Jeff Rock of San Diego submitted these recollections of dealer Jim King. Thanks. -Editor
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Jim King. Jim was truly of the old school. Impeccably dressed (and his wife looking like an ageless
fashion model), always courteous, Jim had a keen eye and traveled extensively in Europe. For the better part of 20 years I would always make
Jim's one of the first tables I stopped at for any major show - and almost invariably he would have something truly special that lightened my
checkbook after I had barely stepped on the bourse floor!
Jim didn't go in much for slabs (though in the last few years he had a few, as we all seem to nowadays - the plastic version of kudzu, you
just can't escape). He never cared about having the Finest Known of anything. But he always had an eye for quality - and for the unusual. Jim
turned up obscure tokens and medals, rare varieties of French Colonies coins, and brought many colonial coins back home from Europe (who knows how
they got there!). Jim really needed to be interested in something to deal in it - and his customers tended to be people who were just as interested
in the same things, meaning that whenever he showed us something we were usually reaching for that checkbook before we even asked the price.
Jim had an amazing memory - this was a man who spent over 60 years in coins, and was going to European (and American) auctions before many of us
were born. What he saw, he remembered - and he was always happy to share. I remember showing him an extremely rare piece I had bought, and he said he
had seen that piece in an auction in the early 1960s and gave me the month and year of the sale. I was going to razz him a bit when I saw him next
because he got the year right but he was off on the month - well, at least until I looked closer at the sale dates and realized it started at the end
of one month and finished the first day of another and, of course, the coin was in the section that made what he said absolutely correct!
He also used that memory for looking for really special pieces. One example was a Washington colonial coin struck over an exceedingly rare British
token -- he saw it at auction four decades previously, and looked at every Washington piece of that type until he found another. That was one of the
coins that lightened my checkbook considerably, and the coin now resides in one of the finest Washingtonia collections ever formed - and no other has
since been found.
Jim didn't socialize much in the hobby, and the only time I ever remember seeing him go out to dinner with someone from coins was with his old
friend Bob Vlack. He didn't put out price lists, and he didn't call or write customers with things for sale. He simply showed up consistently
and people knew to get to him quickly. I hadn't seen him at a show in a couple years, and had heard that he was having health issues - but he was
going strong into his early 80s I believe (no one would ever presume to ask him his age - and DEFINITELY not that of his wife!) - traveling the world
and setting up at shows at a time in life when many people can barely move or remember whether they had breakfast or not.
Jim could easily be summed up in one word -- one that isn't often used in numismatics these days. Class.
Bill Rosenblum writes:
As Paul Bosco and Alan Weinberg mentioned Jim was of the old school and thoroughly knowledgeable about numerous numismatic areas. Ever since
I've known him (1970s) he woulds travel across the pond a few times a year to buy from his sources. He would return with lots and lots of
goodies. Over the years I purchased hundreds of Operation Bernhard Forgery notes from him especially when it was easier for British dealers to
wholesale them to an American dealer rather than to retail them to their local collectors. As I mentioned a few months back the Kings, the Margolises
and the Rosenblums made numerous trips to the Carnegie Deli in NYC to bring humongous corned beef and pastrami sandwiches to eat behind our bourse
tables when most of the NYC shows were on 7th Ave.
The last time I spoke with Jim was a few weeks after Dick Margolis had passed and we reminisced about past deals and meals. Jim told me that he
was down to doing a New Hampshire show a couple of times a year but would go to NY for a Celebration of Life Ceremony organized by Lu Birkler for
Dick Margolis and Chris Blom who also passed late last year.
Unfortunately Jim had a nasty fall soon after we spoke and he was basically confined to hospitals and rehab centers after that. Jim and I shared
bourse tables and hotel rooms for years. The rooms shared only when we weren't traveling with our wives obviously. We also shared numerous meals
and many glasses bottles of beer. Actually we each drank our own beer.
I don't know if Jim was a member of the NBS but I stayed at his homes in both NJ and Cape Cod over the years and his library was immense,
containing not only books upon books, but periodicals, auction catalogs and pricelists from all over the world. I believe that before Jim went into
numismatics full-time he worked as a union official in the steel industry in Pittsburgh.
Thanks for your note. I didn't come on the Pittsburgh numismatic scene until the 1980s and never encountered Jim King; he may have moved away
by then. I don't recall him being mentioned as a local collector or dealer.
David Lisot filmed a video interview with Jim King at the London Coin Fair in November, 2011. Follow the link below to watch it on the
CoinWeek site. Jim grew up in Butler, PA, 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. He began collecting in 1946. Working at a local store, he saw Indian
Cents, and Buffalo and Liberty Head nickels in change. Periodically he would travel down to Pittsburgh to visit coin dealers. He would sell his
circulation finds and buy older coins he enjoyed more. He recalls purchasing Bust half dollars for 65 cents! -Editor
To watch the complete video, see: Numismatic Interview
with James D. King (https://coinweek.com/people-in-the-news/numismatic-interview-with-james-d-king/)
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: FEBRUARY 17, 2019 : Jim King
Wayne Homren, Editor
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