The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 20, May 19, 2019, Article 6


The Collector's Handbook 1oth ed book cover Martin Kaplan sent a link to an Ivy Press publication available through Heritage. First produced in 2000 under the title The Rare Coin Estate Handbook, this guide to estate tax planning is in its 10th edition. Written by James L. Halperin, Gregory J. Rohan and Mark J. Prendergast, it was edited for 2016 by Mark Prendergast, Noah Fleisher, Meredith Meuwly and Steve Roach. It's available free online at the link below; hardcopies are also available for purchase.

It opens with a classic quote from the will of Edmond de Goncourt, one that I wholeheartedly agree with (though I haven't let it completely stop me from making donations of material to museums and libraries). -Editor

A True Collector's Mentality

"My wish is, so that my drawings, my prints, my
curiosities, my books, in a word, those things of
Art which have been the joy of my life shall not
be consigned to the cold tomb of a museum, and
subjected to the stupid glance of the careless
passer-by; but I require that they shall all be
dispersed under the hammer of the auctioneer,
so that the pleasure which the acquiring of each
one has given to me, shall be given again, in
each case, to some inheritor of my own tastes."

From the will of Edmond de Goncourt, 1896

Here's an excerpt from the Foreword. -Editor


My friend John Jay Pittman did not start out a wealthy man. Slowly and with dedication, he assembled an incredible coin collection. He accomplished this through relentless study and the devotion of a significant portion of his limited income as a middle manager for Eastman Kodak, supplemented by his wife's income as a schoolteacher.

In 1954, he mortgaged the family house to travel to Egypt and bid on coins at the King Farouk Collection auction, and he demanded many more sacrifices of himself and his family over the decades. He passed away in 1996 with no apparent regrets, and his long-suffering family deservingly reaped the rewards of his efforts when the collection was sold at auction for more than $30 million.

But why did he do it?

On our website,, we auction many different types of collectibles; what started in 1976 as a numismatics business is now the third-largest auction house in the world - with annual sales exceeding $850 million in 2015 in categories ranging from meteorites to Herm├Ęs handbags. Most of our 950,000+ registered client/bidders collect in more than one area, which we can determine through online surveys, free catalog subscriptions, and multiple drawings for prizes throughout the year. Our clients seek many different collecting areas, and for many different reasons.

One fervent collector of historical documents refers to his passion as "a genetic defect." The founding father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, a renowned collector in his own right, thought that collecting was really about sex: "The core of paranoia is the detachment of the libido from objects," he wrote in 1908. "A reverse course is taken by the collector who directs his surplus libido into an inanimate object: a love of things." But more likely it's basic human instinct: a survival advantage amplified by eons of natural selection. Those of our ancient ancestors who managed to accumulate scarce objects may have been more likely to survive long enough to bear offspring-and people who owned shiny objects may have had an easier time attracting mates. Even today, wealth correlates with longer life expectancy; and could any form of wealth be more primal than scarce, tangible objects?

While the thrill of the hunt and a passion for objects-whether it's Lithuanian first-day covers or Alberto Vargas paintings-is what motivates and excites collectors, there are, alas, some housekeeping chores that must be attended to in order to assure that you derive the most benefit from your collection. Whether that means minimizing your tax burden, ensuring that your objects are safe from intruders, or maximizing your collection's value for your heirs, a little attention now can save you a massive headache later.

The book is a delight to read, something you certainly wouldn't expect from an estate planning guide. There are great true-story anecdotes from collectors and their families that will make you laugh out loud, cringe, or both. Dumb luck, bad ideas, and insufficiently precise grammar all play a role. Check it out. -Editor

To read the complete book, see:
The Collector's Handbook: Tax Planning, Strategy and Estate Advice for Collectors and Their Heirs (

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