The latest blog article from Harvey Stack contains some of his reminiscences about numismatist
Harry W. Bass, Jr.
Harry W. Bass, Jr. was a great numismatist and scholar. He loved United States gold coins.
Studying the many varieties of early coins was his special interest and in time he built the
largest collection of early gold coin die state varieties ever assembled.
He enjoyed visiting the Stack family whenever he was in New York. He spent hours studying our
inventory and photo library.
Harry was a good friend and client. He also gave Stack's the opportunity to be one of his agents
at the United States Gold Coin Collection (Louis Eliasberg Collection) sale, held in New York in
1982. Harry was sure that if he bid himself, others not as knowledgeable as him would use his
bidding as a "crutch" to bid against him. He didn't want to educate his competition.
Harry asked me to represent him at the sale and gave me a list of special lot numbers he wanted me
to bid on. When I asked him for his limits, he said "Just watch me." We made up a special signal.
He wore his jacket and a handkerchief in his breast pocket. Whenever we came to a lot he wanted,
he would signal by touching the handkerchief in his pocket. When he removed his hand, I was to
stop bidding. I could only bid when he was touching his handkerchief.
I was not sitting near him. He sat in the front row and I positioned myself five rows behind him
with a good view of the handkerchief in his pocket. The plan worked perfectly for the first part
of the sale and I acquired for him a good many coins.
The tense moment arrived when the unique 1870-S three-dollar gold coin was offered. I knew from my
list to bid on it. When the bidding opened at about $120,000 and started to advance toward
$200,000, Harry did nothing. I waited. As the bidding approached $300,000, he moved his hand to
the handkerchief and held on to it. I began bidding and continued in $25,000 increments until it
reached $425,000, and suddenly his hand dropped, and the bidding advanced to $500,000. Once again,
Harry's hand returned to the handkerchief and dropped after I bid $575,000 for him.
A bid came at $600,000 and the room gasped. Harry didn't move. The auctioneer was calling for
"anymore" and just as the gavel was about to drop, Harry's hand returned to the handkerchief and I
immediately bid $625,000 and won. The applause that followed showed the excitement we all felt in
the room. Stack's was given credit for the purchase, and it was only later that year that Harry
revealed that he was the buyer.
Whenever Harry came to New York, he would stay at the Hotel Salisbury, which is immediately
adjacent to our 57th Street store, so he visited us often. In fact, when he was working at the
American Numismatic Society on a pet project he had, developing a computer inventory of the
Society's coins, he would spend months in New York. The Society closed each day at 4:00 pm. Harry
would take a cab over to our offices, sit and talk numismatics with the Stacks, until closing each
evening at 5:30 pm. These casual conversations only enhanced our friendship and gave us greater
understanding of Harry's love for his collection and collectors.
To read the complete article, see:
Remember When: Harry W. Bass, Jr.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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