismatic Society and served as its President 1908-1909. He joined the Chicago Coin Club during its first year of existence, becoming member number 55 on Dec. 3, 1919. Mr. Brand retained his membership the rest of his life, though he soon stopped coming to meetings due to failing health. While he never held office in the club, he exhibited rare gold coins at its ninth meeting as a visitor. And the great collector had an impish side: at the January 7, 1920 meeting he amused members by reciting a humorous poem (probably his own composition) entitled “The Quarrel of the Coins,” in which the characters were an Indian Head cent of 1909, an 1883 nickel without cents, an 1802 half dime, an 1804 dollar, and “the villain,” who was a coin collector. This was greatly appreciated, and attendees clamored for more!

Sweden. Christina. 10 Ducats 1650, Stade. From the Virgil M. Brand Collection. Sold for 180.000 CHF by Numismatica Genevensis on December 3, 2018.

Wealth Acquired by Beer

Mr. Brand (Jan. 16, 1862 – June 20, 1926)’s father Michael came from Germany in 1848 and later moved to Blue Island, where he found work as a brewer and where Virgil was born. Michael was soon made a partner in the firm, and Busch & Brand’s beer became so popular that they had to make daily trips to supply Chicago’s saloons. After a dispute, the business was divided, with Michael Brand & Company being established in Chicago. This business eventually merged with other brewers, and was later sold, allowing Michael Brand to retire a wealthy man.

Friedrich I. von Wettin. Bracteate ca. 1150, Halle. From the Virgil M. Brand Collection. Sold for 17.000 euros by Künker on February 1, 2018.

Virgil Brand graduated from Bryant and Stratton College in Chicago and went to work as a bookkeeper for his father’s firm. He became secretary and treasurer of the brewery with one tenth ownership, and received a great deal of money when his father cashed out. In 1899 he established his own brewery, the Brand Brewing Company, with an eventual capital of $1,000,000, which operated until shut down by Prohibition in 1920. A lifelong bachelor, he devoted his free time to coin and currency collecting, beginning in 1889. Mr. Brand formed the greatest private collection of coins in the world, buying individually, in groups, and entire collections en bloc. He recorded every acquisition in a series of ledgers. At his death the collection included over 350,000 pieces (worth $2,000,000 according to a European dealer with knowledge of the collection), plus a substantial numismatic library. He left no will; his collection was fought over by his heirs and broken up. His paper money collection was largely turned in at face value, but the balance was purchased by B. Max Mehl and offered for sale in 1932; his coins and library formed part of over a dozen auctions, with many being sold directly.

United Kingdom. Charles I. Silver Pound 1644, Oxford Mint. From the Virgil M. Brand Collection. Sold for 235.000 USD at The New York Sale on January 10, 2018.

Mr. Brand showed that he was a scholar-collector, and not a mere hoarder, in a paper read at the April 1905 meeting of the Chicago Numismatic Society, “The Objects of Coin Collecting”, published in The Numismatist, May 1905: “The true numismatist … strives to acquire a full knowledge of everything pertaining to [his coins]. He notes the size, weight, composition, shape and date of issue of each specimen and learns its name and place in the monetary system of the times … He translates the inscriptions…”


You can find more information about the Chicago Coin Club’s Hall of Fame and the members on their website.

Additional information on Virgil Michael Brand is available in on the American Numismatic Society Archives website.

You will get a better impression of Virgil M. Brand and his family while looking at a bunch of photographs, StacksBowers sold in 2018.

The Chicago Coin Club was organized in 1912 as American Numismatic Association Branch No. 1, and reorganized under its present name in 1919. Hence, it celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. In 2014, a medal was issued to commemorate this club’s 95th anniversary.

More information on how to become a member of the Chicago Coin Club is available online. The Chicago Coin Club holds monthly meetings in downtown Chicago, plus at major numismatic conventions such as Central States, with a speaker featured at every meeting except the annual auction, held at the November meeting.