The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 42, October 21, 2007, Article 5


Alan V. Weinberg writes: "Wow! I've just last night
returned from the final two catalogued and scheduled
John J Ford, Jr. Stack's auctions in New York in the
penthouse of the Le Parker-Meridien Hotel across 57th
Street from Stack's offices.

"These sales have continued since October 2003. It seems
like just yesterday that an enthusiastic Larry Stack called
me and others to announce the coup. Ford had personally
told me many times that his collection would not come up
for auction for 20 years after he died. So much for the
plans of mice and men.

"These two final sales were a fitting close to this
historic four-year offering. The audience in the penthouse,
with a full view of Central Park and the New York skyline,
was enthusiastic and largely filled. For the first time,
everyone had a table top. Some of the active attendees
and bidders were Bill Anton, Tony Terranova, Russell
Augustin, Don Kagin, Fred Holabird, John Kraljevich, Ron
Karp, John Dannreuther, Martin Paul, Scott Rubin and
private collectors unknown to me. And of course master
cataloguer Mike Hodder, one of the two men singularly
responsible for the Ford sales being so successful and
historic - the other being Larry Stack.

"The phone bank was very active with many phone bidders
being quite successful in their pursuits. A phone bidder
may be at some distance or may be nearby in his hotel room,
not wishing his prospective competitors to know who's
bidding. Additionally, Larry Stack and Bruce Hagen handled
a dozen or more selected clients' "floor bids" and cell
phone bids which were bid aggressively and successfully.

"There was some pre-sale speculation about part XXI (the
Ingot sale) not being successful due to the controversial
nature of many ingots and their Paul Franklin provenance.
So it was something of a surprise to watch this vigorously
contested auction succeed with every lot selling for record
prices. A dated Wiegand $20 gold ingot for $87,500 hammer
to Don Kagin, a unique Meyers gold $18 ingot for $75K hammer
to bidder 890 underbid by Tony Terranova, and so many
others in the $20K- $30K range.

"I know little of obsolete paper currency but there were
certainly more than a few knowledgeable bidders for this
group with the California Salt Lake Mail Line $50 at $32,500
hammer to agent Bruce Hagan bidding for phone bidder 174, a
Utah Territory currency copper plate hammering for $24K to
phone bidder 429 and an interesting Brother Jonathan Steamship
cabin ticket for $3,500 hammer to Fred Holabird underbid by
John Kraljevich. Bill Anton, Kagin-Holabird, Ron Karp and
Tony Terranova dominated the obsolete currency and paper
ephemera among physically present floor bidders but the
phone bidders were hugely successful too.

"The tokens, medals and Pioneer gold patterns really opened
one's eyes. Standing out as undoubtedly the most unusual
and aesthetically-pleasing item in the entire Ford collection
was the gold nugget -encrusted hand-constructed 1850 San
Francisco gold Alderman's medal which sold for a total
$316,250 to Tony Terranova for a client, Larry Stack for
himself, the underbidder. (JJF's favorite two medals were
his silver John Jacob Astor Indian Peace Medal and this
Alderman's medal )

This was the third highest auction price ever realized
for an American medal, surpassed only by the Stack's-sold
gold Zachary Taylor Congressional gold medal at $460K
total two years ago and the Saint-Gaudens 1889 Centennial
George Washington Inauguration medal in gold at $391K.
The three 1850's Committee of Vigilance silver medals all
sold to Don Kagin for $31,625 and $25,300 for the last
two medals. It was only a few years ago that Kagin sold
one for $7,500 to a California dealer!

"But there were some literally laughable auction results
too - in a 'what were they thinking?' fashion : a set of
three 1969-struck Empire City Mine fantasy tokens for $1,300
hammer, a set of three J.J. Conway restrike denominations,
struck in 1956 and quite common on eBay, for (gasp!) $4,000
hammer. And to cap this off, how about two Unc specimens
of the extremely common  1849 Liberty Head / kneeling miner
brass game counters (I've seen 500 if I've seen 1) for $650
and $750 hammer to Kagin and Karp. What were the bidders

"Mid-way, Stack's set up a sumptuous Greek food buffet,
thoughtful since the auction commenced at 5 PM and would
go on into the late night. Could the influence of Christine
Karstadt and American Numismatic Rarities have something
to do with this? Yup.

"At the conclusion of the two Ford sales parts XX and XXI,
Larry Stack and Mike Hodder bear-hugged each other in the
auction room, clearly overjoyed that all their blood,
sweat and tears resulted in magnificent results. It was
more than just a higher gross. It was a vindication of
the cataloguing effort, the sales and publicity effort,
and a fitting final salute to a man they both knew very
well - John Ford. Ford would have been proud.

[I understand that four members of the Ford family attended
the sale.  So it seems the market has spoken - the assay
ingots, several of which had been in question, sold for
record amounts.   Skeptics may well note that it only takes
two fools to create a record price, but that can be said
of any auction.  The high prices paid for relatively common
pieces described by Alan could be cited as evidence of the
presence of fools among the bidders, yet this phenomenon
is not uncommon in big-name collection sales, where bidders
have been known to overpay as a premium for the name.

Since the beginning of The Great Debate over assay bars it's
been clear that the controversy has long legs.  The questions
initially raised many years ago will continue to be debated
into the future; this sale is only the latest episode in a
long saga.   It will be interesting to see how events unfold
from here.

I look forward to purchasing the remaining hardbound
versions of the Ford sale catalogs to complete my set.
Despite the controversies and mysteriously missing items
the sales remain a landmark record of a legendary
never-to-be-seen again collection.  They are a core holding
of an American numismatic library and I expect the set will
remain in high demand for generations.  Congratulations to
Mike Hodder and Stack's for a job well done.  -Editor]

Alan adds: "Steve Tanenbaum advises me that the remaining
unsold Ford collection segments detailed in last week's
E-Sylum should also include one of the finest collections
of early Canadian Breton tokens and Donald C. Miller-listed
storecard tokens.

"Additionally, there was an error last week splitting a
paragraph and leaving it open to interpretation. Accurately,
it should list as still unsold the finest collection of
pseudo-Low Hard Times tokens (documented Hard Times tokens
but unlisted in the original Lyman Low listing) which
surpasses in value Ford's Hard Times tokens which were
auctioned in Chicago."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

Google Web
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization 
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor 
at this address:

To subscribe go to:
Copyright © 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.



Copyright © 1998 - 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster