The Truth about Dr. William H. Sheldon

I am starting a new thread with this post, as I think people should know more about Dr. Sheldon who gave us the Sheldon scale:

The Horrible Dr. William H. Sheldon - Fraud, Liar and Thief

If everyone in numismatics understood who William Sheldon was, the Sheldon scale would be boycotted. In numismatics, he is strongly believed to have stolen coins from the ANS's Clapp collection of large cents while studying the ANS coins for his famed book, "Penny Whimsey." (He switched them out with lower-grade specimens from his own set.) Later, when entrusted with the collection of a dying man (James Clarke), he found some coins in the Clarke collection that were better than those he had stolen from Clapp, so he pulled the switcheroo again, taking the Clarke coins for himself, and putting the stolen Clapp coins back into the dying Clarke's collection. When Clarke died, Roy Naftzger bought his collection, and thus unknowingly got some of the ANS coins. Ironically, years later Naftzger also bought Sheldon's collection, which thus contained coins stolen from the ANS ex Clapp, as well as coins stolen from Clarke. The ANS was left with Sheldon's inferior coins, and in the end, Naftzger likely ended up with most of the ANS coins, including the lesser coins that Sheldon had double-switched back into the Clarke collection !! (For his part, Naftzger apparently knew of Sheldon's foul play, yet he refused to give up the stolen property, and ended up being sued by the ANS. He lost.)

But what is more shocking is that this was the SAME William Sheldon who argued that skull sizes and shapes proved that African-Americans and Mexicans were intellectually and evolutionarily inferior. (His pseudo-scientific theories have since been thoroughly discredited, as have been his methods of data collection and analysis.) Among other things, he claimed to have "proven" that Africans could not learn or develop intellectually beyond age 10 !!

As if that were not enough, this is the very same William Sheldon who developed the theory of somatotype (body type), including the three classes ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. In order to "study" body types, he somehow conned all of the nation's top universities into coercing all of their incoming freshmen of both genders to be photographed NUDE. The students were told it was a medical necessity, and part of an academic study, and they were forced to cooperate. The practice went on for over a decade. In today's world, this would immediately generate a firestorm of protest and lawsuits. The New York Times Sunday Magazine section did a retrospective exposé of the nude photography scandal a few years back. I remember reading it and being appalled. I imagined that I would have had the guts to refuse, and would have told the "doctors" to go to hell.

Numismatics should abandon Sheldon's legacy. Sheldon's reputation should join him in Hell, where he shall undoubtedly reside for a long time.

Sunnywood
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Comments

  • BearBear Posts: 22,099
    I wonder what he thought about bears?
    There once was a place called
    Camelotimage


  • << <i>I wonder what he thought about bears? >>



    With or without fur??
    Please visit my website prehistoricamerica.com www.visitiowa.org/pinecreekcabins
  • RussRuss Posts: 50,068
    He and Breen are probably enjoying adjacent cells in hell.

    Russ, NCNE
  • MANOFCOINSMANOFCOINS Posts: 9,906 ✭✭✭
    Hell for stealing and shooting a few nudes image
  • RussRuss Posts: 50,068


    << <i>During the 1960's and '70's, Diane Sawyer, Nora Ephron, Sally Quinn, Hillary Rodham, and a host of other unwilling subjects were caught on coldly unflattering film. >>



    Hillary naked! image

    Russ, NCNE


  • << <i>He and Breen are probably enjoying adjacent cells in hell.

    Russ, NCNE >>



    imageimage
  • a quack I tel ya!
  • mrearlygoldmrearlygold Posts: 18,596 ✭✭✭
  • Fascinating.

    Power/Wealth corrupts. Even the best meaning people can get corrupted. Politically I am a very firm believer in absolute openness and complete checks and balances. Anyway this Naftzger comes off rather poorly as well.

    I think we, at the coin forum, should do an open source type of project where we develop a new grading scale to replace the sheldon scale.
  • Carl, there has been a movement afoot in the numismatic community for some time to convert to a 100-point scale. Most of us would probably tear our hair out, and the grading services would love it. But now that I know more about Dr. Sheldon, I say let's deep-six the 70-point "Sheldon scale" !!!
  • Why dont we just rename the scale we have now?
  • DickyBetz, great idea !! Can't imagine why I never thought of that !!! Any suggestions for a new name?
  • Its been suggested by many to switch to 100 point scale.
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  • HTubbsHTubbs Posts: 4,299 ✭✭✭


    << <i>Learn something new around here every day.image >>



    same hereimage
    Hayden
  • originalisbestoriginalisbest Posts: 5,258 ✭✭✭
    It's crazy but there's smoething instructive in these individuals (Sheldon and Breen) - proving there are prob'ly very, very few of us without a skeleton, or a potential one, tucked away. Personally, I find Sheldon to have been morally corrupt, but Breen, far worse...

