Harvey Stack's blog series focuses on living in a numismatic family. Here are parts 40 & 41. Thanks, Harvey. -Editor
As 1966 opened, the coin hobby continued to be active and much time was dedicated day and night to our numismatic business at Stack's. We had a series
of important auctions, we were very active in our retail sales (both over the counter and from mail order), we attended many shows and conventions, and we
continued to build the J.K. Lilly Collection. Stack's was also dedicated to trying to find ways to understand the requirements of the OGSO for acquiring
licenses to import gold into the United States. This non-stop engagement demonstrates why 1966 was a year that I will never forget.
In 1966 many collectors joined the hobby, with the American Numismatic Association gaining many new members. Many shows were conducted nationwide to bring
dealers and collectors together. New information became available and those who had already published references, expanded on them. Starting in the 1930s, the
catalog listing coins by date and price was the Standard Catalog of U.S. Coins by Wayte Raymond, followed by the Guide Book of United States
Coins by R.S. Yeoman (the Red Book). Numismatic News began in 1952 followed by Coin World in 1963.
The explosion of available information, with some published weekly, kept the coin market informed, taught about the hobby, and encouraged many to start
collecting or expand their interest. There was current information available, whether you were near a big city or out in the country, helping collectors to
learn about coins and pricing - essential to the expansion of the hobby that was taking place during this time. Even the hype surrounding the Mint's
discontinuation of producing coins in silver brought many people to the hobby. By 1966 more collectors were entering the field, visiting coin shops, attending
coin shows and conventions; the market grew and prices rose.
This price rise was noted by those who had collections or had inherited cabinets and this motivated some to put their coins on the market, which meant that
Stack's was able to offer some important auctions in 1966. To start the year we offered the Dr. Conroy Bolt Collection (built years earlier by George
Walton, and Stack's), which offered gold coins issued by southern states, starting with the Bechtler pieces and including complete runs of gold coins from
the Dahlonega, Charlotte and New Orleans mints. Dr. Bolt also had an extensive collection of U.S. silver and copper issues. We also auctioned the Lee S. Miller
Collection of copper coins, the Wilson Rise coins, the Andrew Watson Collection and the fabulous, high quality collection formed by Maurice Bauman. The last
sale included a featured collection of half dollars that my cousin, Norman, and I had helped Mr. Bauman build. As in so many cases we had the opportunity to
both build and later sell a collection.
For some 16 years Stack's had been dedicated to building a world class gold coin collection for Mr. J.K. Lilly of Eli Lilly & Co. As previously
mentioned he would visit Stack's twice a year in the spring and fall. He would advise us how he wished to proceed, we would endeavor to find the coins he
desired and get them together for his approval. He would review the purchases, usually accept them and then the coins would be personally delivered to him in
Indianapolis, usually by me. The coins would then be put in what he considered his Hobby House, along with his many other collections.
However, in September of 1965 we got a call from Mr. Lilly's secretary that he was ill and would not be going to Palm Beach that year. Mr. Lilly requested
that we hold any coins for later delivery. We kept in touch with his secretary who kept us informed of his condition. Sometime in April 1966 he had her call to
ask if I could make a very brief visit to him within the next two weeks. Of course I made a date and went to Indianapolis with the coins he wished to add to
I arrived in Indianapolis and promptly at 8:30 was picked up and taken to Mr. Lilly. On this visit I was taken to his home in town called
"Oldsfield." It was a beautiful estate , near the cultural center of town. It had about 40 acres of magnificent gardens, mostly roses in full bloom,
and there was a lovely home made from large granite natural rock, with incredible views of the gardens.
I was welcomed at the door by the houseman, who told me that Mr. Lilly was upstairs in his study next to his bedroom. There I found Mr. Lilly, sitting at
his desk in the center of the room. He got up to greet me and asked me to sit down. Remembering the instructions I received I showed him the box of coins I
brought, he looked at them, and said, "What wonderful things you have assembled for me. I am delighted and thank you." He insisted in making out a
check, even with his shaking hands and giving it to me. He expressed his gratitude for all our family had done to build his collection. I was embarrassed, but
pleased, by his warm remarks and we shook hands. The time to go arrived quickly and I bid him good health and said goodbye. Two weeks later, to the day, I
received a call from Mr. Lilly's office that he had passed away the night before. I asked about the services, for I did want to attend. After all I considered
him a friend and had worked with him for 16 years. However, the family decided to have a private ceremony.
This was a very close and important numismatic relationship for me, especially since I was present when he began and was with him when he acquired his last
coins. His desire for privacy meant we never revealed his name to anyone, and only to our immediate staff did we ever mention that it was just one collector.
Everyone thought we had maybe five different clients who specialized in gold coins, but no one would think it was for one special collector.
Once the family agreed that we could talk about the collection and the work we did with Mr. Lilly we took out an ad that said:
"The secret isn't secret any longer. We, for the last 16 years built a gold coin collection that is surely ‘world class' and is the finest collection
of its type built by a single collector with a single agent, Stack's.
"This world wide collection of gold coins, including a virtually complete collection of United States gold coins is one of the most extensive ever built, as
it contains over 6,100 different gold coins of the world
"Further information will be announced in the future."
To read the complete articles, see:
Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing Up in a Numismatic Family, Part 40
Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing Up in a Numismatic Family, Part 41
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
HARVEY STACK'S NUMISMATIC FAMILY, PART 39
Wayne Homren, Editor
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