Walter H. Breen (September 5, 1928 – April 28, 1993) was an American author. He is best known among coin collectors for writing Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. "Breen numbers", from his encyclopedia, are widely used to attribute varieties of coins. He is also well known for activity in the science fiction fan community; and for his writings in defense of pederasty.[1]

Early lifeEdit

A foundling child discovered in San Antonio, Texas, Breen strove to distinguish himself academically from a young age and continued excelling academically throughout his post-secondary education. He endured a brief stint in the United States Army, and claimed that a 1947 plane crash while on duty contributed to his photographic memory.

He received his Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from Johns Hopkins University in 1952, claiming to have finished four years of coursework in approximately 10 months, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and later earning his Master's degree from University of California, Berkeley in 1966. He typically wore his Phi Beta Kappa key as a zipper pull on the fly of his pants. He joined Mensa in 1958 or 1959, possibly the first American to do so.


As Breen completed his undergraduate college coursework, he immersed himself in the study of coinage. In 1951, the journal Numismatist published his earliest writings on the subject. Two years later he completed his first book on American coins, Proof Coins Struck by the United States Mint, 1817–1901.

Walter Breen also spent considerable time compiling information on the history of homosexuality, particularly pederasty. His research, unprecedented in its extensive treatment of the history of homosexuality, but lacking many of the standards of scholarly research, formed the basis for his 1964 book Greek Love, which he published under the pseudonym J.Z. Eglinton. Breen's collaborator with Warren Johansson in researching the book. .

His other interests included dirty limericks and fortune cookies; Breen self-published monographs on both subjects.

Personal lifeEdit

Breen was an active member of the science fiction community. He wrote for fanzines, and took over editorship of the fanzine Fanac from Terry Carr and Ron Ellik. He was married to science fiction writer Marion Zimmer Bradley in 1964. They had two children and separated in 1979. After their separation, the two of them lived on the same street in Berkeley, California, and she remained his primary employer until his arrest. They officially divorced on May 9, 1990.

In 1980, one year after "separating", both Breen and Bradley were ordained in the Holy Apostolic-Catholic Church of the East (Chaldean-Syrian) priesthood by Metropolitan-Archbishop Mikhail Itkin, a well-known gay clergyman.


Breen's pederasty was both a kept secret and tolerated behavior in both science fiction and numismatic circles; he was banned from the 1964 Worldcon science fiction convention due to his behavior with children - although he took a room at the convention hotel - a controversy which became known as the "Breendoggle".

Breen was first arrested in the 1950s for "lewd behavior", exposing himself to young boys under a boardwalk in Atlantic City. For a while, he was a leading member of NAMBLA. He was arrested on child molestation charges in 1990, and offered a plea bargain, which resulted in three years' probation. In 1991 he was charged with eight felony counts of child molestation involving a 13-year-old boy, the stepson of science fiction writer Stephen Goldin.

Breen was diagnosed with liver cancer in 1992, but was sentenced to 10 years in prison nevertheless. He died in prison in Chino, California the next year.


  • Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins New York: Doubleday, 1988.
  • Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States Half Cents 1793–1857
  • California Pioneer Fractional Gold: Historic gold rush small change 1852–1856 and suppressed jewelers' issues 1859–1882; co-authored by Ronald Gillio, this is the standard reference for this series of coinage
  • Penny Whimsy; assisted William Sheldon to produce this 1958 update to Sheldon's Early American Cents.
  • Greek Love; assisted by Warren Johansson and published by Oliver Layton Press in 1964, under the pseudonym J.Z. Eglinton.
  • Lusty Limericks & Bawdy Ballads; monograph published in 1956



Further readingEdit

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