By Harvey G. Stack, Stacks Bowers Galleries…..
The extent of varieties and completeness of the Reed Hawn Collection show that man’s dedication. Reed Hawn dedicated himself to specialization, as with his half dollar collection, 1794 to 1947 as described in the previous part of this article. But, he was also interested in other series that were easier to complete. During the 1960s and 1970s there were many great coins available either through dealers’ inventories or major auction sales. Sometimes entire sets were available; other times sets or groups had to be worked on piece by piece. Reed Hawn and his father purchased both ways, sometimes upgrading a complete set with pieces bought separately.
As noted, some of the Reed Hawn collection was offered for sale by Stack’s in August 1973 at the New York Sheraton Hotel, the scene of many Stack’s public auctions. It was also the location of the Metropolitan New York Numismatic Association Conventions that were held annually for a number of decades. It was a familiar venue to the many collectors and dealers who came for numismatic events, and was located within a half a block of Stack’s on 57th Street. All felt “at home” when coming to the hotel.
Complete sets offered for sale included full sets of Flying Eagle, Indian Head and Lincoln cents in lovely Mint State, a full set of two-cent pieces — Proof with the 1864 Small Motto in lustrous Mint State, a set of three-cent nickels all in Brilliant Proof, a complete set of silver three cents in high grades, a full set of Shield and Liberty Head nickels in Brilliant Proof including the rare 1867 Rays, a full set of Buffalo nickels, including the rare 1918/17-D, Mercury dimes in Mint State including the 1942/1, and a set of twenty-cent pieces (no 1876-CC) in Brilliant Proof. There was also a set of Liberty Standing quarters all in choice Mint State, including the rare 1918/17-S, a full set of commemoratives 1892 to 1954, including an Isabella quarter, a Lafayette dollar, both Norse American medals, and the 1932 Washington quarter in glittering Mint State, There was also a full set of Proof coins 1936 to 1942, 1950-1964.
During the post-World War II period, many collections were formed differently than they are today. First of all, the many “old timer coin collections” that came on the market often provided these postwar collectors the opportunity to choose from multiple available specimens. The earlier collections had duplicates, dealers maintained multiple coins in their inventories and, with a smaller population of collectors, obtaining coins to fill out a collection was much simpler and less expensive.
It was during this time of extensive supply on the market that Reed Hawn built much of his collection. He participated in auctions and spent hours going through dealer stocks all over the country, including at Stack’s in New York City. Reed Hawn was able to amass great sets of coins, including the half dollar collection detailed earlier as well as many other sets. It was a comprehensive collection, a major offering when it was sold at auction.
Inflation was slow but steady after the war, and prices rose at a small increments during this period. Eventually it was the increase in the price of gold during the Nixon administration and the growing demand for goods and services in the economy that led to the increase in value of numismatic items.
Twenty years later Reed Hawn, who had gained fame as a collector as a result of his major auction sale of 1973, brought to Stack’s his newly formed collection of rare coins to sell at public auction. This sale took place in New York at the Park Central Hotel, where Stack’s held many public auctions. The sale dates were October 13 and 14, 1993. Many recalled our earlier sale of Reed Hawn’s items and were anxious to learn what he had accomplished in the ensuing two decades. No one was disappointed and the sale was a landmark sale of the latter part of the 20th century.
As discussed in the description of his earlier collection, Reed was an enthusiastic collector, even in his teenage years, and was seriously pursuing rare coins almost from the first day he started. He began with searching for Lincoln cents from circulation, always replacing poorer examples with better quality when he found it. His father, Bill Hawn, encouraged him by giving him a goloid metric dollar as a present! Reed went out in the 1960s and bought several rolls of Mint State cents, (accumulating rolls was the craze of the period). He selected the best he could find and these could be found in his 1973 and 1993 collections.
His family traveled extensively and in the early 1960s he asked his parents to take him to New York, as he wanted to visit Stack’s. It was during that visit that he became friends with Ben, Norman and Harvey Stack. Harvey treasures their friendship to this day, and when Larry joined the firm he too developed a friendship with Mr. Hawn.
At this time, Reed promised the Stack family that if they would help him build an important collection that the firm would have the opportunity to offer it for sale. He kept his word, and the first sale was presented in 1973. It was widely acclaimed to be the “sale of the year” and the results were very rewarding and satisfying to Reed. As related earlier, when the sale was completed, Reed approached the Stacks, expressed his great appreciation and informed them that he was going to try to outdo himself by starting over and building a more exciting collection.
