Joel Orosz writes:
Vol 14, No 24, June 12, 2011, "John Dannreuther on Harry Bass"
You have to enjoy the article when one great numismatist writes about another.
Harry Bass was a man whose passion was United States gold coins. Starting in 1966, he began assembling a gold coin collection that would eventually include over 6,000 coins. Not only did he collect by date and mintmark, he collected by die variety and die state! Besides being the most complete die-variety and die-state collection of United States gold coins ever assembled, Harry's collection is also the finest-condition set of all time!
Harry Bass also had an incredible numismatic library. (This treasure also is part of the Foundation.) He often bought entire collections to obtain one book he desired. His duplicate books and catalogs were sold by noted bibliophile George Fredrick Kolbe, who had to break the 50 plus boxes into four separate sales.
I did not know Mr. Bass as well as I wished. Most of his coin buying took place in the 1960s and 1970s; however, I do have one Harry Bass story of note. When the Eliasberg gold coins were sold in 1982 by Bowers and Ruddy, the collection was not directly identified as such. It was called The United States Gold Coin Collection. It was not really a secret to most numismatists whose collection was being sold (the collection had been on display several times, including the Philadelphia Mint during the bicentennial celebration in 1976).
I had the good fortune to be seated next to Harry Bass for two days of lot viewing for this event. Mr. Bass brought a great deal of his coin collection to New York City for this auction. He would examine a lot in the auction, then pull out his coin and compare the two. I initially thought he was looking for coins that were upgrades to his examples, but I soon realized he was comparing die varieties and die states! Although I had not written anything on die varieties at the time, I was interested in them and Harry soon realized this.
Mr. Bass always shared information and was, on occasion, a practical joker. We were discussing the 1854 Dahlonega three-dollar issue and I made a comment about how rare the coin is with full denticles. Harry said that he would bring his three-dollar collection the next day and he had one to show me.
The next morning, I took my seat at viewing and started examining more coins. At some point, Harry said, "Oh, here's the 1854-D three-dollar coin we discussed." He handed me a nice Uncirculated coin that had almost no denticles! Not wanting to offend one of the greatest collectors of all time, I smiled and made some small talk about what a nice specimen he had of this elusive date. Harry started laughing and then handed me another coin – the correct one this time with full denticles, although not in as nice condition. We both laughed and I realized I had seen the humorous side to Harry as well as his choice Uncirculated 1854-D. Sorry about the digression, but I love to tell that story.
I wish I could take credit for this one - it originally appeared on the PCGS site. But these types of personal recollections are important records of numismatic history, and I try to include them in The E-Sylum whenever possible.
To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see:
JOHN DANNREUTHER ON HARRY BASS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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