Here's the third and final part of Greg Bennick's interview with dealer and Redbook Editor Jeff Garrett, where the topic turns to great coins.
Greg Bennick: Tell me this, just shifting gears just slightly because I could talk about
grading all day long. I'm always in a process of learning myself. But what are some of your
favorite coins that you've handled out of the millions of coins or hundreds of thousands or
whatever it is that pass through your hands every year? I mean, over time, what are some of
your favorite coins that you've handled throughout your career?
Jeff Garrett: You know, probably the most important collection that I ever had a chance to
handle that was just amazing from start to finish, I think it was about 15 years ago or maybe
a little bit longer, I lose track, it goes by so fast. But Bob Harwell in Atlanta, Georgia had a
client who had put together the finest collection of Dahlonega Gold and it was called the
Duke's Creek Collection. So, we bought a complete set of gold dollars, two and a halves,
threes and fives and he had a complete set of Templeton Reid gold coins. And I think it was
around $5 million, but probably three quarters of the coins were finest known for what they
are for the coin. So, it was an amazing collection of coins and we bought it and broke it up
and sold it to different people. Mark Salzberg actually still owns the set of $5 gold pieces. It
was sold to an investor at the time, and then somebody that Mark Salzberg knew and when
he had a chance to buy it about four or five years ago, he bought it intact. So the ones and
two and a halves got broken up and you still see the pedigrees occasionally. Don Kagan
bought the Templeton Reid gold, which is a two and a half, a five and a 10 and those are
mega rare and placed them with a client. But across the board, that was probably the neatest
collection I ever handled as far as being the finest known. And also I love US gold coins, it
was just really a distinct pleasure to own and have a chance to be involved in it.
Greg Bennick: Are there any coins that you wish you handled? Meaning the one that got
away, those sorts of things? I know that I've got a few of my own certainly, but I'm really
curious to know about yours.
Jeff Garrett: Yeah, you know what's funny, it's like this 1919 penny kind of brings it to
mind. If I had to go back in time and tell my younger self, I would've said how many times
did I own like a 1945 dime in MS-68 that I probably sold for $30? If I'd had any idea or an
inkling that thirty years later people would pay insane money for relatively modern coins,
like a set of Lincoln pennies or Jefferson nickels and things like that. So they might not have
been the most interesting, but I wish I'd have had the foresight to understand superb gems.
And there's been some people who have done that back in the day, we all thought they were
almost kind of crazy. They would pay like crazy money for a coin because it was like, oh, it
had unbelievable toning , they pay $300 for Morgan dollars. Like, oh, that's crazy and now
those are $30-40,000. So probably going back in time, I'd let a lot of really great superb coins
slip through my fingers that I sold that probably, if I had any foresight at all, I probably
would've kept them.
Greg Bennick: So here's an interesting question that just came to mind. What are those coins
now? Meaning that certainly thirty years from now, people will be sitting around, maybe 50
years from now, they are going to be sitting around thinking,
Man in 2022, 2023, we had
the chance to buy…. blank….and we just let it go cause we thought it was overpriced then.
There's always that situation, like if you asked my dad, he'd say sure, an 1856 Flying Eagle
was cheap when he was coming up collecting, but who had the money to buy that?
Regardless of how
cheap it was compared to modern standards. What do you think those
coins are now? I know that's speculative and I know you're not giving investment advice….
Jeff Garrett: Yeah, well I had a conversation like this just recently with a friend and I told
him about…it goes back to what I told you originally about the coin business, it is about
supply and demand. So, if somebody came in and said
I really want to buy coins…but I
want to learn about them. I always tell people don't buy anything for an investment. You
know, try to learn about it and become a collector because you have a much better chance.
But the idea that if you buy the keys for almost every series and I talked to someone the day,
a good friend of mine, Rollo Fox, up in Louisville. He put together a complete set of Double
Eagles. He started putting it together and he realized that, you know, you get to this must-
have mentality and you gotta pay a lot of money to get a certain date or whatever. But he said
that now he collects coins by what he calls
The Box of 20. So, he'll buy like a really nice
coin and that's how he collects now. He doesn't collect by series. He collects one really nice
So, I think in the long run, 40, 50 years from now, you know, an 1881-S Morgan Dollar, I
don't care how good you think it is, it's still going to be a common coin because there's tens
of thousands of them out there. But an 1889 CC dollar in MS-63, that's a good coin. And if
the numbers of collectors grow, theoretically there's going to be more people collecting
Morgan dollars and they're going to need those key dates. So, I think the supply and demand
factor, if you think about it, the focus on key coins regardless of the series or regardless of
the country or ancient coin, modern coin, whatever it is, I think that you have the leverage of
demand that'll always be in your favor. And that's what I would think is a good idea.
