The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 31, August 1, 2021, Article 19


The latest article in Harvey Stack's blog series continues with the year 1986, including the collections of James Walter Carter, Margaret Woolford Carter and Lester Bernstein. Thanks! -Editor

Harvey Stack Numismatic Family 1986

In 1986 the United States Mint decided to expand the scale of their "rare coin business," selling lots of new products at a profit, to both beginning and advanced collectors. This included special issue commemorative coins and bullion issues that were sold above current bullion market prices. This was in addition to the millions of coin sets that the Mint had been issuing since after World War II, prices of which had been driven up by the increase in the cost of silver. The Mint had a prestige place in the system and could sell their products using the advertising slogan: "An Investment for the Future." This marketing appeared in many numismatic and non-numismatic publications and appealed to parents and grandparents. The Mint in 1986 created the Eagle coinage, eventually issued in both gold and silver and bearing no denomination, only weight and fineness. These were also a source of profit for the Mint and were heavily promoted. The mass sales attracted by the Mint took sums of money out of the standard coin market and had a negative effect on the general numismatic marketplace. Old timers became concerned about the influence this would have on the value of their collections, and current collectors saw prices drop somewhat. This led some to bid more conservatively or to just sit back during the year and see what would happen.?

Stack's retail and mail order business dropped somewhat, consignments dropped in size and importance, so we too experienced the economic pressure. Luckily, we still had a quantity of gold coins from our partnership with Manfra, Tordella and Brooks, (MTB) that we could sell to keep active. We also had received contracts from several international banks to sell United States and World gold coins that had been in storage since World War II and later in their European branches. So, Stack's managed to stay busy.

Even with all the changes in the hobby, Stack's continued to attract some great collections for 1986, with the result that we produced 10 different catalogs for our public auctions during the year. In January and March, we were pleased to present the collections of James Walter Carter and Margaret Woolford Carter, cabinets we had helped to build over the past few decades. James attended many of our auctions, sat in the back row, watched how others bid and built two United States gold coins collections for him and his wife. He loved the competition at the sales, made a number of great buys, and assembled many great rarities.

Stacks 1986 Carter sale part II cover Stacks 1986 Bernstein sale part I cover

As the Carters wanted each collection sold separate from the other, we scheduled James Carter's one in January and Margaret's in March. The January auction featured a choice collection of gold dollars, 1849-1889, early quarter eagles from 1796 to 1838, an almost complete set of $3 gold, a $4 Stella, early half eagles, 1795-1837, and early eagles from 1795 to 1804. There was also a full set of Indian Head $10 coins and quite a complete set of double eagles, including rare New Orleans and Carson City coins and Proofs of the 1880s. Most of the coins graded at least About Uncirculated, and there were many Mint State and Proof coins. Overall, it was an outstanding offering. The March auction featured the gold coins from Margaret's collection. As she also liked silver, copper and nickel coins, there were partial or complete sets of these included in the Part II offering.

When we first met the Carters, we learned that they were both strong supporters of conservation of wild animals and were great contributors to various efforts to protect wild and disappearing animals. They were particularly fond of giraffes and a large portion of the proceeds from the sale of their coins went to the Bronx Zoo to build the Carter Giraffe Building where these creatures could be protected and raised. I learned that five different male giraffes were born at the Bronx Zoo and were named James 1 up through James 5 in recognition of the Carters' generosity.

In the spring (April/May) we once again hosted an auction at the annual Metropolitan New York Numismatic Convention. The first catalog produced for this event featured the Lester Bernstein Collection of United States Coins. Starting with half cents, Lester built a compressive, high quality set of Mint State and Proof examples in many American series. When he found pieces he needed, he would drive to New York, attend our sales, and capture most of what he wanted. Lester ran a string of parking lots in the Virginia and Maryland area and started collecting when he went through all the coins he received as parking fees. He developed a love of chasing after the best ones he could find to fill out his growing collection. But Lester had another hobby, which he showed to me when I visited his home to pick up his collection as he had decided he was ready to sell. I was amazed to find that he also collected lamps that were used by coal miners, and he had over 2,000 different types and designs, in very nice condition. Most were oil burning lamps, many were worn on the hats of the miners, or had been located about the mines in order to see while they were working. Because I was so interested in the collection and Lester's stories about it, he gave me one of his duplicates. I will never forget his hospitality. I have so many similar stories of the welcome I received whenever I visited with my collector clients, great memories I keep to this day.

The second catalog for the 1986 Metropolitan New York Convention had a comprehensive collection of United States coins and paper money as well as a special offering of foreign coins. As always, we tried to be sure our convention auctions featured a wide variety to satisfy the collecting interests of those who attended the collection. Our 1986 "June Sale" was a similar event that offered a group of collections for our general United States clients. In August we participated with our three other dealer friends to present Auction '86, once again a joint effort that was a great success.

We had three more auctions in 1986, in September, October and December, the last of which had two catalogs, one for United States coins and one that brought ancient and world coins to the auction block. It was not a year in which we presented huge "name" collections. However, we continued to provide the services our clients wanted, and we were able to realize good prices for our consignors. At the same time, we were adjusting to the changes in the hobby that came along with the new grading services and the U.S. Mint's expanded promotional efforts.?

To read the complete article, see:
Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing up in a Numismatic Family, Part 101 (

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:


1946–2021: CELEBRATING 75 YEARS of the RED BOOK. The 75th edition of the Guide Book of United States Coins will release next week, April 7, 2021. Preorder now to reserve your copy—online at , or call 1-800-546-2995.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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