Despite the (unfounded) impression of spiteful competition left by last week's Gossip Column item about New York coin dealers, the truth (as always) is more complicated. In fact, it is true in New York (and many other cities was well), that dealers cooperate a great deal (and often have fun in the process, as Harvey Stack's article about Abner Kreisberg's practical joke showed).
I asked Harvey Stack for his thoughts on the history of cooperation among coin dealers in New York. Here's his essay on "How New York Became the Coin Capital of the World".
When one reviews history of the growth of numismatics in America, it can be
found that Coin Collecting, the hobby, started to grow in size in the Northeast States, from Maine to Virginia, after the Civil War was over.
Some great collections were developed by the famous Adams Family, the Garrett family and other great collectors. Though they each had a profound interest in Colonial and early American Coins, their proximity to the Mint in Philadelphia gave them a great source to develop their collections.
The main cities that had some collectors and some dealers to service them were New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Dealerships started and grew with the issuance of price lists and some occasional auction sales. Some important clubs and societies were established, which attracted collectors to their meetings. However growth, by the time of the Depression period in the 1930's growth of the hobby slowed to a snail pace.
With the advance of the price of gold from $20.67 to $35.00 in 1933, a small industry started to grow. Gold coins received greater recognition and people sold them as well as other gold items they possessed just to get by. There was always someone there to convert the items to cash.
It was in this environment that the Stack Family went strictly into the coin business and left their other forms of business aside, which included Postage Stamps, antiques and anything else that they could buy and sell. After all, during the depression there usually weren't extra funds to help other collecting fields stay alive.
There seemed to be a concentration of dealers in the New York area. After all, the city was known for its jewelry trade and it was much easier for them to go to the coins, which mostly were of precious metal, than some other field.
Some dealers were already in the field. Wayte Raymond, F.C.C BOYD, McAllister, John Zug, Tom Elder, Barney Bluestone, Henry Chapman, David Proskey, to mention but a few, together with the great promoter and super advertiser of the time, B. Max Mehl of Ft. Worth Texas.
However, as many of the known collectors of the period lived and worked in New York, it was easy to see how the dealerships grew.
New York offered a good group of dealers, the most important American Numismatic Society, the New York Numismatic Club, as well as the Bronx and Brooklyn Clubs, the developing Chase Money Museum, plus a number of the other museums who had coins as part of their displays. These all attracted collectors to the City and it became a "hub" for numismatics.
The Stack Family developed a different type of showcase for their coins. They introduced sit-down counters, a group of experts to guide collectors and a numismatic library that collectors could use for learning more about their collections.
It was this atmosphere which attracted both small and large collectors to the first Stack offices at 690 Sixth Avenue. This was near 23rd Street where commerce was growing quickly. Within a short period other dealers opened their offices in the vicinity of the Stack shop. But most did not have a walk-in shop from the street with a warm sit-down enviorment for collectors to review coins, but rather upstairs offices which were generally small and not always inviting.
By 1942, with the subway being built on 6th Avenue, the Stack family moved its location to West 46th Street, and within the next decade created a new center for collectors. The shop and offices became a club house for coin collectors whenever they visited New York.
By the time Stack's moved to West 57th Street in 1953, they had about them a circle of dealers, which included such names as Wayte Raymond, New Netherlands Coin Co., with Charles Wormser at the Helm (he was Moritz Wormser's son), Hans M.F. Schulman, Royal Athena Galleries, Max Kaplan, Tom Wass, and sometime later Lester Merkin. Also, before moving to California Abe Kosoff and Abner Kreisberg opened Numismatic Galleries near by. These dealers surrounded the area of the Stack location, all hoping to share in the attraction that the Stack offices provided.
In addition, by 1953, the City boasted having at least a dozen active coin clubs, whose members were the 'Who's Who' of the time, and whose collections were bought and sold in New York. The numismatic clubs of New York grew to such importance nation- wide that they, jointly, created the New York
Numismatic Convention, which was held annually for well over a decade.
Many of the auctioneers who sold collections for clients used New York as its place to sell. It was located in an area where many collectors lived, and was easily reached from Boston, Hartford, the five New York Boroughs, the affluent Westchester County, all points of Connecticut, New Jersey, as well as Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore and all the other main collecting cities.
During the Stack Family tenure in New York, they alone had over 800 public Auctions and attracted hundreds if not thousands of collectors to the
City. Many other companies added to that figure, and more Public Coin Auctions were conducted in New York than any other city in the world.
It is obvious from the above why out-of-town dealerships tried to establish themselves in the "Big City". It was a natural center of numismatics. Just recently the well known firm of Heritage opened a shop just a few blocks away from the "Stack Club House" with the expectation of growing within the city.
Just for the record, they are not the First Texans to try to grow in New York. In the 1930's B. Max Mehl of Texas, came to New York to partner with Wayte Raymond, but found he couldn't make it in New York and returned to
Ft. Worth to continue his most exciting coin dealership. He conducted Mail Bid Auctions from Ft. Worth and sadly never returned to New York.
It is with sincere hope that Heritage Galleries can succeed.
Now you know why NEW YORK is the "Coin Capitol of the World" !
The dealers I mentioned in my essay usually helped each
other out by not running a conflicting sale on the same day, supporting
the others' sales by bidding for clients, sharing deals they couldn't
handle themselves and joining into the fun in the Stack showroom when
they had some time to relax.
A perfect example of cooperation was Hans M.F. Schulman, who got King Farouk as a personal account and sold to him many of the special coins the Stack family assembled. Conversely, when we had the job of building the J.K.Lilly collection from 1951-1967, Hans, while traveling the world, would help us locate and acquire many of the foreign gold coins for the collection, which is now housed in the Smithsonian.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NUMISMATIC GOSSIP: MANLEY HOME, NEW YORK SHOWDOWN
THE BOOK BAZARRE
NOVEMBER 18, 2010 AUCTION SALE
A Diverse Selection of Interesting and Elusive Works on Ancient,
Medieval and Modern Numismatics
Particularly Rich in Numismata Americana
Catalogue Available at Our Web Site: www.numislit.com
Printed Catalogues $10.00
KOLBE & FANNING NUMISMATIC BOOKSELLERS
141 W JOHNSTOWN ROAD, GAHANNA OH 43230-2700
(614) 414-0855 •
Wayne Homren, Editor
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