With permission we're publishing this excerpt from a nice article by dealer Jim McGuigan.
Reproduced from the June 2021 issue of The Numismatist, official publication of the American Numismatic Association (money.org).
Sometimes an event or encounter with another person
can have a significant impact on
one's career path. This is the
story of how a coin purchase altered the direction of my life.
As a young boy growing up in
Pittsburgh, I was bitten by the collecting bug early in life. In addition
to coins, I collected stamps, comic
books, baseball cards and toy soldiers. I began acquiring coins when
I was about 10 years old. Like many
beginning collectors in this era, I
started filling holes in Whitman folders with Lincoln cents my parents received in change. Later, my
father brought home a few rolls of
cents from the bank each week so I
could look for dates I was missing.
I also expanded my collection to
include other denominations—
nickels, dimes, quarters, half
dollars and silver dollars.
I found it difficult to locate
certain dates (and mintmarks) in
change, so I started visiting local
coin shops. After buying a copy of
A Guide Book of United States Coins
Red Book) and learning how
scarce and valuable many of the
key dates were in each denomination, I started saving my allowance
to purchase some of these coins.
My interest in early U.S. coins was
sparked in 1957 when I purchased
several half cents, including the
1 Above 1 and 1804
Chin varieties from Addison
Smith—a Pittsburgh dealer.
As a collector younger than Jim also growing up in Pittsburgh, I too found my way to the shop of Addison Smith. It was a sparse and colorless office on an upper floor of the Jenkins Arcade, an old-style shopping arcade (now demolished and the site of an office building). Smith wore a rumpled suit with suspenders and looked to be older than dirt. But he was quite nice to me and I bought a decent Large Cent for $20 and kept it for decades.
Since local dealers did not have
many early coppers in stock, I
started acquiring more pieces from
auctions. One that caught my attention was the June 1970 Stack's
James C. Rawls sale, which had a
number of mid-grade half cents and
large cents that I needed for my
collection. I was a successful mail
bidder on six lots, including an 1808/7 Gilbert-1 half cent (Lot
1123) for $100, graded Fine to Very
Fine. I did not know the significance of this coin until I met Roger
Cohen at the ANA's 1973 Boston
Convention and purchased a copy
of his reference American Half Cents
I learned from the book that
my 1808/7 half cent was the finest-known of the extremely rare
Cohen-1 die variety—a Rarity-8
with only 1-3 examples known at
the time. Since this die variety
was not discovered by Cohen until
1962, it was not listed in Ebenezer
Gilbert's The United States Half
Cents (1916), which had been the
standard reference on the series
until Cohen's work was published.
See the complete article in The Numismatist - it's a great story. Jim decides to trade the coin for other pieces he would sell to raise money for his collection. He ended up making so much money he decided to become a fulltime coin dealer. That chance purchase had led to a whole new career for Jim. And many decades later he managed to reacquire that same coin.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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