In his Stack's Bowers blog this week, Harvey Stack continues his remembrance of legendary collector Harold Bareford. Be sure to read the complete version on the web site.
What set Harold apart from most other collectors of that time were four “Rules” he formulated early.
First and most important, he bought only the very best condition coins he could find. Many of today’s collectors who style themselves “condition freaks” were decades behind Harold in appreciating quality. In 1947 he described the kind of collection he was assembling to Paul Seitz in the following terms:
“I acknowledge receipt of your Mail Auction Catalogue of May 7th, 1947, and am interested in a few items… Perhaps a word about myself is in order. I collect only the finest specimens… and am not interested in any coin that is not perfect… I am enclosing herewith bids on a few of the coins based on the assumption that they are exactly that. If they have scratches of oxidation, which affects the appearance, on the face of the coin, or in any way are not perfect coins, I wish you to cross out my bid on such coins. To me a perfect brilliant proof… has no defects of any kind whatsoever, the same as gem uncirculated.”
Secondly, he tried to buy the rarest coins first.
Thirdly, he never knowingly bought duplicates and he would never buy an inferior coin hoping to get a better one later.
And fourth, he would never overpay for a coin. He would always work out ahead of time what he thought he should pay and would not exceed this price at auction.
The best examples of how these rules worked were three coins Harold never owned. He never bought a 1796 quarter. Though many Gem Uncirculated coins were sold in this period, none ever had the eagle’s head on the reverse with a full eye visible. He said there had to be a better one fully struck up somewhere and he was going to wait for it. The second example was the 1802 half dime. He knew that F.C.C. Boyd owned the finest he had ever seen and when it was not sold in the World’s Greatest Collection sale, he asked Fred and received assurance that he could have first choice when and if. That coin has never been found and Harold would not buy an inferior substitute.
The last was the 1822 half eagle. C.M. Williams had bought this coin at the Dunham sale in 1941 and had authorized Abe Kosoff to sell it privately in 1950. Kosoff set the half eagle to Harold on approval. Instead of the usual day or two to study a coin, Harold spent over 10 days on this one. Each night after dinner he would get out the eight early half eagles he already owned, take them out of the envelopes and arrange them on felt. He would then add the 1822. He would study them for hours, then put them all back in the safe and repeat the whole thing the next day. Finally, with much reluctance, he sent the coin back to Kosoff. Even though it was the best obtainable, the condition was not good enough and he would not compromise on this principle.
Harold was very proud of his whole collection and particularly so of many of the individual pieces and series in it. He tried for completeness in only two series, half dimes and dimes. Although the collections were missing a few pieces, they were clearly the finest collections ever assembled. But he was most proud of his Dexter 1804 silver dollar. It was probably a goal of every major collector (and dealer for that matter) to own an 1804 dollar and for a perfect Proof to appear privately at just the right time was rare luck, since it precluded the need of having to bid on it and going over his limit.
Harold Bareford essentially stopped U.S. silver coins after 1955. He just couldn’t bring himself to pay more for common date coins than he had paid for the rarities he had purchased earlier. As laughable as it seems now, he was priced out of the market.
So he turned his attention to English coins, particularly collecting English silver pennies by ruler, with special emphasis on the coins of Charles I.
To read the complete article, see:
Remember When: Harold Shaw Bareford, A Legendary Collector
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
HARVEY STACK REMEMBERS HAROLD BAREFORD
Wayne Homren, Editor
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