    Just rename the scale, if it bothers that much.
  • dorancoinsdorancoins Posts: 2,126 ✭✭✭


    << <i>Carl, there has been a movement afoot in the numismatic community for some time to convert to a 100-point scale. Most of us would probably tear our hair out, and the grading services would love it. But now that I know more about Dr. Sheldon, I say let's deep-six the 70-point "Sheldon scale" !!! >>



    I think the 100 point scale could be workable, if done right. For it to work, do it in a percentage scale - 100% = MS-70 to 0% = Basal (Poor). The Sheldon scale is far from perfect, and reading the negative stuff on this guy and what he did, the hobby really should take a hard look - I think that the Sheldon system should really be dumped - our hobby deserves better.
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  • dorancoinsdorancoins Posts: 2,126 ✭✭✭


    << <i>

    << <i>Carl, there has been a movement afoot in the numismatic community for some time to convert to a 100-point scale. Most of us would probably tear our hair out, and the grading services would love it. But now that I know more about Dr. Sheldon, I say let's deep-six the 70-point "Sheldon scale" !!! >>

    I think the 100 point scale could be workable, if done right. For it to work, do it in a percentage scale - 100% = MS-70 to 0% = Basal (Poor). The Sheldon scale is far from perfect, and reading the negative stuff on this guy and what he did, the hobby really should take a hard look - I think that the Sheldon system should really be dumped - our hobby deserves better. >>


    And as far as Walter Breen is concerned, he wrote decent numismatic books, and he should be praised for that. But his private life is a whole different matter, as most of us already know. To sum it up, Breen and Sheldon pretty much proves that some people have skeletons in their closet.
    DORAN COINS - On Facebook, Twitter, & www.dorancoins.net - UPCOMING SHOWS - Coming Soon


  • << <i>I wonder what he thought about bears? >>



    Endomorph image
    Collecting eye-appealing Proof and MS Indian Head Cents, 1858 Flying Eagle and IHC patterns and beautiful toned coins.

    “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” Mark Twain
    Newmismatist
  • <And as far as Walter Breen is concerned, he wrote decent numismatic books>

    Apparently many of Breen's facts are mere supposition. The hobby needs more numismatic researchers like many who publish here.

    A 100 point scale is workable. There shouldn't be 100 differentiations in grade. There could be fewer than there are today if you agree that the consensus grade for a coin is an average of many opinions on many factors on two (or three) sides of a coin. If you graded each side on each of 4 characteristics and average the opinion among, say 3, opinion makers, and then average the result to one grade among, say 20, grades, you may well have something workable. I will think on this and start a new thread. However, given my history of publishing short lived threads, I would bet someone else could start a better thread. If no one else does I will do so shortly...
  • I don't know much about Breen's private life, but I have disproven a number of assertions in his books. He seems fond of stating things as fact, when in fact he had no basis to do so. He gave us a strong framework of research, but it will take many more years to sort out the truth from the statements of fiction.



  • << <i>I don't know much about Breen's private life, but I have disproven a number of assertions in his books. He seems fond of stating things as fact, when in fact he had no basis to do so. He gave us a strong framework of research, but it will take many more years to sort out the truth from the statements of fiction. >>



    At the end Breen would say what you wanted if he was paid. - Sad but true.
    Collecting eye-appealing Proof and MS Indian Head Cents, 1858 Flying Eagle and IHC patterns and beautiful toned coins.

    “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” Mark Twain
    Newmismatist
  • keetskeets Posts: 17,407 ✭✭✭
    let him who is without sin.............................
    image
  • If the "Sheldon" scale bothers you so much go ahead and rename it. Sheldon never developed a grading scale anyway so it's no big deal if you name it after someone else. How about the ANA grading scale since they were the ones to nail them together and assign coin detail remaining to a number. (Sheldon developed a PRICING scale. You determined the grade and then the Sheldon pricing scale theoretically calculated what the coin was worth mathmatically. It almost immediately became completely unworkable but the members of EAC kept trying to "tweak" it into working until the early 1970's.)
    slab collector and researcher
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  • braddickbraddick Posts: 17,421 ✭✭✭
    100 point scale?!?

    Let's go back to a TEN point scale (POOR; AG; GD; FINE; VERY FINE; EX FINE; UNC; CHOICE UNC; GEM UNC, and SUPERB UNC.) and all of us learn to grade for ourselves.

    Technically, the strawberry is an aggregate accessory fruit, meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant's ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries. Each apparent "seed" (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it.

  • Condor101 is one of our best researchers. He says "(Sheldon developed a PRICING scale. You determined the grade and then the Sheldon pricing scale theoretically calculated what the coin was worth mathmatically. It almost immediately became completely unworkable but the members of EAC kept trying to "tweak" it into working until the early 1970's.)"

