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Harvey Stack – Growing up in a Numismatic Family: The History of Stack’s – 1984

By Harvey StackCo-Founder, Stack’s Bowers Galleries ……
The year of 1984 showed continued regrowth in the public’s interest in Numismatics. Serious collectors returned to the hobby just as some major collections were being marketed. There were plenty of opportunities to buy coins from old-time collections, stimulated by the new growth in coin values that had until recently been hampered by the rise and fall of the Hunt Brothers in the silver market. The first few years of the 1980s were slow, but by the end of 1983 the effect of the “crash silver” market no longer affected rare coins.

Also, as the grading services began to grow and expand, the “resale market” seemed to hold its value.

The Professional Numismatists Guild, or the PNG, had originally formed in the 1950s but was stronger in size and numbers. It began to police the hobby and helped reveal and put out of business known offenders. I was a member of the Board of PNG for a number of years and worked tirelessly to re-establish the “reliability” of the professional numismatist.

For its part, the American Numismatic Association emphasized the removal of misleading, false and improper advertising from their magazine, The Numismatist. Trade publications such as Coin World, Numismatic News, and other publications followed their lead, and confidence quickly returned to the marketplace.

During this year Stack’s was awarded a number of old-time collections, either by the owners themselves or through their estates. Names such as Amon Carter, John L. Roper, John Halsell, Fredrick Knobloch, Floyd T. Starr, T. Bergin, George Kosko, Yale University, the Bartle Family, Richard Picker, and others were among the collections offered by Stack’s in 1984.

Our retail and mail-order businesses were strong, and we were able to develop a new cohort of collectors to start and expand their collections. We learned that the ANA also grew in membership as did the number of clubs affiliated with the national organization. Local newspapers around the country started coin collecting pages, and general interest national magazines also featured articles and advertisements.

Our senior staff, myself included, traveled all over the country, attending numerous trade shows and visiting clubs.

We even worked directly with banks and trust companies. One of the most notable holdings we were called upon to acquire and administer was an overseas bank that had in its vaults a large number of United States $20 gold double eagles.

Public Auctions

1984 was a landmark year for Stack’s, producing some 12 different public auction sale catalogs.

JANUARY: The astounding collection of AMON G. CARTER, Jr. of GOLD COINS. This collection, formed in the beginning by Amon Carter, Sr., and later enhanced by his son, Amon Carter, Jr. The Carter family owned the Fort Worth Star Journal, was a major holder of American Airlines and was an important land developer in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The auction offered complete sets of Proof and Mint State Small Cents, Half Dimes, Dimes, Quarters, and Half Dollars, mostly from their earliest issues (these were the sets that Amon Jr. assembled). The duo added a virtually full set of early dollars highlighted by a gem 1794, as well as an 1801, an 1802, and an l803 in Brilliant Proof. Not to mention the excessively rare 1804. They continued with the Gobrecht series with almost every date in Mint State or Proof, as well as the exceedingly rare 1870-73 Carson City issues, the 1870-S, and a complete set of the Morgan and Peace Dollar series. The sale had a set of Trade Dollars, including both the 1884 and the 1885.

The collection had a full set of Gold Dollars (considered one of the finest ever assembled), $2.50 Gold from 1796 (both types), as well as a run from 1821 to 1836, a superb 1848 CAL., and a virtually full set of Proof issues from 1859 through 1907; Three Dollar Gold, virtually complete including Proof 1875 and 1876; Four Dollar Gold, a complete set of the four pieces in Proof, plus a Quintuple Gold Stella. In the early Half Eagles (starting with 1795), most varieties to 1829 – highlighted by 1815 and 1819 plus most of the Proof issues from 1860 to 1915. Within the Eagle series, a full date set from 1795 to 1804, and a run of Proofs from 1858 to 1915 – highlighted by the rare Proof issues from 1873, 1874, 1875 and 1876.

The Double Eagle series was almost complete as well, with the following rarities to represent the series: 1851-O, 1853-O, 1854-O, 1855-O and 1856-O, then 1860 and 1861-O. The following Proofs followed: l861, 1864, 1867-69, 1873-76, and 1882-85, plus a number of P and D Proofs to 1913. The Saint Gaudens run included 1920-S, 1921, 1924-D, 1924-S, 1925-D, 1925-S, l926-D, 1926-S, 1927-S, 1929, 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D, and 1932.

Another highlight was the 1848 gold, silver, and copper Proof set in its original box of issue.

PIONEER AND TERRITORIAL GOLD: This part of the collection was one of the largest and most important collection series sold at public auction and rivals the famous Walton Collection. To start with, the Pioneer and Territorial Gold section offered an outstanding number of $50 Gold, with three round $50s (three of Wass Molitor, and one of Kellogg) plus 27 Octagonal slugs of all types and varieties. Among the other rare issues were coins of the U.S. Assay Office, Moffat & Co., Norris Grieg & Morris, Dunbar & Co., Dubosq & Co., Wass Molitor, and Mormon gold.

