A Century of Living History: Catherine Bullowa, ASA

1960sCB copy

1960 — Catherine E. Bullowa, ASA pictured far right.

The year was 1953 when Catherine E. Bullowa, ASA began the process to become Accredited Senior Appraiser. She had gained a love and admiration for coin collecting from her late husband David Bullowa who owned a shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When David passed away in 1953, Catherine had a choice: sell the shop or run the business herself. She decided to move forward with both her love of coins and the memory of David. “I took over. Started. Tried. And it worked! I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Catherine studied at Connecticut College before embarking on her appraising career. And the major? Not one you’d expect. “I was a Zoology major at Connecticut College and graduate din 1941. That’s how I knew how to grade coins, from looking at things through a microscope and a magnifying glass.”

The Appraisal profession has changed from those days in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  The American Society of Appraisers was only 27 years young when Catherine began the process to become accredited. “I joined before the personal property discipline was even set up.” Being the first of your kind in a profession isn’t easy. In addition to being one of the first few appraisers in the Personal Property discipline, she was also one of the few women in the profession, “appraising was a man’s field…” Bullowa remembers.

Her most memorable sale was an unlikely coin she bought off of a collector in 1965. She had purchased the entire collection and sold them off, piece by piece, but for some reason kept one coin. In 2004, the coin sold at auction for a little over $1M.  “I was ready to faint. I didn’t even know how to write a million! But Ron Guth was the auctioneer and he helped me.”

To the appraisers just starting out Catherine urges them to educate themselves but also continue reaching out to others in the profession, “First read a book on coins and get an idea of grading. Go around and ask people questions. Don’t hesitate to talk to people. If it’s an old timer they should be able to be helpful. That’s the main thing.”

Catherine E. Bullowa, ASA

Catherine E. Bullowa, ASA

Catherine will celebrate her 94th birthday this July. She still travels to coin conventions about 5-6 times a year, she’s tried to pare it down from her earlier years when she would go to 8 or 10 a year. When asked how she’d like to be remembered years from now, Catherine said, “That I liked to deal with the kids that were starting and that I did my best for the [profession] in every way. In every field; both foreign and US.”

Catherine E. Bullowa, ASA is based in Philadelphia and has been a member of the Personal Property Discipline and the Philadelphia ASA Chapter for nearly 50 years.



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