    I'm sure he is right. Regardless the 1-70 scale was adopted by all grading services and is commonly known as the Sheldon scale.

    Thanks to Sunnywood for posting a very interesting thread!!!
  • cladkingcladking Posts: 26,392 ✭✭✭
    Sheldon's biggest failing was that he was a thief.

    He was on a dead end in science but did influence some thinking even if it, too, was
    mostly unproductive. I actually was familiar with Sheldon long before I knew he was
    a coin collector. While his endeavors may have all gone for little it seems that there
    are far greater sins than being a thief and this constitutes a poor reason to abandon
    the 70 point scale. Sheldon did try to advance human knowledge even if some of his
    techniques are incomprehensible today.

    There are, however, numerous good reasons to abandon it. It is unwieldy and has
    no basis in the condition of coins. A five point scale for each attribute of condition in
    unc should be sufficient. Eight or ten grades for circulated should also be enough for
    most collectors.
    Tempus fugit.
  • cladkingcladking Posts: 26,392 ✭✭✭
    I believe Shockley once said he was influenced by Sheldon and certainly biology education
    in the '50's and '60's was heavily influenced by him.

    Shockley's contributions have hardly been insignificant.
    Tempus fugit.
  • keetskeets Posts: 17,407 ✭✭✭
    we've already stepped on the slippery slope, so give up any pollyanna ideas of a scale less than the 70 we have. if anything, the future bodes well for the 100 point scale before a 10 point scale.
    image
  • DD Posts: 2,063
    Rename it to the NGCS scale? Numismatic Coin Grading Scale?

    No need in making it 1-100. The technical grades would get way out of hand.

    As it is, we don't use AU56 or 59, or many other grades for that matter, and that's just on the 70 scale.

    -Daniel
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

    -Aristotle

    Dum loquimur fugerit invida aetas. Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.

    -Horace
  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 21,739 ✭✭✭✭✭
    So far as I’m concerned, a 100 point scale would only provide the grading services with 30 more points that they could get wrong. Where is the magic in 100 points? Where are you going to use the extra points? If for the MS section, why do you need more than 11 points? We can’t assign those consistently now. As for circulated grades, what we have now is adequate.
    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals.
  • ms70ms70 Posts: 8,539 ✭✭✭

    What is the point in trying to change things because someone, so long ago, was morally corrupt? If it were suddenly discovered that the Wright Brothers did something incredibly
    heinous would you all stop flying places? If it were found that Louis Pasteur were some sort of demented monster, would you all stop drinking milk or call for changing the name
    of the "pasteurization" process?

    If something doesn't work (as some claim the Sheldon Scale doesn't) or if a work is deficient (like some allege Breen's is), then don't use it. Grade your own coins if you know so
    much and ignore what's on the holders.

    Let's move on please.

  • Weren't there some close personal connections between Breen and Sheldon?
    researching the"distinctive paper" LS SS Fracs and even bonds" most notably from the Wilcox era 1869-80
  • thebigengthebigeng Posts: 4,724 ✭✭✭
    Condor well said.... The Sheldon scale and Sheldon the man are two different issues but connected. If we are to combine all of our faults and wrongs with all our achievments and rewards we become what we all are; very complex humans.

    When it comes to the "Sheldon scale" I doubt Williaim Sheldon was interested in fame and fortune especailly at a time when these old coppers went for most part unnoticed. Sheldon like Breen had a gift for communication and remembering the smallest of details. Perhaps they lacked the moral code of the majority, myself included, but maybe for a short time they challanged our intellect and helped us grow as collectors and dealers. While I fault the former I embrace the latter.

    Tbig
    “Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” ~Wayne Dyer
  • kiyotekiyote Posts: 4,491 ✭✭✭
    Man, that cat has more stories than the Empire State Building.
    "I'll split the atom! I am the fifth dimension! I am the eighth wonder of the world!" -Gef the talking mongoose.
  • MS70, you are free to move on, of course !! And yes, if Pasteur were discovered to have been a horrible monster, perhaps "sterilization" or some other word would be preferable. As for "Grade your own coins if you know so much" ... I am not claiming to know anything about grading coins, nor am I claiming to know more than Sheldon. I am merely sharing the remarkable truth about a person whose name and legacy we all thought we knew ...

    Sunnywood
  • ms70ms70 Posts: 8,539 ✭✭✭


    << <i>And yes, if Pasteur were discovered to have been a horrible monster, perhaps "sterilization" or some other word would be preferable. >>



    Erasing or trying to change history because it's offensive is simply a sign of too much politically correct Kool-Aid consumption.




    << <i>As for "Grade your own coins if you know so much" >>



    I meant "you" in a general sense, not you personally.

  • I don't need "political correctness" or "Kool-Aid" to know that I have no desire to honor the unworthy. The asses of history deserve its posterior, not its posterity.

