JOHNSON, BURDETTE GARNER

Fig. 1. Burdette Garner Johnson photograph 1947.


Copyright © 2011-2018 John N. Lupia III


Burdette Garner Johnson (1885-1947) 1814a Oregon Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri; 2108 South Spring Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri; 2755 Lafayette Street, St. Louis, Missouri; 115 North Eleventh Street, St. Louis, Missouri; 7532 Parkdale, Clayton, Missouri; 408 Olive Street, St. Louis, Missouri; 712 Audubon Drive, Clayton, Missouri

                He was born on January 2, 1885, son of William A. Johnson (1849-1931) and Luella Lou Conway Johnson (1859-1914) at De Soto, Missouri. While a schoolboy in St. Louis, Missouri, he was a correspondent with the Chapman Brothers buying Roman coins at age fifteen in September 1900. 

Fig. 2. Burdette Garner Johnson to the Chapman Brothers purchasing Roman coins for $5.40, postmarked September 15, 1900, St. Louis, Missouri, 11 A.M. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

                He is referred to by his late biographer Al Wick as self-educated and is purported to have read a book a day. After graduating elementary school he moved to his relatives in Columbus, Indiana to work for Prudential as a cashier. 

Fig. 3. Republic, [Columbus, Indiana] Saturday, September 6, 1902, page 8

                In September 1902 he left his position as cashier of the Prudential Office, Columbus, Indiana, to work in St. Louis for Frank Elmer Ellis (1862-1937), at St. Louis Stamp and Coin (q.v.). Johnson helped Ellis move from 1003 Pine Street to 115 North 11th Street in March 1903. In the April 1903 issue of The Numismatist, Burdette G. Johnson is listed as a new member of the ANA, Member No. 473, who  specialized in ancient coins especially Roman.



Fig. 4. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Letterhead with letter dated November 14, 1904.  Ellis is listed on the letterhead as Manager. Johnson as his clerk most probably typed the letter. Both Ellis and Johnson are listed at the 1904 ANA St. Louis Convention. Dr. George Heath reported in The Numismatist his visit to St. Louis Stamp & Coin and meeting Ellis and Johnson.  Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin. 
For sale at $350. Write john@numismaticmall.com.
Fig. 5. Johnson correspondence with the Chapman Brothers sent registered mail franked with very scarce Scott #327, a 10c brown Louisianan Purchase commemorative stamp St. Louis cancelled by a double oval  
St. Louis postmark. The combination is rare. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, Chapman Family Correspondence Archive. For sale at $450. Write john@numismaticmall.com.

Fig. 6. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Fixed Price List No. 8 1905. Twenty-year-old Burdette G. Johnson is named as the Manager on the cover. Remy Bourne, Fixed Price Lists & Premium Paid For Lists of United States Coin Dealers 1900-1929 lists 34 numbers of the St. Louis Stamp & Coin Fixed Price List, but only lists the Premium List of Valuable Coins published 1908-1909. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin. For sale at $60. Write john@numismaticmall.com.

Fig. 7. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Special Stock Reduction Circular No.9, 1905. Remy Bourne, Fixed Price Lists & Premium Paid For Lists of United States Coin Dealers 1900-1929 lists 10 numbers ending in 1905. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin. 
For sale at $100. Write john@numismaticmall.com.

Fig. 8. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Letter postmarked August 11, 1906. This was the stationery type 1904 to 1913. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin. 
For sale at $75. Write john@numismaticmall.com.

Fig. 9. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Special Bargain List No. 8 c. 1906/7. Remy Bourne, Fixed Price Lists & Premium Paid For Lists of United States Coin Dealers 1900-1929 lists 14 numbers. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin. For sale at $100. Write john@numismaticmall.com.

In 1907 he owned St. Louis Stamp & Coin with David A. Sutherland, his partner, whom he bought out in 1908. Johnson maintained Ellis' advertising practice and policy running a new and different full page ad on the inside cover of Philatelic West each month. 

Fig. 10. St. Louis Stamp & Coin special advertisement in The Philatelic West, July 1907. Note the ad not only boasts of high prices paid at the George W. Rice coin auction sale in April 1906, but it is also hawking the Hub Coin Book by B. Max Mehl. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection The Philatelic West, the largest hoard of Philatelic West known in world history comprising 1,500 copiesMost single issues for sale at $15 - $30. Write john@numismaticmall.com.

                He joined the ANA at age eighteen in 1903 and is member no. 473. He was also a member of the ANS, the Chicago Coin Club, and the New York Numismatic Club. He collected ancient coins.   

Fig. 11. False alarm caused by a Chicago newspaper that a half dollar to be found in pocket change is worth $15,000. Burdette G. Johnson was barraged by inquiries when Eric P. Newman, his best customer and later on dear friend  was an infant of not yet 3-1/2 months.  St. Louis Dispatch, September 4, 1911, page 2  

                From 1912 on Johnson made an annual trip to Europe to buy coins.

   
Fig. 12. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Letter to Virgil Brand postmarked 1914. This was the stationery type 1914 to 1931. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin.   
For sale at $150. Write john@numismaticmall.com.     

                He held 36 auction sales from 1902 to 1915. Armin Brand on behalf of the estate of Virgil Michael Brand gave consignments of coins to Johnson. 

