Personalities in Southern California Numismatics


Personalities in Southern California Numismatics

Editors Note: This article is a reprint from the very first quarterly ever published—the July, 1959 issue (though I've supplemented it with a few photos). I assume it was written by the then-editor, Eric G. Warner, but I can’t be certain. Anyway, it illuminates one of those who were instrumental in creating the NASC, and gives some insight into the man for whom the Karl M. Brainard Memorial Literary award is named. It also seems pertinent to review why our NASC was started. Knowing our roots helps us to understand where we may grow in the future. -- Greg

Of the many who have contributed much to Southern California Numismatics, we award our first accolade to the one who founded the Numismatic Association of Southern California, Karl M. Brainard.

His parents brought him to California from Greenfield, Mass., in 1894, and in 1923 he was married to Grace MacLean. It was around 1930 when Mrs. Brainard became interested in coin collecting, but for the following fourteen years, Karl remained aloof. It was not until 1944 that his interest in numismatics unfolded. But in between time he had an interesting career.


At Long Beach he was a life guard for a year, back in the ‘teen years. That was not his forte. For later he sang with the Percy Mason Light Opera Company, and from there went into motion pictures. He worked with “Fatty” Arbuckle in the latter’s first picture. During the early 20’s Karl was with the original William Fox Picture Co, and as he says, “I nearly starved to death as an actor, so went to work as a stage carpenter.” In later years he built and operated the first large camera crane for Twentieth Century Fox, and has worked with such top stars as Jean Harlow, Wallace Berry, Alice Faye, Betty Grable, Gregory Peck, and others of top rank. When he retired from the picture business, he was head of the set building department which, during his time, constructed the sets for such extravaganzas as The King and I and The Rains Came.


Karl was also involved with less luminous motion pictures, acting as Prop Master for “Night of the Blood Beast” (1958) and other B-movies. This winner was advertised with, “No Girl Was Safe As Long As This Head-Hunting Thing Roamed The Land!” In the profoundly prophetic plot (this did really happen recently, didn’t it?) after his rocket crashes on Earth, an astronaut's corpse is impregnated by an alien stowaway.

It was by now fifty years later since he came to California as a baby. He began making plastic coin holders more or less to keep out of mischief, and to appease his friend, W.R. Fanning, and some others who had come to him for the holders.

“Next thing I knew it had developed into a business,” says Karl, “and then by accident I got into the wholesale end.” Now after two years he has sold his entire business, the supplies to R. DeMers, and the plastics end to someone else. But he is not quitting numismatics. Karl is going back into his first “love”: coins, proofs in particular.

“In 1954 I felt that Southern California was being overlooked by the large numismatic organizations. We had at that time more members in the ANA than any other section of the country. So the answer to this situation was to organize our own association. After a great deal of consideration, I called a meeting of well known collectors and dealers, and out of this meeting evolved the Numismatic Association of Southern California. To say it has been a successful organization, is a mild statement. We are known the world around. My desire has been fulfilled. We have a great association.”

James Phillips 2017