He lived his whole life in Boston. He made his living first (1830) as a clerk, then as a merchant (until 1852), and eventually was appointed by President Franklin Pierce as an appraiser for the United States Customs Service (1852-1860).
He started his collecting activity with coins, and afterward turned his attention to shells, minerals, etc., and finally to books, autographs, manuscripts, portraits, and engravings relating to the United States, including continental money and the more recent issues of paper tokens. In 1840, he began a collection of bank notes. In 1857 he contributed articles to the Historical Magazine on U.S. coins and coinage, which were followed for several years by short articles on these subjects in Notes and Queries. He was one of the founders of the Boston Numismatic Society (1860), had been its curator, vice president, and president (1865-1891), and was one of the editors of the American Journal of Numismatics (1870-1891).
He founded the Prince Society (1858), was elected to the New England Historic Genealogical Society (1857), and was a founding member of the Boston Antiquarian Club (1879, later, 1881, the Bostonian Society).
His parents were Calvin Colburn and Caroline Sibyl Lakin. His grandfather served in the Continental Army. He married Eliza Ann Blackman in 1846.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Colburn, Jeremiah". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- "Profile of Jeremiah Colburn". Colburn Genealogy. Retrieved 12 April 2012. This article in turn cites:
- Biographies of Notable Americans, 1904
- Descendants of Edward Colburn∨Coburn, Sixth Generation, pp. 143–144.