The E-Sylum:  Volume 7, Number 24, June 13, 2004, Article 12


  John Isles adds: "I found some interesting anecdotes about
  Melnick on the web.  I'm not sure I'd have liked to meet him.
  Can anybody point me to an obituary notice?

  Here's an account from the PCGS web site of rather
  questionable proceedings at a coin auction:

  "I recall one instance in which a well-known specialist
  desired to purchase a rare early American coin, but was
  afraid that if others in the audience saw him bid on it, they
  would bid slightly more and take it away from him - knowing
  that he had the best idea of anyone as to what it was truly
  worth. No comparable specimen had appeared on the
  market for years. And yet he did want to bid obviously, for
  he would be in the audience and others would expect him
  to bid.

  "He set up this arrangement: Taking a prominent seat in the
  audience, he told the auctioneer that he would put his hand
  in the air and would be bidding up to a certain level. If the
  competing bidders forced him to exceed that level, then his
  hand would come down, but Herbert Melnick, a well-known
  dealer (since deceased), would be bidding on his behalf, but
  no one would know this.  If Melnick bought the lot it was to
  be charged to our client's account.  The coin opened at a
  modest figure, and my client put his hand in the air, at the
  same time looking around to see who else was bidding. Five
  or six other hands were in the air at the same time. The
  bidding progressed, level by level, until our client and just
  two or three others were bidding, when at which time the
  client lowered his hand. Everyone except the auctioneer
  thought he had dropped out. Then Herbert Melnick raised
  his hand, and our client, not being a shy type of person, said
  so that all in the audience could hear: "The price is getting
  ridiculous - it's not worth that!" He was endeavoring to
  dissuade anyone from bidding much more. However, the
  competition continued, and finally Melnick bought the lot for
  a world's record price."

  Full Article

  [You could call this arrangement with Melnick "interesting"
  or "creative", but I think "questionable" is too harsh a word.
  From time immemorial prominent bidders have sought to
  avoid showing all their cards at public auction for just the
  reasons stated.  The bidder's theatrics were designed to
  distract the audience; although it may be seen as tacky,
  rude, childish or even pathetic by others, it's perfectly legal,
  and the special arrangements with Melnick and the auctioneer
  are not unusual - deep-pocketed clients can command such
  special treatment.

  What other auction tales can E-Sylum readers share with us?
  Is it true that once there was a bidder who took the opposite
  tack, taping his bidder paddle to the back wall of the auction
  room and walking out?  Apparently the idea was to discourage
  anyone from even THINKING of outbidding him on the lot.

  The next Melnick anecdote is found in an interview with
  John J. Ford, Jr. on the Heritage was site:

  "LEGACY: You were also privy to some of the goings-on at
  NASCA [Numismatic and Antiquarian Service Corporation
  of America] in the early years with Herb Melnick.

  FORD: I guess the play was named "Will Success Spoil Rock
  Hunter?" Well, in this case, "Success Spoiled Herb Melnick."
  Melnick changed from a fellow you could talk to, to someone
  who became increasingly aggressive, increasingly hostile. Even
  to the people who were trying to help him, he became hostile.
  Talk about arguments between me and Wormser, those were
  patty-cake sessions compared to the arguments between
  Melnick and Ball.  Douglas Ball is a mild-mannered, good-
  hearted, give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back type, and Melnick was
  the type that would go for your throat. When Herb still worked
  for Stanley Apfelbaum, I suggested to Doug Ball that he go in
  business with Melnick. I said, "He is a wolf, but he will protect
  you from the other wolves:" or something to that effect. But
  Melnick got out of hand. He became enamored with his own
  success. When their business hit ten million a year, he started
  to think he could walk on water. He started to take auction
  consignments with free buybacks and 90 percent advances. In
  a declining market or on material you don't know anything
  about, that can be very dangerous. He insisted on making all
  the decisions, and he started to run the company into the ground.
  In the process, he alienated me by telling me I didn't know what
  the hell I was talking about. And he started to alienate Ball.
  One day, Ball just got fed up, changed the locks on the doors,
  and threw Melnick out. It was Ball's father's money that kept
  the whole thing going. Then Melnick went into business for
  himself, and, as you know, it lasted about a year and a half
  before he died at the age of 39-which is rather young to die of
  a heart attack. I think that means he had a rather vociferous
  personality. But he was a guy with a lot of talent.  If it had been
  channeled in the right direction, he could have been a very
  successful fellow."

  Full Article

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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