Burt Blumert, RIP
March 30, 2009
Burt Blumert died of cancer today. He was 80 years old.
I first met him, I think, in 1965. He was a close friend of R. J. Rushdoony, who had been on the staff of the Center for American Studies, an extension of the William Volker Fund. The Volker Fund was in Burlingame, California. So was Burt's coin store, the Camino Coin Company. Rushdoony began buying gold coins from him sometime around 1964.
The Camino Coin Company has been a fixture in the hard money movement for four decades. Burt retired in 2008, transferring ownership to a former employee. The store was never big. It had only a handful of salesmen. He knew that the hard money movement was not huge, because he knew so many of the people who actually bought coins for their gold content.
We met at a 1965 meeting that Rushdoony held at San Marino, California, an upscale suburb of Los Angeles. Rushdoony had asked Burt to bring coins to sell. Burt did. He sold a lot of coins that day. Overnight, he became the largest volume coin dealer in the West Coast. There were not many non-collector coin buyers in 1965.
I had been brought in to speak, as I recall. I had been working with Rushdoony, on and off, since the summer of 1963. I was in graduate school.
Burt and I hit it off from the beginning. That was true of everyone who knew Burt, as far as I ever knew. He was truly gregarious. He was not a high-pressure salesman. He always had a new joke to tell. They were clean jokes. They weren't great jokes, but they were in endless supply.
He knew more about the day-to-day coin markets than anyone I ever met. He had no grandiose theory of why metals prices went down or up on any given day or month. But he believed that the Federal Reserve would eventually resort to inflation to keep the system going. He was amazed at the longevity of the fiat money system.
Burt became a fixture of the libertarian movement in the West Coast. Through his financial support of the Center for Libertarian Studies from the beginning in 1976, he was in contact with many young authors and scholars.
His segment of the movement was the non-Beltway segment. The libetarians who were not willing to spend time on questions of how to make the government less wasteful and more efficient were his sort of libetarians. The policy wonk libertarians traveled in other circles.
He was a well-read businessman. He was not one to parade his learning. He did have a knack for spotting what Leonard E. Read used to call leaks. A leak was a deviation from what Read called the freedom philosophy. Read's greatest praise was, "he doesn't leak." Burt Blumert did not leak.
He was content to stay in the background of the CLS, the Mises Institute, and Lew Rockwell.com. He was instrumental in all three, but you would not have known this unless you were close to these organizations. His money was important to these organizations in their formative years, but he did not throw his weight around. He was content with writing checks to keep the doors open.
I was never on any board with him, so I don't know how he handled himself. But from the way he did business, and the way he dealt with people of considerable intellect and strong opinions, I can guess. He offered a kind of homespun wisdom, or maybe New York garment district wisdom, with a libertarian slant. He had no ego problem, even though he was a significant figure in the libertarian movement. He rarely had a bad word to say about anyone, although he might have bad words to say about the figure's latest idea.
I knew his father, Max. Burt told me Max's philosophy of ownership. I have done my best to promote it as Max's law: "Buy the best. Pay cash. Take delivery." That law would have saved people a lot of money over the years, right down to Bernard Madoff's victims.
Burt was always a gentleman. He was always a friend. Those of us who knew him will miss him. The libertarian movement will get by without him only because he was there when it would not have gotten along very well without him. He saw it grow up. It is part of his legacy. Few people knew this at the time. He was not so anonymous as William Volker, "Mr. Anonymous," but he came close.