An article by coin dealer
John S. McQueen discusses his 1978 Miami Beach coin auction.
We've had some recent articles about auctions, so I thought I'd include this one. The coins aren't especially notable form a researcher's perspective, but it's an interesting story nonetheless.
One of my customers was a distributor of petroleum products from Nebraska. He would just phone me and say, "John, send me $10,000 worth of silver dollars," or "$15,000 in gold," or "$5,000 in Walking halves." I would choose excellent material and send it off and his check would come by return mail.
As soon as I returned to my office in West Milton, I phoned the gentleman. I said, "Joe [not his real name], you have been buying coins for some time. The market has made a good rise. If I get an auction in Miami Beach, would you sell your coins?" He answered in the affirmative.
I called a man in Cincinnati whom I knew had a major collection. He too said he would consign. It seemed obvious that I would be able to get sufficient material to produce a most satisfactory auction, so I contacted the people in Florida and we were a go.
I called the man in Nebraska to set up an appointment to pick up his collection. I indicated that it would need to be a time convenient to his bank. He said, "Oh no. It's all at home." Sounded extremely risky to me. I asked how much I should insure it for and he hesitated, then said, "Oh about $100,000." I responded that I was certain he was far off the mark. I knew what he had purchased from me and knew that he had bought coins from others. I told him I would insure it for $250,000.
I hired a private detective to go with me and we went out. I knew the man was obviously wealthy, so expected to find a grand house. We found the address given and to say I was surprised would be an understatement. It was a small bungalow overshadowed by huge trees and covered almost completely with ivy.
The owner started pulling coins out of closets, from under beds, from drawers, from everywhere. He said that he had bought two $1,000 bags of silver dollars from the government that he had hidden so well he could not find them yet.
He took me to one room that was completely empty. He told me that he had just sold half a million dollars' worth of guns, which had been stored in that room. He had $750,000 worth of guns and coins in his house without even a safe. The coins alone in today's market would be worth about $4.5 million.
Perhaps the reader would be interested in some of the material in the 1978 sale.
There were 115 $20 gold pieces, all from the man in Nebraska. He had paid $50 each for about half of them and $55 for the rest. Can you imagine buying a roll of double eagles today for $1,000? In the sale they averaged $315 each. That would be 600 percent profit in about five years. Talk about buying low and selling high. His collection ended up netting him almost exactly the $250,000 for which I had insured it.
There was a 1908 proof set, which brought $1,375. It would probably bring $5,000 today.
There were two complete sets of Walking Liberty proof sets from 1936 through 1942. One brought $5,900, the other, $6,100. The 1936 set alone today would sell for more than that. There were three other 1936 sets. Do you know of any other auction that has ever had five 1936 sets?
To read the complete article, see:
Memorable auction still astounding
Wayne Homren, Editor
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