Here's an excerpt from Harvey Stack's latest blog article on the various Stack's storefront locations over the years.
Stack’s Bowers is refurbishing and redecorating the current landmark West 57th St. store, just down the street from Carnegie Hall.
In 1933, when brothers Morton and Joseph B. Stack decided to open in what was then midtown New York, 6th Avenue and 22nd Street, they created a plan to enhance the ambiance of a coin shop.
The relatively few dealers then in New York City had offices upstairs in office buildings, requiring an elevator ride or a walk up a few flights of steps and stand-up jewelers-type show cases to view. The Stacks decided that this was not the way to greet clients, so they decided on a street level location, in a well-traveled area of the city, to make visitors feel welcome and comfortable.
The major innovation were showcases, served by comfortable chairs, where collectors could sit, look at and study coins or other items and chat with those behind the counter about numismatics. The walls were brown oak paneling, the furniture was of similar wood, and the decorations were of numismatic displays—currency, coin plaques, decorative medals, bookshelves and numismatic related documents. It was like a small museum to attract visitors who would feel the warmth of the Shop. Near the front entrance was a couch for clients to wait if the counters were busy.
The family, over the next decade employed or had working for them on a contract basis, some of the greatest numismatists in the New York area, including Hans Holzer, Edward May, James C. Risk, Henry Grunthal, Fred Knobloch, and John J. Ford, Jr., to mention but a few. These numismatists were available, along with members of the Stack family, to help customers, catalog items, and develop friendships that prevailed for decades.
Even collectors who visited contributed to the strength of Stack's cataloging. Such great numismatists as Howard Newcomb, William Sheldon, Harold Bareford, Joseph Spray, Ray Gallo, Oscar Schilkee, Otto Skia, Martin Kortjohn and others too numerous to mention, became part of the team as the firm developed. Great collectors of the period, such as Col. E.H.R. Green, James A. Stack, Clifford Weihman and many others, sat with the staff, discussed coins and developed their collections.
The Shop was considered by all these people a 'CLUB HOUSE ', a place to gather, meet other collectors and the extensive staff of Stack’s, discuss, collect and learn about numismatics. Being on the street level provided the perfect place for gatherings, and through the gracious reception, warm ambiance and friendships made, the firm of Stacks continued to grow.
As the economic environment in the city changed, with great and important shops opening, Stacks followed and changed its location several times in the years before 1953, when the present and long standing shop was opened at 123 West 57th Street—a main street for art and fine shops. From our 6th Avenue location we moved to 32 W. 46th Street, a few steps from 5th Avenue, and after World War II we were given the opportunity to purchase a building, even closer to Fifth Avenue, at 12 West 46th Street. We stayed there, until the neighborhood started to change (with discount stores opening up and down the street) to our present location where we have remained for almost 60 years.
David Gladfelter adds:
Harvey Stack writes: “Now, Stack’s Bowers is refurbishing and redecorating the store (or shop to some) [at 123 W. 57th St.]. The walls will be redone, the counters refinished, the carpet replaced, the lighting changed, the entrance enhanced, the
show windows re-designed, the air conditioning re-done— all things that will make the store continue to be inviting and attractive to visitors.”
Now is the time, then, for those who haven’t been inside the old place to go see it. It’s changed very little in the 45+ years since I’ve been going there. In the 60s when I was looking for a scarce 1815/12 half dollar and planning to visit the World’s Fair in New York, David Derzon, a Milwaukee coin dealer, advised going to Stack’s – “they can show you that coin in all grades from G to Unc.” Hard to believe? Checked it out. Norman Stack himself took my request, bringing out an array of coins in all grades from which to choose (I liked the VF and still have it).
I suppose that some would call the store’s décor dated, but understand, I am too. If you do go I can recommend a French restaurant within walking distance that Anthony Bourdain says hasn’t changed since 1937.
To read the complete article, see:
Remember When: The Value Of The Stack’s Bowers Coin Store
Wayne Homren, Editor
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