Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez of CDN Publishing interviewed Jim Halperin of Heritage Auctions in an article published September 5, 2019. here's an excerpt - be sureto read the
complete version online. -Editor
Josh: Thinking back over the years, is there a favorite memory you wish to share from one of the big coin auctions?
Jim: I’m always going to have a soft spot for our first Platinum Night at FUN in January 2005. Branding a Platinum Night as a session with our best coins was an idea I’d
been pitching to Steve Ivy and Greg Rohan for over a year before they finally agreed to it. Then, fortunately for us, our friend Al Adams immediately consigned an incredible
collection. Until that night, we had never sold a 7-figure coin at auction. That was probably our biggest frustration about our auction business then, because at that point we
were outselling all the other auction companies combined. Yet we had never sold a million-dollar coin, while I think at least two or maybe three of our competitors had. Al’s
consignment included two Brasher Doubloons—one brought $2.99 million, and the other brought $2.415 million. At the same time we sold a Lima-style Brasher doubloon from a different
consignor for $690,000—so three lots in a row brought $690,000, $2.415 million, and $2.99 million, boom, boom, boom! Ever since Platinum Night was launched, Heritage has sold
almost 70% of the 7-figure U.S. coins sold at auction. Platinum became a great brand, an event that serious collectors and dealers never want to miss. Interestingly enough,
though, we just auctioned a piece of comic book art in May for more than we’ve ever sold a coin for at auction … $5.4 million. Of course that piece was sold in a Comics &
Comic Art Platinum Session.
Josh: And now you’ve handled several 1804 dollars, 1913 Liberty nickels…
Jim: Yes, and over 50 other U.S. coins that Heritage has auctioned for over $1 million each since 2005. I think it all largely traces back to that first Platinum
Josh: What do you like about being an auctioneer?
Jim: I wouldn’t know because I’m not an auctioneer. Believe it or not, Heritage actually owns a state-chartered auctioneering school, which we founded ourselves. We
train our auctioneers in-house and we sure have some great ones as I’m sure you’ve witnessed. I tried auctioning once myself, though, and was a complete failure at it.
Josh: Is there any wisdom you’ve learned from incorporating computer technology into numismatics?
Jim: In 1975, when I owned New England Rare Coin Galleries, we bought an IBM mainframe computer, the very first one in the coin business. I still remember sitting in
meetings with my very few colleagues at the time, and the programmer, over a couple of months, and we outlined everything we wanted to do. Then we tested and tweaked until it did
almost everything we needed to keep track of every coin we ever bought or sold. It revolutionized our business—a huge boon. The only problem was before that computer, I could
somehow remember every coin I ever bought or sold, and after it, I didn’t have to memorize every coin anymore, so very quickly I lost that ability. Of course, today, online
bidding is the most distinguishing part of our business. One of our big advantages was that we were the first auction house to offer a free, online, permanent, searchable auction
archive with full photos, descriptions and prices realized, way back in 1998. That was revolutionary… and scary at the time, because we were making millions of dollars a year on
wholesale trading based on having this proprietary information that only our own buyers had. Giving that away free to anybody who joined our website was an enormous business risk.
Again, we were lucky because that decision helped us become the world’s most popular auction house web site. 20-plus years later, we still get more traffic than Christies.com or
Sothebys.com. And even though our total sales volume is a fraction of theirs, our dollar volume auctioned online is much higher than either of their online dollar volume is.
Josh: And now you’re one of the biggest firms around and are poised for more success ahead.
Jim: I hope so, because I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather do.
Josh: Is there anything else you wanted to share with the readers on the wisdom you’ve gleaned in your years at Heritage?
Jim: The wisdom I’ve gleaned…[LAUGHING]? Wisdom is not what I’m known for. Maybe thinking outside the box, but definitely not wisdom per se.
To read the complete article, see:
Jim Halperin Bids Good Fortunes For Heritage Auctions
Wayne Homren, Editor
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