The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 2, January 14, 2024, Article 14


Greg Bennick's latest interview for the Newman Numismatic Portal is with Tom Caldwell of Northeast Numismatics. Here's the third of four parts, where Tom discusses coin shows and auctions. -Editor

GREG BENNICK: Yeah, we definitely will. So, I mentioned coin shows earlier. How have coin shows changed over the years? I just imagine that going to a show, say in the late 1960s, early 1970s, would be a different experience than today. I would love to talk a little bit or hear a little bit about how coin shows have changed.

Tom Caldwell Northeast Numismatics 2019-03 Whitman Coin Expo TOM CALDWELL: Well, they definitely have changed. I want to say they were more prominent, more important for the dealings back in the past, not so much anymore, but we find that, we go to a show now and we tell somebody walking by that we have a lot of coins not on display, and ask Anything you're looking for?', and they'll say, Well, they've already seen your coins because they've already seen them on our website. But the shows are still important today just for folks to get out and see people, see the competition, and just to get a better view of just what's out there. But I say that the shows, there will always be shows, but with online business being in many ways more prominent, the shows will not be as important.

GREG BENNICK: What about auctions? I know that you've gone to auctions going back, at this point, 50 years. How have the auctions changed? And do you have any memorable auction moments that you love from back in the day?

TOM CALDWELL: Well, they've definitely changed. I mean, again, just the very recent past is through COVID, the auctions are now — like we just came back from the Baltimore show. And they were showing lots there, but there was no auction at the show. The auctions are after the show now. They found that to work just as well. Because certainly the coin auctions didn't change during COVID. There were still just as many auctions. Auction companies found they don't necessarily have to sell the coins at the shows. It's actually made for maybe a little more civilized coin show that we're not have to rush to the auction room to bid and be up till 1:30 in the morning at a session. And so that's the way it's worked out over time in that regard. But I'd say that shows will always be there, but just not as important as in the past.

GREG BENNICK: Do you have any memories of going to auctions in the early 70s and whatnot and seeing any frenzy about a coin, whether you participated or not? You know, I asked Jeff Garrett, for example, about bidding on the 1913 Liberty Nickel. Do you have any memories of going to auctions and seeing or experiencing anything wild? Like I'm imagining people yelling at each other (laughter) and fighting during the auction or bidding on some famous coin, for example, and having the frenzy of the room get really excited. Do you have any recollections of any coin in particular that was an auction experience to remember?

Northeast Numismatics logo TOM CALDWELL: Honestly, nothing in particular. I mean, I did attend a lot of auctions, but tended to have other people bid for me and not necessarily always being in the room. There is one coin in particular, a couple of coins I can show you right now. We spoke about mint errors. I've always thought that a 1943 bronze penny is kind of one of the most important errors. It's a coin that your neighbor who doesn't know anything about coins will have heard about it, because it'll make the news whenever anyone sells, and then that's when we get the calls all the time, when a ‘43 penny is coming that they've heard about it. So, it's something that the public knows and collectors are interested in. I think it's one of the, like I said, most undervalued and one of the most important of all mint errors. And I've always wanted to own one. We bought one some years ago and sold it to a good client. And then a few years, not too many years ago, we bought another one. It was the first one ever discovered by Doug Lutz here in Massachusetts, in Western Mass in Springfield. He saved it his whole life, finally put it in auction. Here, I'll show it to you. I don't know if you can see. And so, it was the first one ever discovered. And then a few years later, the S mint came up for sale. And we bought that one also. Also, the first one. First S mint ever discovered.

GREG BENNICK: Amazing. This is fantastic.

TOM CALDWELL: Did miss out on the D mint. Only one known. But in some ways, I saved myself a million bucks. It was sold for... I was immediately underbidder around $850,000 or so. But that's one of my favorite coins. Its day will come, even though they're all worth a few hundred thousand or so. I think it'll be a continued prominence.

GREG BENNICK: Yeah. And so, you think that this is a coin with a lot of upside value, even though it's already an expensive coin by most people's standard. Do you think there's a lot of upside value to it?

TOM CALDWELL: I think so. All the ones known are known. Although three to five years ago, there were a few that came out, which didn't hurt the market at all. So, I think so, yes.

GREG BENNICK: That's exciting. That's really exciting, actually. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you sharing that. That's fantastic. I was going to ask you about The Billion Dollar Wreck and what it was like being their designated expert and what happened with their search?

TOM CALDWELL: Right. Well, they found me because they had a barge going out of Boston and looked around. And they think to me as their expert. Last I heard and what I've read that they never found the coins in it. It was off the coast of Nantucket when it sunk. It was a sister ship to the Titanic, but you never hear about it because there was only like five or six people that died. And they knew that there were two things going on there. It had the ship's cargo. It was called the millionaire's ship. And it struck another ship. And there was several hours for everybody to get off board as it slowly sank. And there was cargo, they believed, they read that there was a cargo of the payroll for a South American country. And there was one other, I believe it was also they thought there were some coins that were being shipped from one of the mints. I'm not sure exactly where now. I can't remember. And they targeted a certain part of the ship to go to. And I don't believe they ever found it. It was in a really tough spot. Because of where the ocean's currents were difficult to get to. And they had a couple of rounds of raising money for it. And I don't believe they found the coins. They didn't find that spot.

GREG BENNICK: And your role was essentially to be a, not a liaison, but an advisor of sorts on if they did find the coins, what they were worth or what they meant.

TOM CALDWELL: They were asking me in advance if this is where it is and the quantities are what we expect they will be. It really would be worth billions of dollars. So, it was filmed in my living room at home back then. And that was the deal.

GREG BENNICK: So, but as of yet, they've not found these billion dollars.

TOM CALDWELL: No, they have not. No.

GREG BENNICK - 2023 headshot About the Interviewer
Greg Bennick ( 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 video, see:
Tom Caldwell Interview (

To read the complete transcript, see:
Tom Caldwell Interview (Transcript) (

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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