Harlan Berk was born in 1942 in Joliet, IL and attended the University of Illinois from 1959 to 1964, where among other things, he wrote play reviews for the Daily Illini; his night editor was noted film critic Roger Ebert. In 1962, one of his sculptures was exhibited in the University's Krannert Art Museum. He has founded two companies: Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. (1964), where he serves as president and employs 22 at the downtown Chicago facility on 31 N. Clark St., and Gemini Numismatic Auctions (2003), which holds one large annual auction at the New York International Show in January.
Harlan has written three books: 100 Greatest Ancient Coins, published by Whitman and winner of the NLG Best World Book Award in 2008; Roman Gold Coins of The Medieval World, 1986, which won the Friedberg Award in 1987; and Eastern Roman Successors to the Sestertii, 1986. He also wrote the first 81-page section on Greek and Roman gold coins for the sixth edition of Gold coins of the World, published by Arthur Friedberg in 1991. He has authored more than 100 articles on ancient coins, one of which is incorporated into Wolfgang Hahn's standard work on byzantine coins Mometa Imperii Byzantini Volume III., published in 1981. He also wrote the first and only definitive work on the coinage of Creosus, 565-546 BC, which was originally written in the 1990's but is revised and republished in the 100 Greatest Ancient Coins volume.
Harlan has won five literary awards, the PNG Founders, Lifetime Achievement and Significant Achievement awards. He has held all PNG offices including President, and has also been awarded the ANA President's and Glenn Smedley awards. In 1996, he and Tom DeLorey won the ANA's World Series of Numismatics. A Fellow in the American Numismatic Society, Harlan also organized, hosted and spoke at a National Symposium on coins titled, "The Science of Numismatics." He has been a contributing editor for The Numismatist for over 20 years.
An avid art collector, Harlan has acquired 165 paintings, comprising the finest known collection of Chicago Modernism in existence. He is currently working on a collection of 17th century Dutch, and 14th-16th century German paintings as well as Neolithic Idols of Europe, 6800-2300 BC. Although one of the hobby's foremost ancient coin experts, he does not collect coins because, as a numismatic professional, he wants to ensure that his clients always have the best and first choice of valuable numismatic material.
Harlan is the current chairman of the Ancient Coin Project and has donated ancient coins for the project since its inception.