                

Fig. 13. St. Louis Stamp & Coin special series business stationery in 1917. Above a letter sent by his helper to Johnson while visiting his cousin Mary Elizabeth Conway Hedgcock (1868-1937), daughter of Joseph James Conway (1829-1893) and Mary Ann Pile (1836-1916). She is a descendant of Sergeant Richard Pile of the Revolutionary War. Mary Ann Pile’s sister is Luella Lou Conway (1859-1914), mother of Burette G. Johnson (1885-1947). Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin. For sale at $120. Write john@numismaticmall.com.

                In 1919 he traveled to Great Britain, France, Belgium and Holland to purchase coins.

Fig. 14. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Premium List of Valuable Coins 1919-1921.  Remy Bourne, Fixed Price Lists & Premium Paid For Lists of United States Coin Dealers 1900-1929 only lists the 1908-1909 edition. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin. 
For sale at $100. Write john@numismaticmall.com.

                In 1922 Johnson had two employees M. Cowan and L. L. Timberlake.

Fig. 15. 1923 Passport photo of Burdette Garner Johnson.

                In 1923 he traveled to England, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia,  and Holland sailing on the SS. Berengaria to purchase coins.

Fig. 16. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Premium List of Valuable Coins 1925-1926. Moving is not always easy and sometimes a lease in a large commercial property like the Merchants-Laclede Building can cause the business owner some problems especially when they send off their business collateral to the printer with a new address that might prove uncertain. Johnson has scratched out the printed address and manually changed it to his old one then changed it to the new address when he finally moved to the Merchants-Laclede Building, 408 Olive Street. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin. For sale at $100. Write john@numismaticmall.com.
               In 1924 he sailed on the S. S. Majestic to Southampton, England
                In 1926 he sailed on the S. S. Rotterdam to Southampton, England.
                In 1928 he sailed on the S. S. Volendam to Southampton, England.
                 In 1929 he sailed on the S. S. Hamburg to Southampton, England. 
                 In 1930 he sailed on the S. S. Hamburg to Southampton, England. 
Fig. 17. St. Louis Stamp & Coin business stationery in 1936. Above a coin containing letter sent registered mail to R. T. Bennie on April 19, 1935, franked with a potpourri of valuable stamps. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin. For sale at $150. Write john@numismaticmall.com.

Fig. 18. St. Louis Stamp & Coin business stationery in 1936. Above a coin containing letter sent registered mail to Tom Elder on February 29, 1936. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection St. Louis Stamp & Coin. 
For sale at $150. Write john@numismaticmall.com.

                During the Depression a young girl named Mary Cruzan was abandoned by her parents. Johnson took her in and educated her treating her as his own daughter.
                In 1933 both Henry Chapman, who was very feeble and infirm at the time, and Burdette Johnson were hired by the Brand brothers to appraise Virgil Brand's gold coin collection. Henry Chapman was slated to appraise first and so was responsible for unwrapping the coins which was a timely process considering the double envelopes and ties Brand kept on each coin. Johnson was to confirm or reevaluate as he deemed appropriate. Apparently the feeble Chapman took too long and Johnson kept yelling to Henry Chapman asking what was taking so long.
                In January 1939 Spink & Son , Ltd., sent Miss M. A. Dunn of Brooklyn two coins, an 1804 and a 1805 U. S. Silver Dollar with the suggestion she show them to Burdette Johnson for authentication. Johnson considered them fakes. They were bought in November of that year by Farran Zerbe. In 1961 M. H. Bolender authenticated them as genuine.
                In 1941 he helped Eric Newman by strategic advice how to purchase all five of Col. Green’s 1913 Liberty nickels. 

He died on February 24, 1947 on a streetcar en route to his coin shop.

                

The
 notice of his death had the headlines "Burdette G. Johnson Dies on Streetcar : Stamp and Coin Firm Owner Collapses, Apparently of Heart Attack" St. Louis Dispatch, 24 February, 1947, page 3.

                Al Wick, District Secretary for Eastern Missouri, ANA, wrote "A Tribute to the Late Burdette G. Johnson," The Numismatist, Vol. LX, No. 6, June (1947) : 421-422. The obituary reports an apocryphal account of the history of  St. Louis Stamp & Coin as if started singlehandedly by 18 year-old  Johnson with $500 seed money in 1904. Rather, Johnson was made manager in 1905 by the original founder/owner Ellis who sold him half the company in 1907.

Photographs reprinted from the Christie's Coin Auction Catalogue of the Libertas Americana medal commissioned by Benjamin Franklin in the 1780's were published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Saturday, 31 May, 1997, page 80.
                Mary Cruzan (1921-1996), Johnson's virtually adopted daughter inherited the residue of his U. S. Colonial coin stock including a 1782 Libertas Americana, that sold for $20,900 in 1997. The 240 lots of coins were sold posthumously in June 1997 at Christies, New York, and realized $1.1 Million USD. Fifty years after his demise Burdette G. Johnson's legacy to his daughter Mary Cruzan set a record at auction.
                He is buried in Valhalla Cemetery, Bel-Nor, St. Louis County, Missouri.



Bibliography

The Numismatist, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, January (1905) : 32; No. 2, February (1905) : 61; No. 3 March (1905) : 92

Gnecchi, Ercole and Francesco, eds., Guida Numismatica 4th edition. (Milano : U. Hoepli, 1903. Edition) : 566, No. 5922

ANA Membership List and Directory (1927) : 54

Smith-I 129

Sylloge (Smithsonian Institution Press, Jan 17, 1993) : xvi


 

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