Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, science fiction writer, activist, philanthropist, and coin collector Janis Ian is perhaps most widely known for her musical career as a teenager in the mid-1960s and into the 1970s. Two hit singles — “Society’s Child” and “At Seventeen” — have in some ways defined her career and influenced many people from that generation, although Janis has been extremely active throughout her life (and remains so to this day) using her multiple talents for writing, acting, performing, and advocating many causes. Heritage Auctions has the privilege of offering her collection as a part of the January 9-14 FUN Signature Auction.
We asked Janis about her coin collecting, and she responded:
“Collecting… wow. It was about 1975, “At Seventeen” was just charting, and I passed an interesting-looking museum on 6th Avenue in New York. I went up to Harmer Rooke Galleries and met Leo Dardarian, now sadly passed away. He asked what I was interested in purchasing and I was stunned; I had no idea you could buy rare coins, let alone artifacts. Over the next decades, until he passed away, Leo guided me. He said, always buy things you love. If you buy something just as an investment, and it goes down, you’ll be angry. But if you love it, no matter what, you’ll still have something you love. Always buy the best coin you can afford, even if it means buying only one.
“I bought some of the coins for love, knowing they probably wouldn’t increase in value, but most of them, I bought because they excited me. I learned Roman history from coins. I learned that Greece valued beauty enough to have its coins designed by its best artists, unlike the Romans, who were big on absolute reality with not much care for artistic merit. I learned that Roman coins circled the globe in a way nothing else could. And I bought many for the sheer beauty – a chariot whose horses clearly showed their musculature, a shekel that might have been held by one of the disciples or even one of my forebears.
I’ve held onto these coins and loved them for almost half a century, and now, it’s time to part with most of them. I kept a few here and there, but at this time of my life (I’m 67), as we downsize, I’d rather see them go to people who will treasure them and enjoy them, as I have, than sit in a safe somewhere. A large portion of any proceeds from these coins (and my jewelry) will go to the Pearl Foundation. The IRS has restrictions on how much we personally can donate and still remain a public foundation. Thepearlfoundation.org has all the information.”
While many of the coins were ancients, Janis bought a few U.S. coins as well. They appear in this auction — a group of attractive, quality collector coins, scattered throughout the floor sessions including Platinum Night, and the Signature® Internet session. Collectors will find much to admire in this offering, whether it is a problem-free 1877 Indian cent in AU55 NGC, or a remarkably attractive AU58 NGC example of the scarce and underrated 1883 quarter eagle. A highlight of this collection is an 1801 BD-2 eagle, AU55 NGC, with the mysterious vertical spines in Liberty’s cap. Others, who admire Janis Ian’s work and talent, will bid on the coins as mementos, and love them for that reason.