Alan V. Weinberg submitted this review of George F. Kolbe's catalog of the Stack Family Library sale. Ray Williams also added some thoughts.
Yesterday I received George Kolbe's catalogue of the New York City January 9th auction of Stack's family library. I quite literally couldn't put it down, try as I did. I kept re-opening it and digesting what I read. Not the actual auction lot descriptive listings themselves but the extensive small print notes after many lots. Incredibly fascinating and a look into the numismatic world as it used to be. Bill Anton and Mike Hodder, among others, wrote personal, heart-felt reminiscences of Stack's and the numismatic world as we "oldtimers" fondly remember it. I was transported decades back to a world where slabs, registry sets and one point differences in grade were unknown and unimportant.
Or that Tom Elder, a dean of numismatic dealers, commented in public print, specifying multiple customers by name, that "these clients who do not pay their bills are no better than thieves and belong in state prison."
Or that the first auction appearance of the super-rare 1792 silver disme (not half disme) was by dealer Edward Cogan in 1864 where he admitted it had been tooled to remove scratches and now was in "very excellent condition".
There are only 3 silver dismes known. Eliminating the Norweb III 1988, lot 3390 specimen which had been extensively tooled, removing the entire 1792 date the other Parmelee lot 1 "VG burnished both sides to remove initials", the implication is that the Cogan 1864 "very excellent condition" piece is the Dr. J. Hewitt Judd-Don Partrick "L.I. Collection" coin which had "several scratches carefully removed".
Thus, all three known 1792 silver dismes are damaged and/or repaired! This was a revelation to a 1792 pattern collector like me who had hoped some day to acquire a nice one. And there are many hundreds of other fascinating tidbits of information.
Even if E-Sylum readers do not anticipate bidding on the auction lots, the reminiscences of Stack's operation and offices (with excellent Stack Family photographs) and the extensive lot notations are worth acquiring this superb Kolbe auction catalogue. It's how the hobby used to be and will never again be. It's why so many numismatic oldtimers love this "hobby of kings" and don't want to let go until they have to.
Ray Williams writes:
You probably get tired of hearing it but thank you for this wonderful online publication. I'm writing in response to Arnold Miniman's letter in the December 20th E-Sylum. I don't know the reasoning or the sequence of events leading to the current administration of Stack's in New York. It is interesting to note that there is no Stack at Stack's and no Bowers at Bowers & Merena, but there is a Bowers at Stack's. How corporations evolve is unique to each one.
I too enjoyed the reminiscing of Michael Hodder, Bill Anton and Scott Rubin in the Kolbe catalog. I learned a lot about the family history that I didn't know, and the Stack family name will go down in history among the other great dealers in our hobby.
I didn't know any of the Stack family personally - just a few experiences on the auction floor when I was able to attend in person. But Roger Moore and I had an opportunity to do some lot viewing privately (perhaps it was the O'Donnell sale) and Harvey Stack walked up to the counter and greeted us. We closed our catalogs and listened to him talking about his years in the hobby.
The numismatics of the 40s, 50s and 60s came to life for us. We didn't mind at all losing the 15-20 minutes of lot viewing time to hear what stories he had. I hope he does write a book someday so that these stories aren't lost forever, and I hope that Dave Bowers and Eric Newman will also write their numismatic autobiographies.
But regardless of the public face placed on Stack's, the same quality people are there doing what they have done in the past while implementing the technologies of the future. I can sort of relate in that many people have commented to me that I'm the public face of C4 and what an outstanding club it is. But regardless of how good-looking my face is, it is the membership, workers and volunteers that make C4 outstanding. The public faces will change, but the mindset of the club will not.
Take a look at a Stack's advertisement in any numismatic publication - the faces are different than in years past. But look at the people who do the work today - they're all the same as before the leadership change. I have no reason to doubt that the cataloging excellence, and personal attention, will remain the same or even improve.
Alan V. Weinberg adds:
Having visited Stack's quite often in the 1960's I can positively say that group photograph was in the first half of the 1960's, definitely not in the 1950's.
As long as we're nitpicking, I can make one addition to Scott Rubin's history of the company. George Cuhaj worked at Stack's from 1990-1994, between his tenure at the American Numismatic Society and his current position as editor of Krause's Standard Catalog of World Paper Money.
He worked in auction catalog production, and helped man the Coin Galleries counter. Have other prominent numismatists been left overlooked?
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