Pete Smith submitted this note on Large Cent collector Walt Husak, who passed away this week.
Walter Joseph Husak (1942-2022)
Walt Husak died late in the afternoon of Thursday, December 15, 2022. Within hours, his friend
Al Boka sent out a notification to other friends and fellow collectors around the country. Soon
tributes were coming in from many of them.
Walter Joseph Husak was born in Chicago on May 27, 1942. His parents were Walter and June
Blake Husak. At the time of the 1950 Census, they were living in Los Angeles with the father
listed as a salesman for a sign company and the mother as a waitress in a restaurant. Later in the 1950's, Walter was a teller at the Merchants National Bank in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Walt began collecting Lincoln cents and Buffalo nickels when he was twelve. While on a visit to
his grandparents' Iowa farm, he was given a few old coins for doing chores.
A boy's coin collection may not survive when his interest turns to girls or cars. Walt got married
and had a child. His collection was sold so he could buy a 1957 Triumph sports car. Nine months
later in 1963, with his second child expected, he sold the Triumph to buy a more practical family
car, a 1954 Cadillac convertible.
Walt's first marriage to Irene Catherine Ferris produced a son, Wally, and daughter, Trina, and
ended in divorce in 1967. With his second marriage to Patricia, he added her children to his
In 1959, Walt began work in the aerospace industry. After working for others for twenty years,
he took a chance with his own business and became successful. Husak had various corporate
interests in the aerospace industry. He is listed as president of W & T Holdings, Inc. (1984); Hk Aerospace, Inc. (1992); and W & M Property Management Corp. (2013).
Walt ran the Los Angeles Marathon six times and finished four times. While on a training run in
1988, he passed a gas station and noticed a familiar car for sale, his old 1954 Cadillac. He bought it a second time and had it restored for pleasure trips in the California wine country.
His drive to collect returned in 1980 when he acquired an 1804 large cent. This casual interest in
large cents grew and he aspired to complete a set of 1793 to 1814 large cents by Sheldon variety.
This would be a total with edge varieties of 302 pieces. He succeeded in getting all but the S-15,
S-79 and S-80. The known examples of those were held in strong hands and not available.
He selected coins in choice condition or coins with great pedigrees or both. Those coins that are
not the finest known were often high in the condition census.
Walt was an excellent photographer who documented his own collection while it was raw. He
also documented raw coins for Alan Weinberg.
Husak was an active participant in Heritage, Goldberg and Stack's auctions as he was building
his collection. As a good client, they reserved bidder number 94 for him. He returned to Heritage
when it was time to sell. With his collection stalled and real estate debts to pay, he consigned his
collection to Heritage for auction on February 15, 2008. The collection was legitimately
described as the finest collection of early large cents ever offered at public auction.
Heritage produced a colorful forty-page prospectus to create interest in the sale and that interest
brought in collectors from around the country. The auction catalog included 301 lots and 414
pages with a full page devoted to each coin and color photo. Cataloguing was done by Mark
Borckardt with additional commentary by Denis Loring. On the day of the sale the auction room
was packed with 200 potential bidders. The Husak collection was dispersed among 168
At the sale, two large cents each sold for $632,500. They were lot 2014, a 1793 Liberty Cap cent, S-13, PCGS AU-50, and lot 2050, the finest known Starred Reverse cent, S-48 PCGS AU-50. Lot 2192 was the famous 1799
Abbey cent pedigreed back to an 1864 sale of coins of Lorenzo
Abbey. It sold for $161,000. The sale realized about $10.7 million which was about double the
cost to assemble the collection.
After the sale he established the charitable Liberty Cap Foundation. He is listed as CEO with
Martin A. Logies as agent. This presents a virtual museum for his collection.
He was not done collecting but started over specializing in the cents of 1794. By 2022 his was
the finest current collection and third behind Naftzger and Sheldon for historical collections. No
trades with the ANS were required for the formation of his collection.
Walt appeared in an episode of the
Reality TV show, Pawn Stars, that aired on January 29, 2018. He offered a 1792 half disme for sale identified as the Garrett specimen in a PCGS MS-65
holder. The boys in the shop declined to pay the asking price. A different Garrett, Jeff Garrett
was also called in as an expert.
Viewers of the show may be aware that some of the scenarios are contrived and set up in
advance. Husak did not own the coin at the time. It had been in unsold inventory for Steve
Contursi and Rare Coin Wholesalers.
Following his death, tributes flowed in from friends he had made in the hobby. There was no
unkind word to be said about him.
Chuck Heck writes:
"Walt Husak was born on May 27, 1942 and he passed away this week on December 15. He and I met over a coin at an auction in 1997. Obviously, I was the under-bidder. However, both my wife and I received something much more precious than an addition to the coin collection -- we received an incredible 25 year friendship with Patricia and Walt Husak.
"Friendship is a cool word. It can cover a very broad range of experiences. It was coins that brought us together but it was the love for living a life with joy that defined our times spent together.
"Unfortunately, while in the hospital, his gentle heart simply gave out.
