Alan V. Weinberg submitted the following notes on NBS co-founder Jack Collins, who was mentioned in last week's excerpt from Joel Orosz' "Numismatic Bookie" column in Coin World.
I learned early on that "Jack Collins" was not his real name and that he had had a career in another field. Does anyone know what Collins' background and real name were?
I vaguely recall hearing that about Jack's name once, but never got the details. Pseudonyms are not uncommon in either show business or numismatics, although these can be taken on for numerous other reasons. Alan goes on to recount a time he and Jack went head-to-head vying for an auction lot.
My last remembrance of Jack Collins was not a pleasant one. A silver choice Proof 76 mm James K. Polk Indian Peace medal was coming up in a remote and obscure antique dealer's private auction in Northern San Diego County perhaps 20 years ago... I seem to recall La Jolla. The dealer was handling part of the descendants' share of President Millard Fillmore's estate and this medal belonged to President Fillmore. The Polk Indian Peace medals in silver are among the rarest of silver peace medals.
The sale received some publicity a few days before the auction in the Los Angeles Times as the auction sellers were two middle-aged ladies. I was aware of the sale and had arranged by phone to drive down to their home on closing night to get in the final bid after talking with them by phone and finding out what numismatic and political items were in the sale.
In the meanwhile, Jack Collins called me up and during the conversation (he was doubtless "fishing" ), asked me if I was aware of the sale not too distant from my home as he was executing a commission bid for John J. Ford, Jr. and would be earning some money. Of course, I denied knowing about the sale as Ford and Collins could then "adjust" their bidding levels knowing another knowledgeable serious bidder was aware of the sale. Ford and I often competed as we had similar tastes and Ford always considered himself to be "entitled".
The night of the auction closing it took me 2 1/2 hours to get down to the ladies' home due to the heaviest downpour I've ever driven in - to this day. I first examined the medal at their house that evening and it was indeed a prooflike silver 76 mm original. The phoned-in bids came in until 8 PM closing time at the ladies' home as I sat at their kitchen table and the bid levels reached $8,000. The ladies told me that Rex Stark was high bidder at $8,000 - not Collins.
As per my prior agreement with the ladies, I bid $100 more and won the medal and drove home again in the downpour which had not ceased. But I had the medal in my pocket and I remember thinking at that time about George Walton's fatal driving experience with his rare coins scattered on the highway - it was that scary driving late at night in that storm.
Several weeks later, I exhibited the medal in Paul Koppenhaver's case at the Long Beach coin show, being very proud of my new prize. Jack Collins happened to be there and approached me asking if I was the new owner. I said yes at which time Jack literally went into a jumping and screaming tirade, at the top of his voice. But I just bit my tongue and walked away. Half an aisle away, Collins was still screaming at the top of his lungs every word in the "street dictionary".
Jack died a short time later, I believe of a heart attack. I still have the medal.
I edited Alan's remarks for brevity and to temper some of his more colorful descriptions.
I'm sure there are plenty of tales of auction escapades in the hobby. Ford was one of the best at misdirecting, misleading, and directly browbeating his competitors over rarities he sought. This time he and Jack got the short end of the stick. What do readers think of the situation? What other auction battles can you share?
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
THE NUMISMATIC BOOKIE HIGHLIGHTS THE ASYLUM
Wayne Homren, Editor
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