Greg Bennick: Speaking of, what did it feel like when you bought the 1913 Liberty nickel.
I've seen the video and you were very, what's the word, understated in that moment? If it was
me, I would've done a backflip off the chair and I would've been screaming and yelling. You
were very understated, very calm. What did it feel like to buy the 1913 Liberty nickel?
Jeff Garrett: Well, it was more of like a shock moment because…I've written a couple
articles about it, but I didn't know I was going to buy that coin earlier in the day. I called my
good friend Larry Lee, who I knew had a couple of big clients. I said,
Larry, there's a 1913
nickel coming up, but it might sell reasonably. That coin is kind of funny. It's such a great
classic coin, but now it's not even close as far as the most valuable coin. That's because so
many other coins have shot up above it, but it still has the best story. It's still iconic. I said,
Larry, this might slip through the cracks. So, an hour or two before the sale, he didn't
return the call all day and then eventually he called me an hour or two before the sale and he
What do you think it'll bring? I think I said,
It'll bring under 4 million. I think it'll be
probably a little over three.: And we just talked about it for a while and he said,
bid this…. And so I said I'll take a certain percentage…you do that. And then we went to
the sale and then all of a sudden, you know as you've seen the video, it was sold. And it was
kind of shocking, it was like,
Oh my gosh, I can't believe this happened and we bought it.
I did tell someone, it's interesting lately we've been talking about, it's kind of sad that because
of the pandemic, auctions now have been driven all online. And that was probably one of the
last…well there's been a few instances lately, you know, The Bass sale they did live and had
some clapping, but still not like this was. There were hundreds of people in the room.
Hundreds. And when the coin went off, it was a roar of applause. I go outside, the press was
there, I get interviewed. Now a coin sells for $8 million, and it's like,
Okay. You know, a
little bit like that…then the next lot. The drama of the grand auction room is really lost to us.
And that's really kind of a sad thing because it really was exciting. And you know, it wasn't
the biggest deal I've ever done in my career, but it was probably one of the more exciting
deals I've done. And it was one that I'll always kind of cherish the evening. My son was
sitting next to me when we did it, and it was a lot of fun. He had no idea I was even bidding.
He was like,
What? What are you doing? And it was something I'll always remember.
And I can't even believe how fast time goes by, but this year, the Central State's show that's
coming up, it'll be 10 years now. It'll be 10 years ago that we did that, so I know it went by
Greg Bennick: Yeah, time just flies. That's amazing. And there is something about the live
auction room that just can't be replicated. I mean, there's just an energy. I remember years
ago, I flew to Baltimore. I'm from Seattle, and I flew to Baltimore to bid on an error coin. It
was a counterbrockage Liberty, nickel, and I had wanted this coin forever. And I flew there
and my dad met me. We went to the auction. To make a long story, very short, I bid on the
coin and I think my palms are sweating even now, remembering how much my palms were
sweating and the energy of it and the entire experience was just transformative. So that's why
I had to ask, having seen that video of you.
Jeff Garrett: Yeah. And it's such a shame that it's not really how it works anymore. It's so
much more transactional now than it is or is like an experience, you know, something that
you would remember and have fun doing it. One of my favorite auction stories of all time
was John Jay Pittman when there was an 1854 Gold dollar in proof that he knew how rare it
was. He was famous for being really knowledgeable back in the sixties and it came up for
auction. It's famously called the Statue of Liberty coin. And he went to the front of the room
and stood there with his hand up, like the Statue of Liberty facing down on anybody who was
bidding against him, and he bought the coin. And that coin was famous always for that, the
Statue of Liberty coin, he wasn't going to let anybody outbid him, but that's how he did. And
I had the privilege of handling that coin about 10 years ago, I sold it to, well maybe less than
that, to Del Loy Hansen, the billionaire collector. So, I got to sell that coin; it was a lot of
Greg Bennick: That's amazing. That must have been a very intimidating moment if
somebody had flown to proverbially Baltimore to bid on the coin and then Pittman standing
in the front of the room like the Statue of Liberty. That's an amazing moment.
Jeff Garrett: Yes facing the audience. It was pretty funny.
Greg Bennick: Now last question, and you've been really generous with your time, and I
don't want, as I ask this, to make it sound like you've been in the business so long that I need
to ask a historical question. Don't take it that way, you're certainly not a dinosaur and I'm
excited that you're here just answering all these questions with me today, it's just amazing.
But when you started, there were some of the old timers…were certainly were still around.
