Stephen L. Tanenbaum was born August
16, 1948, in the Bronx, NY. When he was four, his family left their
apartment building which was about to be demolished to build the Cross
They moved to White Plains, in nearby Westchester County, where Steve
lived until he went to college.
For grades K-6, Steve went to Mamaroneck Avenue Elementary School not far from
his house. He attended Post Road Junior High School and later, White Plains High
Steve’s major hobby as a child was, unsurprisingly, numismatics and
from an early age he had an entrepreneurial bent. His brother Andy remembers, “One
time when he was about 10, he asked our father to loan him $100, which he did.
He then went to a local bank and asked for 2000 nickels, which the bank gave
him. He tediously went through all 2000 nickels looking for rare or interesting
ones. He might have found 4 or 5, perhaps a dozen at most. He then replaced
these with ordinary, boring nickels, went back to the bank, and asked for
Similarly, he went through the dimes one at a time and replaced a few worthwhile
specimens with more garden-variety dimes. When he brought these back to the
bank, he asked for and got 400 quarters, which he also processed one at a
he was all done, he got his $100 back. Well, let’s just say there are
a lot of banks in White Plains.” Steve’s love of numismatics was
evident even at the age of ten.
Yet Steve was also practical and wasn’t sure he could make a living
searching bank rolled coins, so after high school he applied to and was accepted
University where he studied industrial engineering, earning a bachelors degree
in 1970 and a masters in 1971. Steve enjoyed school and was an excellent student
and after earning his masters from Cornell, he attended the Sloan School of
Management at M.I.T. There he earned a masters of science and management
Upon graduating, Steve headed
back to New York State where he landed a job as a financial analyst
at Xerox Corporation,
then one of the hottest tech firms in the country. He worked at Xerox
for a few years, but ultimately decided he liked physical money better
virtual money. When Xerox lost some of its luster and began to downsize,
he took the “early retirement” package they offered (even
though he was still in his 20s). Steve then struck out on his own, hoping
it in the world of numismatics.
Steve never married, but doted on his two nieces
and two nephews, seeing them whenever possible. He was selfless with his
time and resources and he seemed happiest when with them. When he visited,
they would spend hours playing baseball or going to baseball games, playing
chess, or working on their own quarter collections. He even made a game
they loved, much like the game Concentration, but with what else, quarters
and of course he made sure they won and kept the quarters for their collections.
In 1978, he formed a partnership with Richard Rossa, known in the trade as RAT
(Rossa And Tanenbaum), with an elegant rat playing a piano as their company logo.
Steve eventually moved to Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Steve was especially interested in exonumia,
the branch of numismatics that deals with items other than coins and paper
money. His real love was Civil War tokens which were produced by stores during
war when there were few coins in circulation, the metal having been melted
down for military purposes. Each token (similar to a coin though technically
thus belongs to a particular store and was issued and used during a fairly
short time span. RAT was a dealer in these and other antique collectibles.
Steve was extremely modest and never spoke of his many accomplishment in the
field of numismatics. He was elected eight times to the Board of Governors of
the Civil War Token Society and was recognized by his peers as one of the most
knowledgeable people in the country in the area of Civil War tokens. Working
with collectors, he helped build many of the great modern collections.
Steve was a vegetarian and loved desserts since they rarely have meat in them.
He made sure that his relatives were well supplied with desserts, often bringing
them from far-off Brooklyn when visiting them. He was a loveable bagel and pizza
snob, and would grumble good-naturedly about the superior quality of the New
York versions when he would visit.
Another passion of his was major league baseball and he could watch baseball
games nonstop for hours on end. He also had an enormous recall of players’ statistics
and could recite current batting averages, E.R.A.s, and similar items from memory.
Baseball is sort of like numismatics: there are a lot of detail to be absorbed
and Steve loved it. He introduced his nieces and nephews to the American pastime
and loved to play catch with them in the driveway.
All of these details are only snippets of who Steve was, and such descriptions
can’t show the true man. Steve was loving, generous, kind, and devoted
to his family, and he will truly, truly be missed. He brought so much to the
lives of those he knew. We will always remember you Steve. Rest in peace.