The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 23, Number 44, November 1, 2020, Article 10


Paul Bosco submitted these notes on the new landscape of New York's rare coin district. Thanks! -Editor


Stack's-Bowers has just opened its new store at 470 Park Ave, between 57th & 58th Streets. For more than half a century, they were located in the Salisbury Hotel on 57th Street, between 6th & 7th Aves, 3 1/2 blocks away. I think they were gently pushed out by the landlord/hotel. With their move, New York has a true rare coin district –for the THIRD time.

In the mid-1970s, “stagflation” not withstanding, Stack's had company, if not real competition, on 57th Street. I worked at Schulman Coin & Mint, 40 W57th. They operated from 1975-76, and then were closed by bankruptcy in January 1977.

Ben Stack, ever amiable, used to drop in at Schulman to chat with Gerry Bauman and buck up his spirits; Hans Schulman had departed for Europe and the company was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. There were other well-wishers. I remember when “Dean of American Numismatics” Abe Kosoff stopped by with encouragement; Bauman quipped that Abe, standing over the junk box, may have pocketed a few coins. Mrs. Norweb came in and bought a copy of Friedberg (world gold coins).

Stack opined that Metropolitan Rare Coin Company, prestigiously located on a corner at 57th & 6th Ave, couldn't possibly make it, due to the rent: $6000/month. I think Schulman was paying more like $1500. Indeed, Metropolitan lasted only briefly (1974-75?). Steve Deeds, super-trader Robert L. Hughes, Neil S. Berman and other less-colorful but still well-known dealers worked there, but it is little remembered.  

Per Berman, in a Numismatist article, the company never recovered from an armored-car robbery of 90% silver, but the rent couldn't've helped.

Harmer Rooke was located at 3 East 57th , across the street from Tiffany's. Their team included Joe Rose, Harvey Hoffer, Leo Dardarian, the mysterious David McClymont and others –quite a bit of numismatic talent. I believe they made a killing when they were bought out of their ground-floor lease by frock-flogger Ann Taylor.

Coen-Messer were also nearby, on 55th Street near 5th Ave. Stack's would send people with coins to C-M if they didn't want them. After Dan Messer died, Joel D. Coen made a fortune on bullion. Tommy Tesoriero worked there till Joel died— no one knows where Joel's millions disappeared, except maybe the girlfriend. Tommy ran Thomas and Company, an Arnie Saslow venture within Harmer Rooke's Gallery, before working at Stack's and Spink.

That made five stores within a quarter-mile stretch. There were four or five serious ancient coin specialists among them. Compare that to today, when words like Denarii and Aurei are more commonly used in Scrabble clubs than coin stores.

Mind you, there were other coin stores in midtown Manhattan, and a second “coin district” on and near Ann Street, in the financial district. Other serious players, like Lester Merkin (56th & 6th ) and New Netherlands (Charles Wormser & John Ford) had upper-floor offices.

Heritage New York office

Now, with the relocation of Stack's-Bowers, there are three major coin stores within 250 feet. Heritage New York, which includes a coin department capably helmed by a rather young Sarah Miller, is also on Park Ave, just below 57th Street. Brigandi, for 50+ years located across the street from the famed Algonquin Hotel (44th Street), solved their greedy landlord problem by finding a decent lease on 57th , about 100 feet east of Park. Their store, with displays of US Paper Money, sports/entertainment memorabilia and autographs, is the most spacious NYC coin shop, and gorgeous.

Brigandi Coin new York office2

As Heritage was there first, perhaps they were the magnet that attracted the other two.

No other American city can boast of such a concentration of numismatic commerce, with the nation's two largest companies, and the formidable Brigandi, practically rubbing elbows. If that's not enough, walk another 5 minutes and there is also Royal Athena (57th between 3rd & Lexington), the antiquities behemoth, which handles ancients. Another 5-minute walk and you get to Manhattan Art & Antiques Center (2nd Ave between 55/56 th Sts), home to Morris Khouli (with antiquities and ancients), and of course my ramshackle gallery, certifiably an insanity but arguably the most diversified store in the world.

If not afraid of elevators, Spink New York has an office, 18 floors above W57th Street.


I began by saying “for the THIRD time”.

After WW2, New York City was home to 5% of the US population, and perhaps a bigger share of the coin trade. The epicenter was the West 40s, 44th Street up to the 47th Street Diamond District, and it was still thriving in 1964, when my father took me to the City, worlds away from the pleasant monotone of suburban Long Island. Shop after shop of coins, selling Coin World, selling 1964 Kennedy Half rolls for $10.50 (and openly laughing about it), buying Silver Certificates…. Walls and showcases teeming with coins I only knew from books and ads. My father bought an Unc Morgan, 1898-O or 1899-O, in a keychain bezel, for $2; the coin was worth face, just a prop to sell the high-margin keychain. I wanted a 1909-S Indian Head Cent in Fine, then a $125-35 coin (today $425), but I had capital of about $10. One shop had a golden-toned Uncirculated 1878-CC Trade Dollar, marked $350 (Today $15,000+).

Just like I can't remember if that Morgan was 1898 or 1899, I am not positive that I was in Morris Geiger's shop on 47th. One of the dealers called me “kid”. Morris called everyone “kid”. He is the only dealer who ever quoted Shakespeare to me, trying to get me down a little on a price.

Years later (1999) I was at Morris's booth in a Miami Beach exchange, stumbling into the place while seeking a Cuban sandwich. I was there at Federal government expense, a witness in the theft of a Large Cent dealer's inventory by some Russian-American punks. I dropped a few thousands, but was still “kid”.

And the 1878-CC? In 1997, in my Hal Walls auction, I sold a lustrous Unc, ex-John Willem, the finest chopmarked example, for $2600. Probably the closest I'll ever get to the coin I marveled at, when I was 14.


In a Harvey Stack reminiscence in The E-Sylum, he discusses the decision by Stack's to move from the West 40s to 57th Street, which was much more of a “carriage trade” destination. Probably, Stack's was foresighted. The ethos of the 1960s New York coin trade, a reflection of the Kennedy-Johnson economic prosperity, probably fueled by still-low rents, faded slowly but surely. For some time, the prospect of easy riches supported the market. There was free money in silver certificates and war nickels, and coins could still be plucked from circulation. Coin World's circulation has never been as high as in the mid-'60s. A hobby dominated by date-&-mint collecting, 1878 to date, had considerable accessibility. But in time, the lure of proof sets and 1950-D nickels came up short, and the surviving shops were fewer and fewer.

The '70s saw coin stores getting by on 90% silver and legalized gold, culminating in the 1979-80 bullion explosion – soon followed by collapsing prices of metals, diamonds and coins.

Today, the market is characterized by far greater sophistication and specialization, with auctions dominating total sales total. It's not all that surprising that the New York coin trade has centered itself on 57th Street, one of the world's most elite shopping districts.

If only it were possible to visit the city!

To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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