Dr Richard G “Dick” Doty, Senior Numismatic Curator at the Smithsonian Institution,
died on 2nd June 2013. His contribution to the study and knowledge of Boulton, the
Soho Mint, and the coins and tokens produced there, was immense. Bill McKivor, who
knew Dr Doty for many years, has written a personal reminiscence and tribute.
Dr Richard Doty, Curator of the National Money Museum at the Smithsonian, passed
away on June 2, 2013 after a battle with Lymphoma.
Dick was born in Portland, Oregon, January 11, 1942. He discovered coins of the
world in 1950, and never lost sight of numismatics.
As a teenager, he worked in a textile factory with his father, and came close to
flunking school. He graduated from the University of Portland, with a BA in History,
and went on to the University of Southern California where he obtained a Doctorate
in Latin-American studies in 1968. His working life included teaching at a number
of institutions at colleges in Iowa and New York City, with one stint in Guam in
Numismatics were always on his mind, and how history entwined with the coins and
currencies of the world. His interest and passion led him to the American Numismatic
Society in New York, where he worked as curator of modern coins and currency from
Dick joined the staff of the Smithsonian in 1986, and was the Senior Numismatic Curator
of the National Numismatic Collection at the museum until his passing.
He was the first President of the Conder Token Collector's Club, and had just finished
a stint as the editor of the CTCC Journal.
He was married four times, the last time in May of 2013 to his soul mate, Cindi,
who loved and cared for him through thick and thin. Known to her as her "silly old
bear", he left a hole in her heart with his passing, and a void for thousands of
friends in the numismatic community.
Those are the bare facts, the time-line numbers of an outline of Dick's life, but
there was so much more. Dick had, at his passing, a fair number of close friends
- and if you became a close friend, you remained so for life. He never let relationships
slip away. He was in close touch with a number of people from his early days, from
high school and college, through his teaching days, and beyond.
Dr Doty was a most unusual curator and historian - he fully believed that human relationships
could be found in the items he studied and organized, and he shunned the usual, or
traditional, if you will, history that was told in rather dry language by many of
his predecessors, and by many museum curators today as well. At his core, he was
a story teller: the history came first, followed by the coin or token.
I met Dick for the first time in 2000, at the ANA summer seminar, where he taught
a course in 18th Century provincial tokens of the UK. He never used notes, and with
his photographic memory was capable of coming up with a jaw-dropper about every ten
minutes, or so it seemed. We developed a friendship, and over the years it just got
stronger. During those years I found that he was nearly without ego. I must admit
to a bit of awe; he had a very powerful and interesting job within the numismatic
field, and I was, well, a just retired paper peddler from Seattle. After a while
I understood how he felt about a number of things. First on the list was that titles
meant nothing. He seldom used, in person, his education or his position as a point
of who he was, he was just plain Dick Doty. He saw me, and everyone else, as his
He did not suffer fools at all, and called things as he saw them. Many said he was
irascible, and well, yes, he was, but always used humor to keep things civil.
He never tried to get into management at the Smithsonian, he said that an office
and a coffee cup did not appeal to him, that the work he did was reward enough.
He smoked for years - and quit cold turkey. He had panic attacks, and cured it himself
by sheer willpower. He believed in God, but a God that thought all were equal, and
he refused to be in a formal religion, as many of them put limitations on who might
and might not go to heaven.
I never really knew where Dick was politically, but it seems to me, and seemed to
his wife Cindi, that back in the day he might have been a Communist. He certainly
was for equality in relationships; no one, not even the lowest person on the totem
pole, was ever treated with anything but respect by Dick Doty - but if someone wielded
power they had, and did it with an uneven or unfair hand, he was the first to step
up and call it as he saw it. Dick used to put funny, pointed notes berating someone
that had acted better than anyone else on his door for all to read.
Dick had a sense of humor that was quixotic, genuine, and constant. Humor flowed
through everything he did, and everything he said. The world ought to be a free and
fun place for all, and all were made to know it.
Over the years I found that we had a lot in common, in important ways, probably leading
to our friendship. He was always the teacher so far as I was concerned, and I was
the student. I do not know how he saw me, except as an equal. After a while I came
to accept that. At one point we were discussing becoming partners in murder and mayhem,
or - scratch that - numismatics and research, when he retired. It did not happen,
but even in his last few days we were planning a trip to London for 2014. It is a
great regret that it will never happen.
His book, "The Soho Mint and the industrialization of Money" was issued in 1998.
Dick was a student of minting and the minting processes, and could carry on about
that subject with confidence for extended periods. One evening, Dick and I were having
an Italian dinner in a small cafe in Seattle when a typical Doty "jaw dropper" occurred.
