Jeff Rock submitted these recollections about the famous 1991 EAC "Midnight Sale". Thanks! -Editor
The sale happened only because we were in Boston for the 1991 EAC convention and Mike Ringo had gotten into town a few days earlier,
hitting one of the local coin stores that had a bid board (Worthy Coin). He purchased a couple large group lots of lower-middle grade Connecticut
coppers, and a group of us were in Robert Martin's room, some of us helping to attribute, others partaking of a substance that is now quasi-legal
in some of the more liberal states.
Robert asked Mike if he was going to put the coins on a price list and I piped up "Hey, kids, let's put on an auction!" Perhaps it
was the haze in the room, but everyone got on board. Walter Breen was there (thus the haze), and we pressed him to catalogue the coins -- but he did
not exactly work quickly, and I jumped in and had my first experience of writing auction catalogue descriptions (including the snarky ones). Of the
24 1/2 lots I wrote ten - any description not in Breen's distinct hand was mine. Ringo wrote the lot numbers and attributions for the pieces,
save for the group lots which I attributed as we went along, and the name of the newly-christened auction company at the base of each ticket.
As we were putting the auction together, some in the group went around to the rooms of other collectors, pounding on doors to wake some of them up
-- who really sleeps at a coin show, anyway? I think only one person preferred to sleep, and it was their loss because when the catalogue was printed
-- many years AFTER the sale was actually held -- they didn't receive a copy. You gotta' be present to win. Mike called the auction, which
was about as fun as one would expect for a sale that started well after midnight, especially as some of the bidders were actually found in the hotel
bar, not their rooms. Of the 12 people present, 8 of us won at least one lot - a pretty high percentage by any auction standard!
After the sale I collected the original documents, including most of the lot tickets (one collector took his with his winnings), and they sat in
my library for years. Rob Retz, who was at the sale, eventually decided it was time to do something about it and he set about putting the printed
catalogue together, each copy with the recipient's name on the cover (we had two additional copies printed for people who weren't able to
attend the sale - dealer Mary Sauvain who was at the convention but not someone we were sure would have been happy being woken up -- and Michael
Hodder who wasn't at the show but was already a colonial deity and we presented him a copy as a token of our appreciation). Those handwritten lot
tickets were tucked into a special pocket for each of the winning bidders.
Of the dozen people at the sale - all in the photograph you included -- 5 have sadly passed away: Walter Breen and Mike Ringo in the front row and
Steve Tannenbaum, Robert Martin and Rob Retz in the rear row. Don Mituzas and Tom Rinaldo, next to me in the middle row are no longer active in the
hobby, and of the remaining four people, all have scaled back their numismatic involvement from the "good old days."
Perhaps it was because I was the youngest one in the photo that I am still around - but seeing this picture reminds me of what has often been
missing in the hobby: FUN! We all have the interest in historic items or else we wouldn't be collectors. But thinking back to what shows were
like 25 years ago or more, things have certainly changed. The camaraderie and, yes, plain silliness that resulted in the Midnight Sale is often
missing. Smaller, specialized groups like NBS, EAC and C4 are an exception to the overall mercenary trend of the hobby (where people who can read a
slab company population report are suddenly considered "experts").
The Midnight Sale experience was fun, and we tried to repeat it -- twice. But it was like catching lightning in a bottle. We had another sale the
following year which was held at an earlier hour and featured coins on consignment - and if memory serves all but one or two pieces were bought back
by their owners, and no one wanted to do one again. Many years later, during the final C4 convention to be held in Boston (before moving to the
Baltimore show in the autumn), collector Roger Siboni decided to resurrect the tradition, bringing in dealer Tom Rinaldo to write and call the
auction. Despite Tom's wonderful quirkiness (including calling the auction while jumping on Roger's bed), the results were the same as the
second attempt, with consignors mostly buying back their own material.
The original Midnight Sale was something unique, tied both to place and time, and with a cast of characters that has been sadly depleted -- it was
great fun, but it is an experience that will never be replicated.
To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
MORE ON ROBERT MARTIN AND THE MIDNIGHT SALE
THE 1991 EAC MIDNIGHT SALE
WORTHY COIN COMPANY START DATE
DON CORRADO ROMANO (1903-1984)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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