LITTLETON, N.H. -- Maynard Sundman, founder of the Littleton Coin Co., died Wednesday of natural causes at 92.
Sundman was introduced to the hobby of stamp collecting by a friend in grade school in Bristol, Conn., and turned that passion into a lifelong hobby and business, launching what became Littleton Coin Company after returning from World War II in the U.S. Army.
News of Sundman's death saw "many dazed people, and a lot of tears," on the floor of the Littleton Coin Company, said longtime employee and friend Edward Hennessey.
Littleton Coin Company, under Sundman's watchful eye, became one of Littleton's premiere employers.
Hennessey, the corporate treasurer for the Littleton Coin Company, said he first became Sundman's accountant in 1970, when he was working for a certified public accounting firm.
After serving as Sundman's CPA for 11 years, he came to work as the corporate treasurer for the Littleton Coin Company.
Hennessey, whose son, John, also works at the coin company, said Sundman will never be forgotten at the firm that is the legacy of his life's work, nor throughout the North Country, where his generosity was instrumental in many charitable organizations, including the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation - North Country Region.
Hennessey said the scholarship fund established by Sundman in the memory of his first wife, Fannie, for students from Littleton High School continues to be the most well-endowed, generous scholarship the high school holds.
Until very recently, Sundman had continued to come to work at the coin company almost daily. "He worked for 911/2 of his 92 years," said Hennessey. "He'd been suffering from congestive heart failure, so he had stopped driving about three or four months ago."
Hennessey said while Sundman's vision for stamp and coin collecting and his belief it could be a profitable business was legendary, he will remember him more so for his personal character.
"The biggest thing to me, was that he was just a very caring, very generous human being," Hennessey said. "From a business standpoint, he had a simple philosophy - if you're not going to do it right, don't even do it. I have a lot of fond memories of Maynard. He was a very trusting, good human being."
Sundman's business had initially begun as a stamp company, and later the Littleton company was split off to focus on coins, while the stamp operation became its own related company.
"He was in his 90s, but we still wanted him more," said Kathleen Hennebury, administration assistant to the Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce. "The thing about him and his generation was that he was always giving back, how could he do more for the community, how could he do more for his employees. It is definitely a loss for the community. He was such a good soul."
Sundman was born on Oct. 17, 1915, and was the only child of Frederick William Sundman and Floy Rae Maynard. He graduated from Bristol High School, Class of 1935, and began his first postage stamps business in Bristol the year he finished high school. He married Fannie Kasper of Terryville in 1941, and on returning from service in the Fifth Army in North Africa and Italy, he returned to Connecticut in the fall of 1945, and he and Fannie moved to Littleton.
Hennessey said while in the war, Sundman met a gentleman from Lancaster, N.H., who suggested he investigate the North Country of New Hampshire for his business when the war was over, and Sundman assigned his wife to check out the area. She fell in love with Littleton, and was impressed with the community's oversized post office, since everything the growing business would need would have to be shipped, Hennessey recalled on Thursday when reminiscing about the story of how Littleton Coin Co. came to be here.
The business at first was the Littleton Stamp Company, and later, it became the Littleton Coin Company. The couple was married until 1993, when Fannie died. Maynard and Fannie raised three sons - David M. Sundman, Frederick W. Sundman and Donald J. Sundman. David Sundman today runs the coin company.
On Oct. 15, 1994, Maynard Sundman married Dorothy Joslin of Littleton.
"Until recently, Dad came to work nearly every day here at Littleton Coin," said David Sundman. "He used his trusty 1948 Royal manual typewriter to answer correspondence from friends and collectors around the country."
The company's news statement about Sundman's death said it was Sundman's friend, Billy Potter, who "invited him to see his colorful stamp collection that his grandfather had given him. Maynard was amazed by these bits of paper from all over the world. He resolved to collect one stamp of every country, knowing his father would think that a reasonable goal."
"When the stamps arrived in the mail, he'd bring them to school to share his excitement. In a short time, he dropped his collecting goal and began selling stamps to his grade school classmates. By high school, his dream was to become a full-time stamp dealer."
The family's history of Sundman's life noted that Sundman would work at his Swedish grandparents' small farm in nearby Newington, Conn. "Later he would use money raised from that activity combined with proceeds from trapping muskrats and magazine subscription sales to invest $200 in the stock market. He doubled his money in six months. He used the proceeds to found his first stamp collecting business in the spring of 1935, from his parents' kitchen table in Bristol, Conn."
The stamp company's first home was a one-room office in Tilton's Opera Block on Littleton's Main Street. The Sundmans lived in a small apartment above the A & P Store, across from the post office. "Once customer orders began to arrive, it was Maynard's daily routine to walk across the street to the post office to pick up the daily mail and carry it in a shoebox a few blocks down the street to the office," the family stated. "Today the mail for Littleton Coin Company arrives daily by the thousands in large trucks, and is the largest postal customer in northern New Hampshire."
Sundman offered customers the merchandise "on approval," to give them a chance to inspect the stamps at home before purchasing them," the family reported. "Later Sundman diversified from serving stamp collectors into marketing coins to coin collections. In 1974, he purchased Mystic Stamp Company of Camden, N.Y."
"His motto could have been 'In Customers We Trust,' because over the years, he sent hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stamps and coins to clients on approval," recalled another son, Donald Sundman, the president of Mystic Stamp Company, now one of the world's largest stamp collecting businesses, employing 175 employees and still located in Camden.
Today, Sundman's Littleton Coin Company employs 350.
Between the two companies, some three million orders each year are fulfilled for stamp and coin collecting customers. In 1995, a book about Sundman had been published called, "A Decent Boldness: The Life Achievement of Maynard Sundman at Littleton Stamp & Coin Company."
Hennessey said Sundman's belief was to "hire talented people. It was always his philosophy to hire people who know things that you don't. He gave a lot of responsibility and a lot of leeway to people who have worked here."
"My fondest memories of Maynard are personal. He created wonderful opportunities for an awful lot of people, but the real memories are of a personal nature. He had a great life. It's sad, but at the same time, he had a great life - he enjoyed two wives that he loved very much, Dorothy and Fannie, and his whole family."
In August, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch was in Littleton visiting, and he spent about an hour at the Littleton Coin Company, and was personally greeted by Sundman.
The plant, located in the Littleton Industrial Park, has expanded several times and occupies an 85,000 square foot facility.
Sundman had been a longtime member of the First Congregational Church of Littleton-United Church of Christ. In addition to being an early incorporator and supporter of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation - North Country Region, Sundman was a contributor to many charities, including The Mayhew Program of Bristol, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center North in St. Johnsbury. In 1993, he and Fannie had been named the Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce's Citizens of the Year.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized at this time.