"To a GIANT of a friend, a glass of very old single malt scotch held very, very high."
Jim Neiswinter writes:
"Walter was one of the nicest people I've ever met. He was a people person who could talk to anyone at any time. I remember once we were taking a subway uptown from the ANS. Walt started talking with this girl about how he collected large cents. I'm thinking to myself - what are you doing - you never talk to strangers on the subway about what you do. That was Walt. "
Al Boka writes:
"We have lost a giant. Such was the common thought woven through the many responses to yesterday's sad announcement of the passing of our dear friend Walter J. Husak. I, too, share that sentiment and convey my heartfelt condolences to Patricia, Trina and son Wally.
"I first really got to know Walt in April, 1997, when he sweet-talked me out of my prize 1794; the finest known S-40. At the time it was a bit above my scope but, as he was forming what would eventually become the 3rd finest collection of all fifty eight collectible 1794 varieties, well within his. When completed his collection of 1794s scored only slightly behind those of Naftzger and Sheldon.
"After selling his collection in 2008 Walt began slowly working on another; a severe case of the
collecting bug indeed. Just a few days ago Walt phoned me from an airport in Texas to report acquiring CC-1 of the S-19b. This brought his new collection to within one of completion; needing only the elusive S-18a. This second collection of 1794s contains 23 of the finest known as well as 4 of the finest known available to collectors.
"Walter's abundant passion for copper was evident in everything he did. He often seemed to me to be like the proverbial
kid in a candy store. As an anecdotal example I submit this brief story:
"At the EAC convention in West Palm Beach on May 5, 2006, in exchange for an S19a, S59 or S63 I wanted, I proffered an MS60 S-223. I asked for an additional $$ amount in order to
balance the deal. After a day of haggling the gap between us had narrowed to $2,000. Walt then proposed a
coin toss resolution which, if he lost, would constitute his agreement to the additional $2,000 and, if he won, would seal the deal on an
even up basis. A coin (large cent) was flipped onto the carpeted dining room floor of the Marriott Hotel. HEADS it was; Walt had lost. He extended his hand to me and graciously said,
It's a deal.
"I will all surely miss this true Legend of the Copper World."
Here's Alan Weinberg's perspective on the grading and photography of Husak's cents in the 2008 Heritage sale, from his August 2007 report in the Milwaukee ANA convention,
"The Walt Husak early large cents, to be auctioned by Heritage in
Long Beach next February, 2008 were on display for the first time
in slabs. The coins were in first time, entirely clear, see-through
PCGS slabs and those cents with lettered or decorated rims were in
3 'pronged' entirely clear slabs so their rims are visible and easily
readable. I'm reliably informed that PCGS developed four slab dies
before they came up with exactly what was needed for the Husak coppers.
The result is superb. Hopefully, this type of slab will be adopted
for all future encapsulations - with no more opaque white centers or
unreadable rims. It's almost like holding the coin in your fingertips.
With this type of slab, I can be persuaded.
"I also had the privilege of seeing part of the Husak catalogue
manuscript largely written by Mark Borckardt with some additional
assistance from Denis Loring. I was impressed. Aside from extensive
pedigree information, most of the large cents are graded four ways
- that is, the PCGS slab grade, the Del Bland grade, the Bill Noyes
grade and the EAC standard grade with both Mark and Denis concurring
on this final grade. Four grades for each coin, a first in any
"If it sounds confusing having each cent graded four different ways,
it is not. I found the EAC grade with the Borckardt-Loring concurrence
to be almost always 'right on' in my 'hobby oldtimer's' opinion.
Additionally, there was a sale 'prospectus' catalogue with condensed
lot descriptions and a magnificent blue cover picturing in color
some of the cents (Walt Husak's own photography) available at the
Heritage bourse alongside the coppers themselves. This certainly
whetted the appetite.
"I'm informed the lot by lot photography will be Heritage's own. I
frankly prefer Walt's coin photography which is more vivid but taken
at a very slight angle with a shadow at the bottom of each early
copper. The coins look more 'real' in my opinion with the lustre
and surfaces more alive.
"Walt is thinking of a novel proposal: Heritage photographs lot by
lot - straight on images, and Walt's photography in full page plates
of dozens of pennies at one time - two different full color views
of the each large cent in the catalogue. Hopefully, this may fly.
Walt was quite a dedicated collector, one of just three collectors and four dealers physically present for the Stack's Bowers auctions at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
As Pete noted, Walt made an appearance on Pawn Stars with Jeff Garrett.
To watch the episode, see:
Pawn Stars: Half Disme Coin and Libertas Americana Medal (Season 15) | History
Here are links to some CoinWeek items on Walt Husak.
Walter Husak Talks About the Large Cents Market and Sheldon 37. VIDEO: 2:27
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
ALAN V. WEINBERG'S 2007 MILWAUKEE ANA CONVENTION REVIEW
WALTER HUSAK LARGE CENT COLLECTION TO BE SOLD BY HERITAGE
ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS WALTER HUSAK CENT COLLECTION
AUCTIONS IN A WORLD OF CORONAVIRUS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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