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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 5, February 3, 2008, Article 6

CATALOGUE REVIEW: HERITAGE WALT HUSAK EARLY LARGE CENT SALE

[Alan V. Weinberg submitted the following review of the
catalogue for Heritage's February 14-16, 2008 sale of the
Walt Husak large cent collection.  -Editor]

I've known Walt for a decade or more and often visited his
Burbank, CA aviation parts mfg firm (co-owned by fellow
numismatist Terry Brenner who caught the numismatic "fever"
while looking over our shoulders) to examine his cents "raw"
and photograph both his and my numismatic treasures. Walt's
enthusiasm for the hobby never waned and his office was always
strewn with numismatic publications with framed large cent
pictures on the walls.

It was with some surprise that last June Walt told me his
large cent collection was going up for Heritage auction. Why?
Well, Walt admitted he'd "hit a wall", could not add the three
early large cents he still needed (one of which I owned, the
1795 Jefferson Head cent), and had just bought an expensive
multi-acre ranch in Santa Ynez, Ca (near where Michael Jackson
lives, for you "foreigners"). Walt had chosen Heritage over
McCawley Grellman/Goldbergs and Stack's. An interesting choice
of auction house and not one based solely on financial persuasion.

The choice was apparently wise. Not only did Heritage get
PCGS to design and develop a new type of clear slab just for
the Husak coppers but one with 3 prongs holding the cent steady
so that the rims and edge legends, so important to copper
collectors, could be easily seen. As with most early copper
collectors, Walt preferred his cents "raw" and examined on the
tips on one's fingers but the wisdom of slabbing them prior to
public auction cannot be disputed. I will do the same when the
time comes.

Aside from that, Heritage took the entire coppers collection
early on to publicly exhibit and make available for examination
at several major U.S. shows since last summer. And, best of all,
Heritage chose perhaps the two most qualified large cent people
to catalogue the collection - their own Mark Borckardt and Denis
Loring, who personally knew Dr. William H. Sheldon, the large
cent "godfather".

The two of them have succeeded in producing a large cent
catalogue for the ages, one that may well win the award in
2008 for the finest numismatic auction catalogue, a field
previously dominated by Stack's. It is a catalogue dedicated
solely to Walt's large cents 1793-1814 with each and every
coin having at least its own full page, often two pages or
more, with obverse and reverse greatly enlarged - my sole
criticism is that I feel the plates are a bit dark and could
have been done better as I have Walt's own photos of the same
coins on disk and they are bright and reflective.

Each cent is meticulously described as to condition - there
are four conditions given : the slab grade, Del Bland's opinion,
Bill Noyes' opinion, and the two cataloguers'  joint opinion
of EAC grade. Surprisingly, given the propensity for the
slabbers to grossly overgrade early coppers often by 10 or
15 points, the differences in opinion are not substantial. I
n this catalogue, the slab grade almost always exceeds the
other three grades by 3 - 5 points ( although there is one
lot with a 20 point grade difference! ) and Bland -Noyes and
Borckardt/Loring's opinions are most often very close, within
3 to  5 grading points - a very surprising and welcome
development.

Descriptions of surfaces, color, and defects/problems are
given without any "soft-soaping" or use of euphemisms so
often seen in auction catalogues - another delightful feature.
The latest condition census (6 finest known pieces) for each
cent is given along with a detailed, often lengthy but
all-so-important pedigree list of prior collector ownership.
Pedigree is so important to early copper collectors, not
because the coin's legitimacy might be questioned but because
condition census is so important and the fact that a copper
once belonged to Beckwith,  Mickley,  Bushnell, Sheldon,
Naftzger, etc. actually adds to a coin's appeal and value.

And for the first time in any numismatic catalogue I've ever
seen, at the end of each cent's narrative, the cataloguers
give a historical background for one of the cent's early owners,
making the pedigree information "come alive" for the reader.
Here we learn of obscure decades-ago cent collectors unknown
to the general numismatic public. And, the catalogue has a
first for a picture of a consignor - Walt and his wife sitting
atop a trumpeting Indian elephant in the middle of an Asian
jungle! Not your standard back-lighted studio consignor
picture!

So it would appear Walt Husak chose his auctioneer wisely
as Heritage has apparently recognized the opportunity to
make large cent history and perhaps lure away future copper
collectors from the standard auctioneers they'd previously
chosen. One can argue that the "wrong" Coast was chosen to
sell such a large cent collection. Or the wrong coin show
- Long Beach. Perhaps even the wrong time - with recession
bearing down on us.

But the catalogue quality, the offering of the finest early
large cent collection ever sold at public auction (yes,
this is true) and the 300,000 plus bidding customer book
of Heritage will likely combine to produce a record-setting
sale with astonishing prices. And, yes, the Registry
Collection bidders and their reps will be there, plaguing
the serious copper collectors. But whether you buy anything
or just attend, this will be one heck of an experience.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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