David Ganz forwarded this excerpt from his new book "Rare Coin Investing" (Krause):
"Eliasberg’s collection was magnificent, of that there is no doubt. But those who follow stories like this closely know that Eliasberg did not quite succeed in his task; one of them, evidently escaped. My notes say that when the family turned the collection over for auction by Bowers & Merena in the early eighties, he was one coin down: an 1866 no motto $20 gold piece.
The king of coins was by then deceased, his estate, or heir, offering the gold coin collection anonymously through Bowers & Merena, and from my perspective, there was a mystery to be solved of who was selling the Eliasberg coins without calling them such. The solution: first, Neil S. Berman sold the deficient coin to the estate. But this did not come out until years later.
One good thing about being a collector; you collect. I keep the old auction catalogues, cross-reference them with future (and past) catalogues. Well, five years after Eliasberg, Bowers & Merena is selling “The King of Siam” sale in New York on October 14, 1987.
I am reading the catalogue for lot 2043 for an 1866-S No motto $20 gold piece in EF-40 which is described as “finer” than the Eliasberg coin. There is a paragraph added in small type (it looks like six point type, but at the time, I could read it easily.
“When the cataloguer studied the Eliasberg Collection prior to presenting it at auction in 1982,” Bowers wrote, “it was discovered that the collection had no 1866- No Motto double eagle. Whether Louis Eliasberg overlooked the variety or whether he considered his collection complete because he had an 1866-S with motto is not known. However, in the interest of completeness the Eliasberg family purchased one through us, and we acquired it from dealer Neil Berman. So as a footnote to numismatic history, the Eliasberg Collection was “completed” in 1982 with Neil Berman furnishing the missing piece!”
Eliasberg was born in 1896 in Selma, Alabama and lived a full life into the bicentennial year of 1976. He moved to Baltimore around 1907 and according to his son, Richard, in 1925 he began to collect “methodically”, and starting the following year, began to buy systematically from the leading dealers of the day. He recorded his purchases in Ben Green’s “The Numismatists’ Reference and Checkbook”, where many familiar names (or initials) appear: “BB” for Barney Bluestone, “Gut” for the Guttag brothers, “HC” for Henry Chapman, “MM” for B. Max ...
Dick Doty adds:
Louis Eliasberg, in my opinion, was an anal retentive, and I doubt he knew squat about any given coin, except whether he had or didn't have it.
Harvey Stack writes:
I enjoyed reading about Louis E. Eliasberg and his collection.
As you know Stack's, when under the management of the two Stack
Seniors, Morton Stack (my father), and Joseph B. Stack (my uncle),
acquired the John H. Clapp collection in late 1940 and sold it intact to Louis E. Eliasberg in 1941. Clapp was a banker in Washington, D.C.
The collection was virtually complete at the time, but ended in 1940.
The goal set by Eliasberg was to complete it (in as much that the Clapp Collection lacked certain coins) and for many years he sought after the missing pieces and finally got the 1873-CC Without Arrows Dime to complete U.S. Mint the date and mint series.
It is true Eliasberg liked to try to find the later dates of U.S. Coins
in change, but did acquire some of those late issues in Mint State from Stacks.
In 1949 Eliasberg decided to dispose of his duplicates - some from his original collection, as well as the duplicates from the Clapp Collection. He made some of the selections himself with the help of Doris Everding, his secretary. We always believed he was not always careful in his selection. When Stack's sold the duplicates in 1949, the collection was sold at auction under the name of H.R.LEE COLLECTION.
The name had a special meaning to him, H.R.(the maiden initials of his wife Hortense) and the LEE (was for his initials Louis E. Eliasberg) This was his way of not making it evident that HE was selling anything !
Many of the missing issues (not rarities, as he already had virtually all of them ) were supplied by Stack's, at his request. In addition, as Harry Forman, of Philadelphia, dealt in late issues, singles and rolls, Harry supplied a portion of these, to keep the collection up to date.
Thanks for your comments, everyone. Who else but Harvey Stack could provide some of these details for us? I never knew that about the H.R. Lee consignment.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
MORE ON THE LOUIS ELIASBERG COLLECTION
Wayne Homren, Editor
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