The latest installment of Harvey Stack's reminiscences about the coin business covers the year 1947. Here's an excerpt.
Although I had been in and out of the Stack's stores as a youngster, I began working full-time with my father, Morton, and my Uncle Joseph B. Stack in 1947 when the firm they had founded in 1933 was located at 12 West 46th Street. Stack's had already outgrown its downtown starting point at 690 Sixth Avenue and its first midtown premises at 32 West 46th. Before very long, changing patterns of businesses located on 46th Street would make another move necessary, but for now this location near the bustling Diamond District seemed ideal.
My dad and uncle owned the building in which we were located. The premises included our upstairs auction gallery, as ads of the time boast, but change was on the way. The war had been over for two years and despite some pessimistic predictions in the American Numismatic Association journal The Numismatist, coin market prices were not just holding up, they were starting a remarkable advance that would set the tone through the beginning of the 1950s and far beyond.
New York City was very much "the place to be" in 1947. The glittering era of the Twenties was now only a memory, and the terrible years of the Depression in the 1930s were now receding into the past. The city's reforming mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia was at the United Nations and the government was inching back toward the more free-wheeling habits of earlier years.
In the world of numismatics, New York was in transition from the pre-war world typified by such giants as publisher-dealer Wayte Raymond, whose Standard Catalogue of United States Coins dominated the U.S. field. Just off the press in Racine, Wisconsin, was the first edition of the Guide Book of United States Coins, compiled by Richard S. Yeoman and published by Whitman. Soon known everywhere as "The Red Book," this slim volume swept the world of coin collecting thanks to its popular style and Whitman's unmatched distribution network, which included such outlets as Woolworth's as well as to book stores and coin dealers.
The premier collectors' group in Manhattan was the New York Numismatic Club (NYNC), then approaching its 40th anniversary and headed in 1947 by Joseph H. Spray, whose collecting emphasized the finest condition available in both U.S. and British coins. Spray was a regular at Stack's, as were his successors as NYNC president, Damon G. Douglas and Martin F. Kortjohn.
Noted as an organizer of coin clubs in Connecticut as well as New York was Oscar G. Shilke, co-founder of the New York Numismatic Conventions, of which Stack's was long the official auctioneer. These were men of imposing presence to a young dealer as I was in 1947. None was as imposing as Harold S. Bareford, a man of strong opinions to match his rugged features.
I was once horrified to see Bareford handling major American rarities with his fingers and spoke up, "Mr. Bareford, you shouldn't be touching those coins with your bare hands!" He froze me with a glance, extended his powerful hands toward me and growled, "Young man, I have the driest hands in the business!"
Other clubs then active and playing a role in the Metropolitan New York Numismatic Conventions were the Bronx Coin Club, and the Fairfield County (Connecticut) and New Jersey groups. Stack's enjoyed close ties to all of these groups, although only NYNC is still fully active into the 21st century.
1947 was a delightful year for me, and I recall it with warm satisfaction, as many of the friendships formed then continued for years to come, some even until today.
To read the complete article, see:
Remember When: 1947, It Was A Very Good Year!
Wayne Homren, Editor
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