Jeff Rock submitted these recollections of Donald Partrick and the Frederick Taylor sale. Thanks!
I'm slowly catching up on my E-Sylum reading and noticed in the August 23rd issue some comments on the late Don Partrick. As someone who went to nearly every major sale of colonial coins in the 80s and 90s, I often saw Don in action. Well, in action during the earlier years and in inaction in the later, as Alan Weinberg detailed. Thinking that people were running him up because it was HIM that was bidding, he started bidding through others, mostly (but not exclusively) Jon Hanson. But the street went both ways. Don quickly figured out who the most knowledgeable bidders were in each series and he used that information to his own advantage. If one of them was bidding on something, then that lot was special somehow and he paid more attention to it - often buying duplicates in the process, but convinced he made good buys (and time proved him to be correct).
At the 1987 sale of the famous Frederick Taylor collection (held at the World Trade Center in Manhattan), Don was in his element - and he managed to strike fear into most of us in attendance. He was never a chatty person, save to the Bowers & Merena people and a few major dealers. A group of us, mainly interested in the Connecticut copper series, were warily chatting before the sale, trying to get info on what the others were bidding on while pretending to be disinterested in the lots we wanted the most. Don, for the first time I remember, walked straight up to our group and joined the conversation - though he joined it with something of a bombshell. He said "you variety collectors have been having all the fun for far too long" and then he smiled and walked over to his place at the front of the room. If there was a thought bubble over our heads it would have literally read "Oh, #%**!" Don steamrolled through the sale - not buying everything, but buying nearly everything choice or rare, and pretty much everything that was both.
This was, sadly for us collectors, a trend that would continue for the next 20 years. He could be beat, but it would mean paying significantly more than retail. He sometimes missed a coin that he needed or that was a better grade, and he sometimes made mistakes - as we all do in such situations. But he was, without a doubt, the most formidable competitor of the era for colonial and early American coinage. More than once I saw his (or his agent's) hand go up and other bidders just put their hand down in anticipation of the inevitable - even when they had many bids left to reach their own personal limit.
Through dozens of sales I never knew Don to go to dinner or have a drink with any of his fellow collectors afterwards - or to engage in the horse-trading that went on before any auction, offering to lay off something that another collector really wanted. He didn't need to, he was in a class of his own and he knew it. He didn't care about the intricacies of die varieties or assemble reams of Condition Census and rarity information. He was, at heart, a checklist collector - but oh, what a checklist. He wanted every variety of everything, and if it happened to be the finest known, even better. His collection is a testament to what time, money and passion can do - it may be equaled, but it will likely prove impossible to better.
Above is a picture from that Taylor sale - hard to believe it was over 30 years ago. I see a very young me, somehow smack dab in the center behind John Ford, surrounded by friends, many of whom are no longer with us. Don is standing off to the right, in a position he probably appreciated: away from center stage, but smiling broadly, knowing that he was going home that night with everything he wanted from that sale.
More great numismatic history. Other E-Sylum readers were there - tell us your stories about the sale, and help put names to the faces in the photo.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
MORE ON DONALD GROVES PARTRICK
Wayne Homren, Editor
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