The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 23, June 4, 2017, Article 15


In a series of blog posts, Harvey Stack has been writing about his family's role in helping form the Josiah K. Lilly Collection. Here's the latest installment (#28) -Editor

The Josiah K. Lilly Collection

I continue the story of my spring 1966 trip to visit with Mr. Josiah K. Lilly in Indianapolis. After he picked me up at the Athletic Club in the morning, the driver told me we would not be going to Eagle’s Nest as Mr. Lilly was at his home in town. I had never visited it, and had wondered about it. We drove through a lovely residential area of Indianapolis with large homes on large pieces of property; most were fenced or had shrubbery for privacy. We turned into a driveway with a stone arched entrance, and onto an inner driveway, sheltered on each side by huge trees just starting to bloom. I learned that the house stood on 26 acres of wooded and flowering gardens, We must have driven a mile before we came to the house, It was fieldstone and brick, and very large. To one side was a large greenhouse, where I learned that Mrs. Lilly grew prize-winning roses and other flowers. Gardening was one of her hobbies. In addition she was very involved with the various charities she worked with and supported.

We arrived at the front door, were greeted by a uniformed houseman, and were ushered into the foyer, which opened up to the large living room. This room was surrounded by decorated windows that overlooked the gardens, and was furnished with period furniture with rare classical paintings on the walls. A curved staircase led to the upper floors. I felt I was in a museum or a castle and I was excited to have been invited there.

The houseman took my topcoat, and took me to the upper floor and showed me to Mr. Lilly’s bedroom. I found him there, sitting on the edge of the bed and he got up and greeted me with a warm smile. He said, " I am so happy that you made the trip, for I enjoy our time together discussing my collection."

We moved to a small table with two chairs in his bedroom, and I laid out the coins I had brought with me. They included a number of Spanish American doubloons (the series that started his collection), both cobs and portrait issues; a group of hammered English and French gold coins; several coins of the Ancient world; ducat and double ducat issues of the early German States, and a few coins from China, Japan, and India.

Mr. Lilly examined each carefully, asked about some that were undated, and we discussed world numismatics. "These will make fine additions to my collection," he said. “I hope you will keep searching for more.”

Looking at my watch I realized I had to conclude my visit, as my stay was already a few minutes more than the half hour I had promised to spend. So I got up, shook his hand and thanked him for allowing Stack's to build this outstanding collection with him. We bid each other goodbye, I wished him improved health, and I left.

The car was waiting for me, I stopped at the Club, picked up my bag, and was taken to the airport. Little did I know then that I would not see J.K. Lilly again.

On May 5, 1966 Josiah K. Lilly passed away. The funeral was to be private for family only.

As I continue with more of this story, I will tell about how the Lilly Collection made its way to the Smithsonian Institution.

To read the complete article, see:
Building a World Class Numismatic Gold Coin Collection The Josiah K. Lilly Collection Part 28 (

With the passing of Josiah K. Lilly the hobby lost another collecting giant - one of the rare handful of educated, passionate and deep-pocketed collectors who could and did puchase nearly every rare coin he ever desired. I've really enjoyed Harvey's recollections, and now feel I know Lilly almost as well as Harvey did - he was a true gentleman of class and taste; the numismatic bug couldn't have found a finer steward to bite.

Having follwed along as Lilly's collection was built, we can now look forward to learning more about how it was disposed. Thanks. Harvey! -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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