Harvey Stack submitted these remembrances inspired by last week's item about David Davis' hiding place for part of his coin collection. Thanks!
During the many years that I actively served clients
and friends in numismatics, the story of "I HID THE
COIN COLLECTION" in the recent issue of The
E-Sylum reminded me of a few happenings in my
early days with my company Stack's.
We were called upon to assist in the appraising and
eventual selling of coin collections, and there were
infinite times when we saw a collection, and then a few
weeks or months later the family members found more
that they didn't know about. Following are two such
happenings, which I experienced, one together with
my cousin Norman Stack, and one on my own.
The first is when Norman and I were asked by the family
to come to New Jersey, appraise a collection formed by
the late Herbert Dietz, make and inventory and take it
Herb was a great friend of the Stack Family who attended
most of their auctions in New York during the 1950's to
1970's. He enjoyed first reviewing the lots in our shop, and
then came on Saturdays, every month or so, to attend an
auction. Not only was he interested in assembling various
series by date and mint, but also as there were many large
lots in a number of sales, he also bought quantity. He would
take his purchases home, carefully re-examine what he won
at the sale, put them all in order, and knew what he had and
what he was still missing.
At one of the sales, he did acquire a number of Large Lots,
which together were heavy to carry. So he left his lots in the
shop, while he got his car, and Norman and I assisted him
in loading the material into his trunk to take home. At one of
their meetings, Norman asked Herb, where does he keep all
these coins? He responded by saying, in albums, on shelves,
and the rare coins in a hidden closet in his house. He wanted
the coins on hand whenever he worked on his collection.
After Herb Dietz died and we went to his home, his wife showed
us where he had the bulk of his collection, and Norman and
myself inventoried the coins, and realized that some of the rare
and unusual specimens were not with the collection. We asked
Mrs. Dietz, 'did Herb have a closet he kept coins in?' She was
not aware of any. Norman asked if there were any hidden closets
in the house. "None that I am familiar with" she replied.
remembered Herb told him that the closet was in a closet and
rarely entered. After looking around with Mrs. Dietz, Norman asked
and was given permission to open Herb's clothes closet in their
bedroom. Pushing some clothes
aside, Norman saw a door in the rear, and asked if he could open
it. "Of course" was the answer.
Norman realized that this closet,
backed up the bathroom on the second floor, gave access to
the plumbing or the shower and water for that room. On a shelf,
which was made of 2 x 4 lumber, was a large metal box. In the box
were all the missing coins we remembered he had. Put together
with the balance of the collection, the auction sale became a source
of rarities and quality coins, which would not have been sold, offered
or possibly found were it not for Norman's innocent question
while loading a car for a friend and good client.
Now for the story that almost set me on my heels. We were close friends
with many of the New York and New Jersey collectors, many who were
members of the various coin clubs in the Metropolitan area. Each collector
was close to each other and we were very pleased to share their
confidence and friendship.
One of the highlights was our friendship with Martin Kortjohn. Martin, as
you might know, was active in many of the New York/New Jersey clubs,
and the American Numismatic Association. Martin also served as President
the ANA. He was a good friend of my father, Morton, and my Uncle Joe,
for they supported his efforts in the various numismatic clubs and shows.
After Martin passed away, a few months later Mrs. Kortjohn asked if Stack's
would sell Martin's collection at public auction. Martin was a dedicated
collector and spent numerous hours on his coins, and also attending the
various club meetings. It was known he had an extensive collection, which
he assembled over many years of collecting.
Martin was meticulous with his coin collecting hobby. Being an outstanding accountant he approached the hobby with the skills of an actuary . His
record keeping was outstanding , with the inventory spread out on wide spreadsheets used by members of his trade.
It was exciting to visit Martin's home, where his wife greeted me as an old
friend of the family. On the dining room table, Martin's collection, as she found
it, was spread out for viewing and checking of inventory, I was given the time
to check each album page, usually the Wayte Raymond 5 x 8, with plastic slides
protecting each side of the coin. As I checked off the detailed inventory Martin
had kept, there were great voids, or empty spaces from the listings. I did not see
any album pages or envelopes that would have covered the items not there.
I was embarrassed for her, and somewhat shocked that all were not there. I never
heard of Martin offering or selling any coins, he loved them too much, yet they were
not present on the dining room table.
I asked Mrs. Kortjohn, where did Martin work on his collection? She answered "in
the attic room". He made that room into an office , of sorts, she related, and using
a large 4 X 8 ply wood board, mounted on huge carpenter horse legs, which supported
the table , he worked on his hobby and office work as well, out of the noise and
disturbance from his family below. I asked could I see his 'office'. She responded,
"of course, and I do hope you find what you are looking for, as I plan to sell the place
'as is' in a month or so." I told her to please let me look, as our family always felt
that collectors who worked at home, found little places to keep their valuable coins,
and still have them available to check and compare as they made additions to their
The attic was just as she described. In the center was this large 'desk' with papers
still on it, makeshift library shelves for his catalogs and reference books on the walls,
invoices and papers in neat piles. A real numismatic work area. Mrs. Kortjohn asked if
I knew who would want all his books and catalogs, and I said we would take them from
her, give them in Martin's name to some museums and coin club library, so that they
would continue to be used as he wished they would. So I proceeded making my way
about the attic.
Then I found an unusual pile of magazines. It appeared to be every issue for some 5 to 6
years of The Numismatist piled alongside of his desk. Weird , I thought, there was
far more important literature all over the library, but these ANA magazines were right
next to where he sat. Maybe I imagined, his closeness to our national organization, made
him keep The Numismatist close to his side. I picked up the first half dozen or so. In
each original envelope, I found The Numismatist, consecutively arranged, month by month.
As I went down the pile, envelope by envelope, I found the previous issue in precise date order.
As I got to the tenth envelope, my eyes popped and my jaw dropped, for in each successive envelope was a Raymond Album page, containing ALL of the MISSING COINS that were on the original inventory I worked on in the dining room downstairs. The combination of all the album pages I found , together with the basic collection that Mrs. Kortjohn showed me originally, made for one of the great sales of the year that Stack's conducted shortly thereafter.
Just think, if I wasn't aware that collectors had the desire to keep the coins near them when
working on them, that if a fire occurred, or Mrs. Kortjohn would have trashed all the catalogs,
magazines and books, as she was about to sell the house, what a loss the family could have
sustained. Either the trash man or a disposal company would have benefited from the coins'
value, for no one knew about the "hiding place" Martin had used.
These stories are but a few that I can tell, or heard about during the 65 years I worked as a
STACK in STACK'S which always made me ask when visiting a collector or his heirs, "where
do you (he) work on their collection". The discoveries are amazing. I therefore suggest that
collectors who plan to leave their collections to their family tell them and show them where the "hidden coins" are kept.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
"HONEY, I HID THE COIN COLLECTION!"
THE BOOK BAZARRE
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