Who were the characters that you remember? I'm always fascinated by numismatic history
and who were some of the old timers that you remember who maybe aren't with us anymore,
who were real characters? You know, just a story that pops into your head about like the
Pittman story, for example.
Jeff Garrett: Well, it's funny. So I mentioned to you earlier: I grew up in Clearwater,
Florida, so I had the luck. In 1974, when I was 16, the ANA convention was in Miami. And
I'd never been to Miami. I hadn't really traveled much. And one of the coin dealers
volunteered to take me down there and escort me down there. And I went down to the 1974
ANA and it was at the Fountainbleu. I recently stayed there with my wife. And it was kind of
fun to see the old hotel, the site of the 1974 ANA and one of the vivid memories I have
was…Abe Kosoff was there and that was very late. I'm not sure he lived a whole lot longer
after that, but he was there and he had two showcases. He had a showcase on the right and
one on the left. And in one showcase he had an ultra high relief Double Eagle, 1907 Ultra
High Relief. It had recently sold for around a hundred thousand dollars, it kind of broke a
new price record. And in the other case he had a mint condition Syracuse Dekadrachm,
which I don't know what it was at the time. Those are both crazy coins to me at the time. But
it was funny, he was dressed in a white summer suit and he was such a striking character.
And I just remember seeing Abe Kosoff at his table and I was like wow, that was pretty cool
to see and I still remember that. And that was my first ANA show in 1974 and luckily I've
had the chance to go to every ANA convention since. I haven't missed one since 1974. So
I've got a string going.
I'll tell you a funny story, it's not about a character, but the 1975 ANA was in Los Angeles,
which for a 17 year old kid in Florida, it could have been on Mars. It was like forever. That
was a long ways away. I didn't have any money at the time and I was like gosh, I'd really like
to go to that show. And I went to my local Clearwater Coin Club and there was one of the
great characters at the time, was a guy named Colonel Jeffries, which people who grew up in
that area probably know him. He was a really crazy character and he had an 1839 half dollar
for sale and he sold it to me and it was mint condition, but he didn't realize it was a No
Drapery and it was like something I'd studied. I realized it and I bought it. I think I made like
$500 on it. And that gave me the money to go to the 1975 ANA in Los Angeles. So, it was
really funny, my little pickoff of a variety helped me go to that next coin show. And over the
years I've really been lucky, I've got to know so many of the great characters in the business.
I mean, there have been so many colorful people. I remember in my area there was Robert
Hendershot, he was a great character. I'm not sure if you knew him back in the day.
Greg Bennick: I know the name, yeah.
Jeff Garrett: Yeah, he lived to…I think he was 106 or so…kind of like Eric Newman did.
And he went to the 1904 Louisiana World's Fair and he wrote a book about that later on
because he was a big collector of those. And I remember buying great coins from him and
some of the characters. Some of the guys that I really miss the most that became mentors was
David Akers, was a really wonderful guy. He had an unbelievable memory buying coins,
telling me stories from the fifties and sixties. He was always sharing with me. He was a
mentor and I learned a lot from him and it really great. Even now, I consider Dave Bowers
one of the great characters of all time. I consider myself lucky to call him a friend. The things
he shared with me and some of the stories. But I'd have to make a list. I've really been lucky
because I've done coins at the level where I got to know a lot of the great people. And it's
been a lot of fun, but I'll never forget Abe Kosoff in his white suit, that's probably the most
vivid one from my early years.
Greg Bennick: That's fantastic. Well, I know that we've been on for near nearly an hour, so I
just want to thank you for your time and those are the questions that I'd prepared. I'm sure I
could come up with a hundred more, but I really appreciate you taking the time to answer
them. I appreciate Newman Numismatic Portal being willing to support what's going to be a
series of interviews that I'm going to do with folks. And of course, I appreciate everybody
watching. This has been really fantastic. Thank you so much.
Jeff Garrett: Oh, happy to do it. And I'm really happy with Newman Numismatic Portal
because as we talked about it, numismatic education is the key to being a successful
collector. So, people should utilize it as much as they can.
Greg Bennick: Awesome. Well, thank you so much.
About the Interviewer
Greg Bennick (www.gregbennick.com) is a keynote speaker and long time coin collector with a focus on major mint error coins. Have ideas for other interviewees? Contact him anytime on the web or via instagram @minterrors.
To watch the complete interview on NNP, see:
Jeff Garrett, Interviewed by Greg Bennick
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
JEFF GARRETT INTERVIEW, PART ONE
JEFF GARRETT INTERVIEW, PART TWO
Wayne Homren, Editor
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.
To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor
at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
To subscribe go to: https://my.binhost.com/lists/listinfo/esylum
Copyright © 1998 - 2023 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.
NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster