Harvey Stack celebrates his 90th birthday today, Sunday, June 3, 2018. Happy Birthday! -Editor
Harvey's latest Stack's Bowers blog series focuses on growing up in a numismatic family. Here is part 18, on the beginning on the Lilly U.S. gold collection. -Editor
I concluded my last article by noting that we were often asked whether the Anderson Dupont Collection included gold coins. It did, but the feeling was that offering the gold coins at auction along with all the other
material might drain the funds that clients had available.
However, the Anderson Dupont Collection had a complete set of gold dollars, a complete set of $2.50 gold quarter eagles (1796 to 1929), a set of $3 gold (lacking the 1870-S to be complete) and a set of the four $4 gold
Stellas. Each set was housed in a beautiful felt-lined leather box, and virtually all the coins were Mint State or Proof. They were exciting to behold. Because of the value of the gold coins, we felt that we could either
sell them intact or wait until 1955 to offer them at public auction
But that was not what happened. In the spring of 1954 Mr. Josiah K. Lilly made one his springtime visits to New York and stopped by to say "Hello." He said he was very pleased with how we were adding coins to
his collection, which we regularly updated him on by mail. On this visit, as usual, he wanted to see what we had obtained since our last correspondence, discuss our progress, and set some new goals for his collection. We
were able to show him additional doubloons we had obtained, and interesting coins from the foreign countries that were trading with America. He suggested we might add to the collection coins from the later 19th century and
20th century as well.
When he sat down with my father and uncle to talk about expanding the collection, I was invited to join the discussion. He remarked that he had concentrated on the Spanish American gold coins along with gold from England,
France, Portugal and the Netherlands, countries who traded with and helped develop America. At this meeting he wanted to talk about the gold coinage of the United States. He was interested in the U.S. Mint and the gold coins
struck there as the colonies became an exciting and expanding new nation. He inquired as to what it would take to build a set of U.S. gold coinage.
My father and uncle reviewed the various series with Mr. Lilly. He listened intently. He had heard about how Stack’s had been involved in acquiring the Clapp Collection for Louis E. Eliasberg some years back, an important
step in the development of Mr. Eliasberg’s incredible coin collection. We told him about that transaction, as well as our purchases from the Colonel E.H.R. Green Collection, and how we sold the full collections of $5 and $10
gold coins to King Farouk. We told him about the huge auction that took place in Cairo when the Farouk collection was sold and how we were unable to go to Cairo for the sale, because of the commitments we had at home. Mr.
Lilly remarked that he read some of the news stories about the Cairo sale, and had seen the magazine published years before about the Eliasberg Collection.
So he asked us: "Tell me, gentlemen, what would it take to get a set of United States gold coins together?" My father and uncle looked at each other, smiled, and said, ‘We have in stock a great way to get you
started in U.S. gold coins." Mr. Lilly was immediately interested and asked to see what Stack’s had available.
I was sent to the vault to take out the four leather boxes which contained the $1, $2.50, $3 and $4 gold coins from the Anderson Dupont Collection. Each set glistened in the light as we showed them to Mr. Lilly; many were
so choice they just sparkled. We watched while he looked at them and answered his questions about the series, explaining the rarity and the quality of the coins as he examined them.
He agreed that this might be a good way to get started. But, he had questions about the other denominations of gold coins and what it would take to build a collection of them, including rarities that he presumed would
require some waiting before they became available on the market. Of course, he also wanted to know what it would cost for the four sets he was currently examining, when they would be delivered, and when he would have to send
It should be remembered that at the time, common gold coins were priced considering the current price of $35 per ounce of gold. None of the coins in the four collections came close to an ounce of gold. At the time, early
date and rare quarter eagles sold for a few hundred dollars each, as did $3 gold pieces. Getting $1,000 for a Stella would be a good price – for a coin that could be worth close to $200,000 today. Many of the coins in these
sets would have very high values today considering the greatly increased value of gold as well as much higher demand from collectors. Even so, the price that we had arrived at after we acquired the four sets was $50,000 –
quite a large sum of money at the time.
Mr. Lilly thought for a bit, looked at the boxes that contained the sets and said, "I'll take it!"
We then told him about how Clifford T. Weihman had the second sets of $5 and $10 gold coins from the Col. E.H.R. Green "hoard." We felt that he might consider selling them. In addition, we were expecting a
consignment the next year of a quite complete set of $20 gold from a client in Texas. We thought it was possible that Mr. Lilly could buy that set intact, which would put him a long way toward his goal, rather than having to
build the collection one coin at a time.
Mr. Lilly thought these options would be good to investigate. He thanked us for our efforts and told us to “keep up the good work.” He then got up, shook each of our hands and left with a smile on his face.
As 1954 came to an end we could look back on an incredible year at Stack’s, with great business and exceptional auctions. For me personally, it was also a very important year. I grew up fast, increasing my knowledge of
numismatics. I also learned a lot about dealing with collectors, how to treat them when they visited, to respect their wishes and do what I could to serve them.
To read the complete article, see:
Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing up in a Numismatic Family, Part 19 (http://www.stacksbowers.com/News/Pages/Blogs.aspx?ArticleID=2979)
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
HARVEY STACK'S NUMISMATIC FAMILY, PART 18 (http://www.coinbooks.org/v21/esylum_v21n20a20.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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