It was at the Spring 1987 Greater New York show that I first met John Barton. Still a bit naive as an editor. I thought that I had met all of the ancient coin dealers in America and mused that this guy from the New Hampshire hills must be pretty low profile. Well, I was right about the low profile, but I was probably the only one in the room that didn't know John. The situation was very quickly remedied.
There always seems to be some people that you never really are in touch with, and others that just click automatically. Although we had no commonalities in our background. other than a love for the past, John and I hit it off right from the start. Perhaps it was his compassion for a fledgling editor, having lived through the experience himself, but more likely it was our mutual appreciation for satirical humor.
In 1965 John succeeded Harlan Berk at Gold Stella in Chicago as a professional numismatist. Photography was one of his major interests, and the photographing of coins his specialty. Later, as the editor of Numorum - the official publication of the International Numismatic Society, he wrote a comprehensive article on photographing coins. That article was reprinted in the December 1987 issue of The Celator.
John was a writer of rare ability. He could enliven a subject like few others and was a meticulous researcher. One of his best articles, about an important French medallion commemorating the visit of Byzantine emperor Manual Palaeologus to France, was printed in the Aug-Sep 1987 issue of The Celator.
In February 1988 we presented John 's exceptional article about Judaean coins and history, which will also be printed in a forthcoming issue of The Shekel - the official publication of the American Israel Numismatic Association.
In this issue, we proudly offer John Barton's introduction to Roman Republican coins.
Operating under the company name Owl, Ltd., John conducted a business buying and selling ancient and medieval coins. Along with ancients, he specialized in Transylvanian and Russian coins. Of course, he would probably deny any knowledge of the above (see The Celator Vol. 2, No.3, March 1988, Letters). At least as early as 1975, while still living in Chicago, he issued The Owl Quarterly which offered coins and antiquities for sale. Although the "Quarterly" format was abandoned. and the location was changed to Henniker, New Hampshire, John continued to operate the business with an emphasis on high quality coins.
In the art world there is a certain quality that true artists and connoisseurs share. it is simply referred to as "a good eye". There is no college course in developing a good eye, it seems "father to come from the discriminating appreciation born of experience and comparative analysis. A good eye takes not only a strong data base but a certain sensitivity to the subtleties of presentation. John had a good eye and the artistic ability to convert that sensitivity into something tangible. His medium was stained glass, and his work was highly acclaimed (see The Celator. Vol. 2, No.2, February 1988. People in the news).
Returning to New Hampshire from the Los Angeles C.O.I.N. show early in June, driving a truck loaded with family furniture, John Barton apparently succumbed to fatigue and somewhere in Kansas his vehicle left the road. The result was fatal.
The world has lost an inspired artist, the numismatic fraternity a respected scholar. and a lot of people have lost a good friend. Anyone who really knew John Banon will miss him greatly - we dedicate this issue to his lasting memory.