Pete Smith was the first reader to report the passing of Ed Milas, longtime coin dealer and founder of RARCOA.
I was sorry to hear about the passing of Ed Milas. My first meeting with Ed was at his downtown Chicago offices (now occupied by Harlan Berk). When I entered his office, I was taken by a framed mint director appointment hanging on the wall. It was signed by Washington for the appointment of Rittenhouse. Needless to say, I was most impressed and to this day I can't remember what we discussed during our meeting.
We were occasional bidding competitors at major auctions. I recall us bidding on the Jimmy Hayes 1794 Half Dollar at the first auction it appeared in after it originally sold in the Stacks Hayes Sale. Ed was the winner in the bidding at a nearly 6 figure amount. ( I believe it sold for around 55K at the Stacks sale) Ed held the coin for several years and eventually decided to run it thru one of the grading services. It came back MS 63 and he was upset. He made a few disparaging remarks on the eyesight of the graders, and I told him it didn't really matter since it had to be the finest known. I believe that coin sold the last time it appeared at auction for around 500K.
Ed had a good eye, and I learned much from him over the years. We also had a non-numismatic topic to talk about when we met. Both our daughters attended Illinois Weslyian University in Bloomington Illinois. Ed had many great accomplishments along the way including being one of the originators of the Apostrophe auctions and being instrumental in successfully marketing the Chicago Continental Bank silver dollar hoard. Ed was never shy in sharing his opinions, and had a most definite impact on the hobby. He will be missed.
I was sorry to learn of the passing of Ed Milas, long time friend and professional colleague.
At the request of Wayne Homren I share some reminiscences and give some biographical information.
I don't recall when I first met Ed Milas, but it was probably in the 1960s when he traded as the Gold Stella Coin Co. I recall asking him why he picked that name, and he replied that it would attract attention and everyone would know what it meant. He rose into prominence when he acquired the Rare Coin Company of America (RARCOA), a name created by Benjamin Dreiske as the new designation for Ben's Coin Company.
In the 1970s RARCOA (Ed liked it to be spelled in all capital letters) joined Stack's, Superior Stamp & Coin Co., and Paramount International Coin Company in the conducting of the so-called "Apostrophe Auctions," such as Auction '79. As some readers may remember, each firm had 500 lots, for a total of 2,000, emphasizing scarce and rare issues. The order of presentation of each company was changed each years. Later, when Paramount faded, former Paramount executive David W. Akers took their slot.
Ed Milas' "eureka!" moment was the handling of a vast hoard of long-stored silver dollars owned by the Continental Illinois Bank. With a comfortable fortune, Ed embarked into some other ventures including real estate development. RARCOA maintained its importance and handled many rarities. I recall that the company discovered the previously unknown 1870-S half dime, which was sold and then consigned to my company for auction.
From 1983 to 1985 he was president of the Professional Numismatists Guild, the same time frame that I was president of the American Numismatic Association. We both participated in various events of the era, including accepting a request by the U.S. Mint to testify before Congress on hearings regarding the forthcoming commemorative coins for the 1984 Olympic Games. Alan Cranston, a powerful senator from California, had dreamed up the idea with his pal, Armand Hammer, of Occidental Petroleum Co., that Occidental should handle the entire marketing of the coins. The Mint was aghast at the idea. Other hobby leaders were there as well. We prevailed, and henceforth the Mint was in charge, as it is today. Later, and unrelated to the coin proposal, Cranston was disgraced and censured by the Senate. On another occasion Ed and I joined others in a reception hosted by President Ronald Reagan in the Rose Garden.
Ed Milas and his RARCOA business continued to prosper, and in time he added overseas operations including Hess-Divo, Ltd., of Zurich. He collected several specialties, including territorial gold coins. His impressive cabinet of half eagles was consigned to Stack's for auction. He also collected just about every honor that can be bestowed to a professional numismatist.
Ed wrestled with health problems and quite a few years ago came to a convention with his head bandaged, from brain surgery he had earlier. In recent times he struggled with cancer and lost.
Ed was dynamic businessman-knowledgeable, not at all political, and ever ready to make a good decision after appropriate study. A listing of rarities he handled would be lengthy. I last had occasion to write about him in 1979 when I gave the biographies of numismatists who had handled 1804-dated silver dollars.
Ed Milas will be missed and well remembered by all those who knew him. May he rest in peace.