The pride that Reed Hawn has experienced in assembling his collections of coins has been witnessed by the Stack family for the decades we have served the collector and the collection. Studying coins, finding them, acquiring them, and enjoying their ownership is what makes a collector a numismatist. Often a goal is reached, and for that or other personal reasons the decision is made to sell. Then, a numismatist wants to pass on the pleasure of ownership to someone who will experience the same excitement and satisfaction. Some of the collectors we have served stayed within the same series they first assembled. Others, after selling, chose a new specialty such as die varieties or coinage of a time period or area of interest, such as Ancients, coins of Europe, South America or Asia or coins of colonial America.
In Reed Hawn’s 1973 collection, the highlight was his assemblage of U.S. half dollars, from 1794 to 1889. He owned many finest known examples as well as most of the great rarities.
In building his later collection Reed Hawn actually outshone his first efforts by finding rarities, pedigrees and best knowns. He would say that he was learning what the famous assembled before him, what quality and rarity they sought. Reed always said his close relation to Stack’s and studying the numerous catalogs they issued, along with those issued by other coin auctioneers, taught him how to build a better collection the second time around.
One of the first great rarities that he bought was the famous Type 1 1804 silver dollar. It happened just around the time he restarted collecting after his sale in 1973. He was talking to my cousin Ben on the phone and asked: “Do you have any rarities for me today?” Ben responded, ” We just happen to have the Mickley 1804 Type 1 silver dollar!” Ben heard Reed take a deep breath and then he asked “How Much?” Ben told him. Again there was a deep breath from Reed, after which he said, “I will take it!” After that transaction was completed, Reed told us: “When I call the Stack family, I have to be careful what I ask for, as they often have a great rarity for sale. I had to have the 1804 dollar, as it was going to be the pride of my growing collection.”
Stack’s 1993 sale of the Reed Hawn Collection had one of most extensive offerings of choice, rare and pedigreed coins gathered by a single numismatist to be sold in that decade. Reed Hawn’s earlier collection also had great rarities and high quality pieces, but in gathering the first collection Reed had increased his skills in grading and finding great eye appeal. Though third-party grading services became prominent in the late 1980s, Reed relied on his own skills and the skills of those who sold to him to determine what was suitable for his collection. His “on the job training,” together with examining many specimens available in this period (1973-1993) made him confident that he knew what a coin should look like, including an appreciation of delicate toning, a good strike and a “pristine” surface, not dipped or cleaned. He relied on what he saw and what he learned from collectors and dealers he trusted, and never relied on grading services to tell him what was qualified to be in the Reed Hawn Collection of 1993. The result earned his cabinet the title: “One of the Major Collections Formed in the Later Part of the 20th Century,” a name it can still claim to this very day.
While the collection included some lovely, choice half cents and small cents, like many collectors who want to finish early, he assembled a full set of small cents, 1856-1909, including the rare 1864-L in superb Proof. He also collected a matched Mint State set of Lincoln Head cents, including Matte Proofs for 1909 -1916. Other minor coins included the Proskey-Norweb 1864 Small Motto Red Proof two-cent piece (he never completed this set as he could not find colors to match), three-cent silver pieces in Proof and Mint State, and a set of Shield nickels 1866 to 1883, all in superb Brilliant Proof including the excessively rare 1867 Rays Proof. Reed also had a full set of Liberty Head nickels in glittering Proof, and boasting the exceedingly rare 1913 Liberty Head nickel reportedly from the famed Dr. Joseph J. Buss Collection and handled earlier by such numismatic names as Macalister, Wayte Raymond, Col. E.H.R. Green (who owned five at one time), Eric P. Newman, B.G. Johnson, F.C.C. Boyd, James Kelly. The coin was one of the highlights of the Reed Hawn Collection.
Reed Hawn’s collection of Buffalo nickels included the early dated Philadelphia coinage 1913 to 1916 in Matte Proof, and one of the finest known of the extremely rare 1918 over 17-D. The balance of the set was in Superb Mint State, sharply struck and surely among the top sets ever assembled. This set attracted bidders and caused great excitement when it crossed the block at the sale. Just the coins mentioned here would have made the Reed Hawn Collection a classic of its day and the collector a legend of his time. However, the silver coins were also among the finest ever assembled, many from old time collections, and curated with care and appreciation while Reed owned them.
Part Three of this article will appear next week…
In 1973 I attended a Stack’s auction in NYC and purchased the Reed Hawn complete proof set of the Franklin Half Dollars. What are they worth today and how would you recommend that I go about selling them?