I had said something about J. P. Droz, and the fact that Boulton had never made Droz's
special press, or the promised self-ejecting collar, to work at the new steam powered
Soho Mint. Droz had been sent packing, and the mint employees had come up with a
good press to use with steam presses, but the collar was not working. In Dick's book
it speaks to that, but then moves on to a time when it did work, and how a working
collar meant everything to modern minting. Without it, the workmen had to place and
remove every planchet on the press, the blank went in, the coin was pulled out. I
said, just offhand, it would have been interesting to know when the collar was made
to work, and what was being struck. To which Dick replied ''Well, I know, but did
not have enough proof to put it in writing -it was sometime before 4 PM on the second
Tuesday in October in 1790, and they were striking trial pattern Anglesey tokens,
I think D&H 380's"
My jaw was on the floor again. Only Dick might know such a thing, he had found a
slip in the Boulton papers that contained a note from a workman about it, but it
was worded in such a way that it might not have been exact, but close - however he
did not use it as gospel, and I ask readers to not use it as such either. But it
is a tidbit that I always wanted him to use, and there it is. When I sold his reference
collection of 18th Century tokens, there they were, two Anglesey #380's, one struck
without a collar, and one with a collar, the items being struck on the day the self-ejecting
collar was made to work. How he managed to find the pair? Pure Doty.
I sold the Doty reference collection in July 2006, and asked Dick to pen a opening
statement about the collection for me. He did so happily, and I put it in the lead
in to the collection. It shows his thinking, his humor, and plain language. I decided
to include it in its entirety.
Here is an amusing story from the early days of the Albanian Labour Party* oops,
let's start over.
I bought my first two Conders in Portland, Oregon around 1963. I remember that one
of them was a Deptford piece. I've forgotten the identity of the other. But they
were both in mint state and cost, I think, about a dollar and a half apiece. And
I looked at the two, then reflected how far three dollars would go towards two American
coppers in the same condition from the same decade, did the math, and arrived at
a Conclusion. But I didn't pursue it for a number of years. I finally became a serious
token collector because of two factors. One was being Welsh. And the other was running
into Matthew Boulton.
Bloodwise, I am a mongrel - French, Sephardic, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Scottish,
Irish, possibly Italian and definitely English - and Welsh. I tend to favor the
Welsh portion of my inheritance, in part because we're so obscure as a people that
no one has managed to create meaningful prejudice against us. When I discovered that
Wales (which, until the coming of the Royal Mint some three decades ago, I would
have categorized as one of the most numismatically inert spots on earth) had actually
struck and circulated its own money in the 1780s and 1790s, had actually shown the
way to the rest of the British Isles, I thought it might be worth a closer look.
Then Matthew Boulton came into the mix. I've always been interested in machinery,
coining technology, and the like. When I ran across a British Midlander who'd had
the vision to marry a steam engine to a coining press, and who'd performed the rite
two hundred years ago - I thought he might be worth a closer look too.
I found that many of the features he and his Soho Mint would someday introduce on
coins had already made their debut - on his tokens. The tokens got me more deeply
into the life and work of Matthew Boulton. And Matthew Boulton returned the favor,
leading me deeper and deeper into Conder tokens in general, and those of Soho and
the other Birmingham coiners in particular.
I lived in Brum, off and on, for about a year. And I finally turned what I'd found
there into a book.
The collecting was based, in great part, on the research I was doing and the writing
I hoped to do. And I've moved on, from the token as primary source to other objects
of the same period. I'm working with magazines and newspapers of the 1780s and 1790s,
getting an idea of what the attractive, varying "provincial coins" meant to the men
and women who encountered them in trade, who blessed those responsible for their
manufacture and circulation, who began setting aside the nicest specimens to swap,
save, or give away as gifts. With any kind of luck, I'll be at this new task for
Happy landings to all!
And, happy landings to you, Dick, you "silly old bear" - you shall be missed.
For more details about Dr Doty’s book, click HERE
For more details about the striking of the 1790 Anglesey tokens, click HERE
Note from sohomint.info
This website owes a great debt of gratitude to Dr Doty. Somehow, in its earliest
days, he had managed to find the first few pages buried out in cyberspace, and had
sent a note of encouragement. The permission, freely given, to use some of his earlier
published work opened doors to other sources and other authors; the name of Doty
lent respectability and credibility to what was then a mere fledgling.
I cannot claim to have known Dr Doty at all well. We did meet over a long weekend
● Birmingham in 2009, when the legacy of Matthew Boulton was discussed and examined
in detail at a conference organised to celebrate the bicentenary of his death. I
enjoyed his company, and can agree entirely with Bill’s comments above about Dr Doty’s
respect for those who were simply searching for more. We corresponded occasionally,
but there was never any doubt that having asked a question a reply would be forthcoming.
We can only be grateful for all the work which is left as a tribute to an excellent
Following Dr Doty’s death, his wife Cindi Roden found the following piece on a printed
paper between two books in the bookcase. This is Dr Doty’s personal tribute to Matthew
Boulton, and appears here with our thanks.