    Best,
    Sunnywood


  • << <i>Grade your own coins if you know so much and ignore what's on the holders. >>



    Wow - a novel thought! Learn how to grade so that you don't have to pay someone else to tell you what you have! image
    Collecting eye-appealing Proof and MS Indian Head Cents, 1858 Flying Eagle and IHC patterns and beautiful toned coins.

    “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” Mark Twain
    Newmismatist
  • ms70ms70 Posts: 8,539 ✭✭✭

    Sunnywood, it's not my intention to be insulting, I'm just being very upfront.

  • So, Sunnywood.................
    Tell us what you've done for the coin collecting hobby lately.
    Dr Sheldon may well have done what you accuse him of doing. Or maybe not. But he did help the hobby a lot.
    Tell us now, what you have contributed.
    Another thing, Sunnywood.............
    Everyone has a dark side.
    Everyone has sinned.
    Everyone has their prejudices.
    Even you, fella. Yep, even YOU.
    Maybe you've even done worse things than Dr Sheldon, or may yet do worse things than he.

    Ray
  • Maybe you've even done worse things than Dr Sheldon, or may yet do worse things than he.

    Here comes some mudslinging?? image

    I want to hear the dirt on what Breen did- why does everyone think he was shady?
    My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable !
  • ms70ms70 Posts: 8,539 ✭✭✭

    He was a convicted pedophile. Seriously. He has since died.



  • << <i>He was a convicted pedophile. >>



    Worse - he was a Seriel pedophile.
    Collecting eye-appealing Proof and MS Indian Head Cents, 1858 Flying Eagle and IHC patterns and beautiful toned coins.

    “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” Mark Twain
    Newmismatist
  • So, Sunnywood.................
    Tell us what you've done for the coin collecting hobby lately.


    Read widely, and you'll know.

    Sunnywood - I've never understood the reverence given to Sheldon for the very reasons that you stated. I've variously heard and read of the crimes that you speak of, the worst of which were crimes of humanity - prejudice at the center - and have always been baffled at why his MD status (DOCTOR Wm. Sheldon) is always exclaimed. He had to be an idiot of a doctor, as much of modern medicine was advancing around him while he dwelled on 18th century notions of inferiority of race. What a moron. Nevertheless, his "Dr." status is entrenched in modern reference to him and modern literature.

    And yes, Conder101 is correct in his assessment of the grading scale (and thank you conder for pointing it out). Sheldon's basis was monetary worth of a large cent. It's an irony amid all of the arguments about technical vs. market grading, that the Sheldon value-based assessment was a "market scale" from the beginning, and that the "technical" aspects of it followed its inception by two or three decades.

    I would have to concede, however, that Sheldon added important aspects to numismatics, despite his thievery and deplorable "science."

    Hoot
    From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines. - Whitman
  • kiyotekiyote Posts: 4,491 ✭✭✭


    << <i>But his private life is a whole different matter, as most of us already know. To sum it up, Breen and Sheldon pretty much proves that some people have skeletons in their closet. >>



    Man, talk about pot calling the kettle black...
    "I'll split the atom! I am the fifth dimension! I am the eighth wonder of the world!" -Gef the talking mongoose.
  • PerryHallPerryHall Posts: 34,270 ✭✭✭✭


    << <i>So far as I’m concerned, a 100 point scale would only provide the grading services with 30 more points that they could get wrong. Where is the magic in 100 points? Where are you going to use the extra points? If for the MS section, why do you need more than 11 points? We can’t assign those consistently now. As for circulated grades, what we have now is adequate. >>

    image
  • astroratastrorat Posts: 7,174 ✭✭✭
    Sheldon and Breen personal habits aside . . .

    If you want to better understand how the "Sheldon" scale was developed, buy or borrow "Early American Cents" or "Penny Whimsy" (as it was later titled) and read the first 50 pages or so (well, you should do it anyway as it is a pretty good read). You will understand what Conder meant by a pricing scale and that it was "developed" for certain large cents, not all early coppers, and it was found to fit other large cents in a more general way. It "worked" as it was coincidental, not scientifically sound. It was "adopted" as a standard form of short-hand for large cent collectors to communicate more efficiently and use a common language. It was then used by the non-copper world and made to fit since it was the "best" system at the time. Remember that in the end, grading is an attempt at efficient communication whether that be pricing or condition description.

    What to learn even more about how grading standards have evolved over the years? Cool, then sign-up for the ANA grading class in Hickory, NC for the end of next week or the upcoming class in Las Vegas at the end of next month! Sorry, I just had to put in a mini commercial.

    Lane

    P.S. What to learn more than you ever cared to know about Sheldon's books . . . then just ask John K (Pistareen) a question. He probably knows more than anybody should about them.
    Numismatist Ordinaire
    See http://www.doubledimes.com for a free online reference for US twenty-cent pieces
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