By Ed Reiter

History and math, like oil and water, wouldn’t seem to mix very well. Both subjects figure prominently, though, in the life and times of R.W. “Bob” Julian.

For half a century, Bob Julian’s name has appeared on a regular basis in hobby periodicals – mostly on articles dramatizing episodes from numismatic history. It’s less well known, however, that during much of that same time span, he also was a teacher of high school mathematics in his lifelong hometown of Logansport, Ind.

The combination seems to come naturally: Julian pursued both subjects at Purdue University, where he received a B.S. degree in mathematics and an M.A. in history. And during more than three decades as a teacher of math, he remained a dedicated student of history – numismatic and otherwise.

The math has been of limited value in his involvement with the coin collecting hobby. Million-dollar price tags and other big numbers impress him far less than the fascinating stories behind rare coins. And his thoroughly researched articles and books reflect this bent: He writes, first and foremost, about people, places and events, rather than prices.

A kind of parallel does exist, however – for in history, as in math, finding a solution for “x,” the unknown factor, is one of Julian’s constant preoccupations. He has spent untold hours seeking explanations for numismatic mysteries and filling in the blanks of long- standing hobby-related puzzles.

Bob Julian’s interest in coins was kindled at the age of 11 during a stay in Longmont, Colo.

“My father had to go there for his health,” he recalls, “and we stayed for about six months – and to help pass the time, I started looking through my Lincoln cents, sorting them out to see what dates I could find. Then, when we returned to Indiana, I found that one of my classmates shared my interest in coins.

“I started reading books – Wayte Raymond’s book first, then the ‘Red Book’ – and my interest just kept growing after that.”
Friendly tellers at local banks saved their old coins for his perusal, as did some of the customers on his paper route. And, in what proved to be the pattern for his lifetime as a hobbyist, he amassed not only coins but also knowledge, reading every article and book he could put his hands on.

While at Purdue, he wrote a term paper for a European history class on monetary reform in Russia in the 1890s. That formed the basis for his first published article, which appeared in December 1960 in the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine.

“I wanted some books on Russian imperial coinage,” he remembers, “and the main library in Leningrad was willing to furnish me with microfilm on some –but only in exchange for specified American books on subjects like Hollywood and word origins. I figured the books would cost a ton of money, so to help raise some cash I tried to sell a story to the Scraphook.”

Lee Hewitt, the Scrapbook’s editor, purchased that story – a treatise on Russian coins – and subsequently bought several more, also on Russian coinage. At that point, though, he advised the young writer to seek a different subject with wider reader interest.

Julian took the advice, writing his first article on U.S. coinage. Hundreds more have followed – many of them based on information found in trips to the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Over the years, Julian has made more than half a dozen trips to the Archives, turning up intriguing facts and figures regarding U.S. coins and the people responsible for their authorization, design and production. These have formed the basis not only for his articles but also for a landmark reference book, Medals of the United States Mint – The First Century, which was published in 1977 by the Token and Medal Society.

In 1986, when I became senior editor of COINage, one of my first moves was to call upon Bob Julian for regular contributions to the magazine. His work has appeared there regularly ever since, providing readers with a steady diet of meticulously researched, beautifully written articles on U.S. coinage history as well as other topics that fall within Bob’s wide-ranging interests and expertise.

Among other things, he has written engrossing series of articles on U.S. Mint medals, the money of British monarchs and colorful personalities depicted on coins of antiquity.

Through the tears, Julian’s accomplishments have earned him increasing recognition. The American Numismatic Society has chosen him as a fellow. The Numismatic Literary Guild has given him its coveted Clemy Award. And the American Numismatic Association has inducted him into its Hall of Fame.

Julian is a bachelor and a homebody. He still lives in his family’s longtime home in Logansport. But he also loves to travel, and has done so extensively, making numismatic friends all around the world.

Since retiring in 1994, he has had much more time for travel. He also spends much of his time organizing and using his extensive library. And, I’m happy to say, he also has been doing lots of writing.

Math has been de-emphasized in Bob Julian’s golden years. But history has become even more important.

Is that good news for editors and readers? As mathematicians might say, you can count on it!