John W. Kline
John William Kline was born in Philadelphia on October 19, 1824. "While yet a boy he had a strong penchant for gathering anything odd or curious that fell his way" (Attinelli, 1876). By the age of 31 he had built a "well-known" collection of coins and medals which he auctioned off in 1855 (1,850 lots requiring a 100-page catalog); it was the largest coin auction ever held in America up to that time, and it was perhaps the income from this sale that allowed him to go into business for himself two years later, in 1857. His listing in McElroy's Philadelphoa City Directory for 1861 indicates that he dealt in "stationery, etc." and "periodicals." The "etc." is identified on his envelope stationery as "fancy goods," whatever those might be. The next year (under his wife's initials, "A.C.") he published America's first stamp catalogs.
Kline's 1864 price list for postage stamps indicates that by then he was dealing in "Coins, Medals, Minerals, Indian and other Relics, Engravings, Pamphlets, Continental, Colonial Paper Money and curiosities of all kinds." His city directory listings for 1863-1866 identify him as a "coin dealer." By the time his 1865 price list was issued, however, he had changed his company name to "Kline's Emporium," and his city directory listing for 1868 indicates that his line was expanding further into the area of natural history specimens: "Importer and dealer in minerals, fossils, shells, coins, medals, engravings and curiosities." Note that "minerals" are now listed first. He also advertised "rare china, furniture, antiques, idols, birds, eggs and articles of vertu." His 1868 price list also indicates an address change, from 824 Walnut Street to 212 South Eighth Street. An ad published in 1876 claims "an extensive collection of portraits, landscapes and other prints suitable for the collector, illustrator, or framing, at very moderate prices," as well as "coins, stamps, medals, paper currency, minerals, fossils and shells, and manufactured medals and tokens." Clearly he was happy to deal in any kind of collectible he could get his hands on.
Kline began to dismantle Kline's Emporium in 1878 with various bulk sales of his stock. A.E. Foote (q.v.), in his sales bulletin called The Naturalist's Leisure Hour for February 1880, stated that he had "purchased at auction most of the stock of John W. Kline, formerly in the Natural History business in Philadelphia...as Mr. Kline was leaving the business." In the 1880's the city directory lists Kline variously as a salesman, manager, and buyer (working at least part of the time for a Philadelphia department store, Wanamaker's). During the final two years of his life he returned to dealing in curiosities from his address at 31 South 17th Street. He died April 6, 1892.
FOOTE, A.E. (1880) The Naturalist's Leisure Hour and Monthly Bullestin, February 1880.
ATTINELLI, E. J. (1876) Numisgraphics. New York.
OROSZ, J. J. (2000) The curious case of the collectors Kline. The Numismatist, 113 (10), 1147-1150, 1187-1190.
TRENCHARD, H., and TURNER, G. T. (1993) Biography of John W. "A.C." Kline. Philatelic Literature Review, January.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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