By Harvey G. Stack, Stacks Bowers Galleries ………
During the middle of the 20th century, due to the aging of collectors who had collected prior to the 1950s, a major group of outstanding collections became available at public auction or by private sale. Most of the collections included coins from collections that were formed in the late 19th century and up to the beginning of World War II.
The late 19th century lacked all the new communication appliances that came into common use before the war and then expanded by leaps and bounds after the conflict. Collecting coins and other memorabilia became a popular way for people to keep themselves busy during their non-working hours. It was an era when time off from business was spent at or near home. Though lighting was poor (but better than candlelight), collectors found great relaxation in accumulating coins, studying different dates and die varieties and then recording their findings in books and catalogs. This scholarship allowed others to continue these studies resulting in the more advance way collectors assemble collections today.
The famous Reed Hawn Collection was begun in Texas where Mr. Hawn grew up and his family had their business. The Hawn family was well known in Austin, where they worked their oil fields and raised champion Arabian horses as a family outdoor hobby.
We met the Reed Hawn and his father in the early 1950s when they came to New York with the idea of expanding their collection. The father and son worked together finding special rarities in the series they were assembling. During that period they were fortunate, as some old-timers began selling, dealers were able to amass large stocks from their clients, rolls of many common dates were found, and the selection was far greater than available today. Thus there was a vast selection for Reed and his Dad to consider.
Both father and son had keen eyes for quality and rarity. They assembled a number of complete sets, including some duplication as a result of upgrading specimens as they found better ones. They looked for examples that were boldly struck and pleasing to the eye. Their endeavors led to an assemblage they were proud of and Reed and his Dad did show them to fellow collectors.
The major set was the almost complete set of United States half dollars, which started in 1794 and ran through the Liberty Seated series, with many of the great rarities in Proof or superb Mint State. Many were pedigreed to the fine collections of earlier years and few were exceeded in quality.
In 1973, for personal reasons, Reed Hawn decided to sell part of his collection and Stack’s offered it for sale in August that year. In later parts of this reminiscence, I will tell of the depth and quality of the famous Reed Hawn Collection and Stack’s offering of the collection at public auction both in 1973 and later in 1993.
The Reed Hawn Collection of United States Coins was outstanding, an assemblage not duplicated for many years. The items were carefully acquired, after years of research, from the many great collections that were marketed during that time.
The Reed Hawn Collection featured a superb offering of U.S. coins from the small cent to the silver dollar with the half dollar series being among the choicest to be offered in that period. Included was a large variety of half dollars from 1794 onward, with dates and mintmarks and featuring many pedigreed pieces in top grades. There was also a superb offering of Proof coins including presentation pieces.
When the collection was assembled by Reed Hawn and his father, their goal was to acquire the finest known, from collections that were famous for quality and rarity. Many of these renowned collections were formed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By reviewing the half dollars, I will demonstrate why the Reed Hawn Collection also became famous. Each coin was hand selected to complement the others so that, when it was sold, it would be considered outstanding as a collection. The Stack’s firm acted as a guide and its staff members were teachers stressing what to look for, what was available, what might be coming on the market, and what bidding ranges were most likely to be successful. The Stack family was pleased to build a relationship with the Hawn family and proud to help them build this collection. Later it was our honor to offer it at auction and the sale was a great success, attracting many more bid sheets than usually received, and presented to a standing-room-only crowd.
The half dollars started with a 1794 in Mint State, continuing with a 1795 Double Date, 1795 Small Date, and 1795 Two Leaves, all in Mint State. They continued with a 1795 Three Leaves, 1796 15 Star in Proof (ex Parmelee sale), 1796 16 Star in Proof (ex Allenburger sale), 1797 Mint State (ex Atwater sale), 1801 through 1806 with many varieties, all Mint State, the Unique 1806 Pointed 6 in Proof, and the 1807 in Proof. The Draped Busts halves 1807 to 1836 offered close to 90 specimens covering major varieties in Choice Mint State, and included the 1807, 1821, 1822, 1828 Small Letters, 1830 Small”0″, 1831, 1836 50 over 00, all in Brilliant Proof.
The Draped Bust Reeded Edge series included 1838 Proof as well as a magnificent Proof 1838-O, the rarity of the series (ex Atwater) and an 1839-O in superb Mint State.
The Liberty Seated series was outstanding with the following all in Brilliant Proof: 1839 No Drapery, 1840, 1841, 1846, 1847/6, 1837, 1848, 1850, 1853 Arrows and Rays, 1854, 1855, 1855-S (presentation piece from the Farish Baldenhofer sale), 1856, 1857 and all the rest of the Philadelphia half dollars, 1858 to 1891, also in Brilliant Proof condition. The other Philadelphia Mint coins were all choice Uncirculated.
Other half dollars featured Mint State and choice examples of the following rarities: 1844-O double cut date, 1845-O triple cut date, 1846/5, 1846 over horizontal 6, l846/5-O, 1846 over Horizontal 6, 1846/5-O, 1853 Arrows and Rays, 1853-O Arrows and Rays, 1854-O, 1857-S, 1858-S, 1859-S, 1866-S No Motto, 1869-S (ex. R.L. Miles), 1870-CC (Empire-Gardner), 1871-CC (proof-like), 1872-CC, l873-CC No Arrows, 1873-CC Arrows, 1874-CC, 1878-CC, 1878-S, and the 1879-1891 group in both Mint State and Proof. Some Mint State examples of these years can be rarer than the same years in Proof so Reed Hawn, wanting to acquire the finest and rarest available, bought both. The sale of his collection provided the opportunity for half dollar specialists to acquire some of the finest and rarest of these early date coins. The obvious rarity and quality of the pieces led to prices they realized that were very high for the period.
The Barber half dollar collection was one of the most complete high quality offerings to reach the market place in the early 1970s. Because the Mint sold Proof coins as part of Proof sets and individual coins that were issued at the time of striking, Reed Hawn decided to have both Mint State and Proof coins as part of his set. Therefore, there were Proof examples from 1892 to 1915, complemented by Mint State examples of the Philadelphia Mint years. Finding perfect Mint State Philadelphia issues was difficult and Reed enjoyed the chase.
Mintmarks of the Barber series were highlighted by some of the choicest examples to be offered on the market, and included such rarities as the 1892-O Microscopic O, 1896-S, 1896-O, 1901-S, 1903-S, 1904-S to mention a few.
Completing the half dollar offering was an extreme high quality Walking Liberty set, sold one coin at a time, all sharply and well struck, virtually free of bagmarks, and all mostly brilliant or attractively lightly toned. The series was highlighted by super examples of 1917-S mintmark on obverse, 1919-P-D-S, 1920-P-D-S, 1921-P-D-S to mention but a few.
Part Two of this article will appear next week…..