Born at Catasauqua near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Moved to Philadelphia in 1818 to learn piano making and was employed in that field until 1869. Married twice with six children.
Mickley began to collect cents with a search for one from his birth year. He is sometimes called "The father of American numismatics." On April 13, 1867, he lost $16,000 worth of coins in a burglary. His remaining collection was consigned for sale by Woodward October 28 to November 2, 1867. It included an 1804 dollar purchased by Lilliendahl for $750. At the time that was believed to set a price record for a single coin. Mickley had obtained the coin from a bank teller who had received the dollar as a deposit.
Mickley wrote a pamphlet Dates of United States Coins and Their Degree of Rarity. Mickley purchased discarded coin dies sold by the mint as scrap metal. He collaborated with Cogan to produce restrikes of cents of 1804 and 1823. They also produced a small number of restrike cents of 1810. This is believed to have occurred about 1868 or 1869. The cent dies were sold to Montroville Dickeson and later Captain Haseltine. He was an honorary member of the Boston Numismatic Society and the ANS. He died in Philadelphia at the home of his doctor.
An auction of remnants from the collection was conducted by Mason November 5-6, 1878. A group of about 20 coin dies was cataloged for sale but were confiscated prior to the sale. An investigation produced strong evidence that dies for the Adams medal were legitimately sold to Mickley through the Eckfeldt family. It was reported that the government paid the estate for the estimated fair value of the dies that were confiscated. Two more groups of remainders were sold at auction by Haseltine in 1879 and Woodward in 1883.
Mickley was the subject of several medals. One dated 1867 has Mickley on the obverse and the reverse legend President of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia.
Mickley travelled extensively through Europe. In Stockholm he met Lea Ahlborne and agreed to sit for a portrait that Ahlborn would engrave on a medal. The medal was produced by the Swedish Mint about 1879. Silver medals were struck in Sweden. The dies were brought to America. Bronze medals were struck and sold for $2.50. The medal was reissued again about 1958.
bio: Attinelli page 49; NN 8/19/63 (photo); CW/NM 3/17/76; NUM/NIN May, 95
obit: AJN 12 Apr 1878 pages 103-105
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Dates of United States Coins and their Degree of Rarity
Joseph Mickley's listing of U.S. coins, published in 1858. This is one of the earliest attempts at a catalog of U.S. coins. The solicitation on the back cover from Mint Director Snowden for Washington pieces suggests some relationship between Mickley and Snowden.