Ripstra, J. Henri (1881-1961)

J. Henri Ripstra was present at the meeting held in February 1917 to reorganize A.N.A. Branch No. 1, which had been moribund since its President died in 1914. Since membership in this club was restricted to A.N.A. members, and there were other Chicago collectors who wished to join but were not A.N.A members, it was reorganized again two years later to form the Chicago Coin Club. Mr. Ripstra received Charter Member number 9 when membership numbers were awarded to those who joined in February and March 1919, and he remained a member the rest of his life. From 1933 to 1936 he served as President of the Club, and later as Director. He was a speaker at Club meetings many times.

Mr. Ripstra (Feb. 18, 1881 – May 4, 1961) was active in the American Numismatic Association also, serving on the Board of Governors for six years and then President, August 26, 1937, to October 5, 1939. He was elected to the ANA Numismatic Hall of Fame in 1978. In January 1939, he was appointed Honorary Chairman of the first meeting of what became the Central States Numismatic Society. While A.N.A. President, he was instrumental in the formation of the Iowa Numismatic Association.

A tool and die maker, Mr. Ripstra was also a highly talented medallic artist and die engraver. Before the Chicago Coin Club was formed he prepared the dies and struck medals for the Chicago Numismatic Society from 1908 through 1914, and produced dies for many other medals and numismatic badges. A collector of Lincolniana, he was the founder and Executive Secretary of the Lincoln Group of Chicago, of which Illinois Governor Henry Horner was Chairman; Ripstra’s Lincoln portrait die for medals for the Lincoln Group was reused to strike medals for the 1965 Central States convention.

Many tributes poured in after his death. In the Numismatic Scrapbook for June 1961, Lee Hewitt (Hall of Fame No. 6) wrote, “With the passing of J. Henri Ripstra organized numismatics has lost one of its most colorful personalities. It was our privilege to know Henri for thirty-five years and, with the possible exception of Doug Ferguson, he was the best extemporaneous speaker and presiding officer that we have known in numismatic circles. He had an endless repertory of stories about the important numismatists of the early twentieth century such as Virgil Brand, Wm. F. Dunham, and Henry Chapman…” A.N.A. Past President V. Leon Belt wrote, “whatever honor I may have attained in both the American and Iowa Numismatic Associations was largely due to his assistance, encouragement, and support.” Wrote Harold R. Klein, A.N.A. Treasurer, “I have always enjoyed his warm personality as well as his sound counseling.”

The article was published first in the Chicago Coin Club Hall of Fame and is re-published courtesy of the Chicago Coin Club.