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ABE KOSOFF, SOL KAPLAN AND THE FRANKIE LAINE CAPER
A bit player in the previous item about Ted Naftzger was dealer Abe Kosoff. Alan V. Weinberg submitted the following item about Kosoff. He writes: "Here's a story I was told at the recent Baltimore coin show. It truly amazed me. It was told to me by a highly respected longtime numismatist who is not prone to exaggeration or tall tales." -EditorAbout 1962 California dealer Abe Kosoff, who established the Professional Numismatist Guild in 1955, bought Dr J. Hewitt Judd's U.S. coin collection including extraordinary rarities in the highest condition. The price was reportedly $280,000 and the purchase was financed by singer / numismatist Frankie Laine who was to share in the profits. Laine is famous for his "Lucky Ole Sun" classic, the Rawhide TV theme and the splendid theme that winds its way through the classic 1957 Kirk Douglas / Burt Lancaster movie, The Gunfight at OK Corral.
In 1962 Kosoff published An Illustrated History of United States Coins describing and picturing the Judd coins. But in fact it was a prospectus to sell the coins although prices were not printed as perhaps beneath "the dignity" of the collection...or maybe there was another motive.
Kosoff is reliably believed to have "sold" many of the coins to his close business associate Sol Kaplan in Cincinnati, Ohio and to have shown those invoices of sales to Laine as representing actual sales, when in fact Kaplan, at Kosoff's direction, resold the coins to selected big money collectors for prices considerably in excess of the prices shown to Laine.
Kosoff and Kaplan would then split the real proceeds between themselves. Indeed, the 1792 Wright copper quarter (unique in private hands) and the 1792 silver disme (unique as the only unimpaired specimen known) were each sold for $35,000 to a private collector in 1962 who still has them - a total of $70,000 for only two coins representing one-fourth of the total cost of the $280K collection. That same year an 1804 silver dollar sold for $28,000 in the Samuel Wolfson NYC auction which I attended.
Frankie Laine, the financier of the collection purchase, actually took a loss on his investment! This may have soured him on numismatics as I never saw him nor heard of him as being active in the hobby and I've been around quite a bit since 1962. Laine died last year, a very old and presumably much wiser man. Kosoff died in his early 70s.
As noted, one hears many stories in the numismatic hobby, and it's anyone's guess as to the true facts of the matter. Perhaps the tale is true. Or perhaps it was propagated by a jealous rival dealer and retold without verification. Regardless, the story provides a curious backdrop to Kosoff's 1962 book. I have a hardcover version in my library (pictured above), purchased from Dan Hamelberg in 1994. -Editor
Those of us of a slightly younger generation may know Frankie Laine as the singer of the title song in the 1974 Mel Brooks film "Blazing Saddles". In his obituaries it was noted that Laine was fooled by the producers of the film, who didn't tell him it was a satire. He sang his heart out in classic movie Western style, only later learning it was all a big joke. Or at least that's how the story goes.
It's kind of fitting in a film featuring an over-the-top army of thugs: "rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, *ss kickers, sh*t kickers and Methodists".
To learn Black Bart's reply after Lili Von Shtpp said "It's twue, it's twue!" (it was cut from the movie), see the Wikipedia Blazing Saddles entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blazing_Saddles -Editor
Wayne Homren, Editor
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