An E-Sylum reader forwarded this article from the Reno Gazette-Journal about numismatic author Fred Holabird.
As a California college student in the 1970s, Fred Holabird would run in the mountains near Eureka, Calif., and see people digging up bottles from the 1800s.
"I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever head of," Holabird said. "And they were worth money, which was even more ridiculous." But it was one of the things that put Holabird on a path for a career selling antiques and Americana, in conjunction with a career in mining.
His interest in history also led to the discovery of some of the most important Gold Rush-era documents found in the last generation, such as letters from brothers Hosea and Ethan Allen Grosh were acquired last year by the Nevada Historical Society.
Former Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha is a Holabird fan. "He's not only had an impact on Nevada, but also on the region and maybe on the nation, with some of his salvage work," Rocha said. "I don't know of anybody like him in this state in the private sector who has done more to further Nevada's heritage. ... "What I would say first and foremost about Fred is how he has cared about Nevada and has not put profit before this."
Interest in history and collecting runs deep in the Holabird family. His great-grandfather collected books with railroad magnate Henry Huntington, who founded the Huntington Library in 1919. His family also has a tradition of studying history. But he also liked rocks. That led to him studying geology at Humboldt State University, earning his bachelor's degree in 1976.
In following his mining passion, he ended up managing two open pit gold mines, the Gold Bar at Beatty and Flowery at Virginia City. When the mining business was ebbing, he focused more on the collecting side. He wrote books including "The Nevada Bottle Book," which put stories about the bottles with pictures. Holabird said he figured people wanted more than just listings. There's also "Pioneer Minor Coinage of American Saloons," a guide to collecting saloon tokens. And in 1983, he started a business involving historical American items.
Rocha has noted Holabird's efforts on the Grosh letters and other projects. "What strikes me about Fred in this world of dealership and antiquities and documents, he has a stellar reputation," Rocha said. "I'm always somewhat jaundiced about some of these people who are dealers because some of them are less than credible. But Fred, in making a livelihood in this business, he has always thought about what is best for Nevada.
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Wayne Homren, Editor
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