Among the many pedigreed collections represented within the Amon Carter, Jr. Family Gold Coin Collection, are Dunham, Neil, Col. E. H. R. Green, Atwater, Olson, Roe, King Farouk, Roach, Gransburg, Newcomer, and Hazeltine.

John L. Roper, 2nd Collection of AmericanaMARCH: THE SECOND COLLECTION OF AMERICANA FORMED BY THE LATE JOHN L. ROPER, OF NORFOLK, VIRGINIA. As you can see, this is Part 2 of the Roper Collection of America’s monetary issues, which featured important type notes of Colonial Currency, U.S. Currency issued by our country after 1862, Confederate items, Obsolete Currency (issued before the regular issues), Encased Postage Stamps, Hard Time tokens, Store Cards and Civil War tokens. The early colonial coins were on public display for a number of years at local museums and schools, and the exhibit was a tool used by the Norfolk to teach monetary history. It is interesting to note that, when the Smithsonian organized an exhibit honoring the 200th anniversary of banking in America, they had to come to Mr. Roper to borrow some of his notes. This is an indication of how important his collection was.

Also in March, we featured the collection of U.S. Half Dollars formed by John Gleen Halsell. Even though it was not complete, as Halsell collected only outstanding-looking specimens, it offered a run from 1795 through to 1947, with many of the finest known examples ever offered at public auction. Some of the rarities included 1815, 1847 (Proof), 1855/4, 1870-CC, 1873-CC, 1878-S/s. Additionally, the collection included a wonderful set of Bust types, an extensive date run of Liberty Seated halves, and almost a full offering of the Barber and Liberty Standing issues.

Included also in the catalog was a comprehensive offering of Colonial Coins, Small Cents to the Dollar, and a nice run of gold coins, and from a hoard, a roll of 1910-S double eagles.

MAY: Once again Stack’s was invited and conduct the popular Metropolitan New York Numismatic Convention. Because of the number of lots, we divided the sale into two catalogs. PART 1 featured the wonderful collection of NEW JERSEY CENTS formed by the late Harold Bareford. Also featured in this sale were offerings of outstanding Cents to Five Cents, and an exciting offering of Half Dimes, Dimes, Quarters Half Dollars, and Silver Dollars. Among the Gold Coins offered was a group of $1 to $20 gold, with a group of Pioneer Gold highlighted by possibly the finest-known round Kellogg & Co. $50 Gold in brilliant Proof, plus a comprehensive assortment of world gold coins.

Part 2 of the Metropolitan New York Sale contained an outstanding collection of Late Roman and Byzantine Gold and Silver coins dating from 280 to 1328 CE. This portion of this convention sale contained some 679 lots from the huge ancient coin collection formed by Frederick T. Knobloch, a renowned collector who devoted himself to over 40 years of study and collecting.

JUNE: Stack’s was selected by the Estate of Floyd T. Starr to auction his famous and renowned collection of LARGE CENTS, 1793-1857. It was considered by the Large Cent community as being the foremost quality set in private hands.

According to many dedicated Large Cent collectors, it was “the end of “the golden age of collections”, as Mr. Starr bought coins of the early series 1793-1814 from many noted sales including Hines, French, and Newcomb. His set was highlighted by 24 specimens of 1793, (including two varieties of the 1793 Strawberry variety) plus many other outstanding pieces, with many being the finest known. Mr. Starr strove to obtain very high-quality examples, and those varieties missing from his collection are absent because he could not find the quality he wanted.

In the series from 1816 to 1857, he tried for the finest as well. He attended the Newcomb auction in 1945 and made a deal with the auctioneer. After the entire sale was auctioned, he got the option to buy the ENTIRE NEWCOMB COLLECTION as a SINGLE AUCTION and offered to pay 10% over the hammer price–which, by the way, had totaled $4,850.

To give you an idea of what the Starr collection contained, he had most of the 28 Proofs from 1816-39, along with an additional 24 Proof specimens from 1840 through 1857. And most of the other coins in this auction were Mint State. The sale of the Starr collection is of historical numismatic importance, for it reintroduced several coins back to the market after a long hiatus – in many cases over half a century. Because of the importance of the collection, we engaged the help of known Large Cent specialists like C. Douglas Smith, Jules Riever, and Denis Loring.

In addition, we were consigned a lovely group of Half Cents dated 1793 to 1857. It was far from complete, but the “Proof only” dates began in 1831 and also were highlighted with an additional 19 Proofs. It was an astonishing offering of this rare Proof series. This sale had 893 lots, including some Large Cents.

We also held a second auction in June that contained over 600 examples of United States Gold, Silver, and Copper Coins. Highlighted by the THOMAS A. BERGIN COLLECTION of United States PATTERN COINS, this sale featured several small collections of great interest to most general collectors, who needed many of the common and scarce coins to enhance their collection. The Bergin collection was assembled as though trying to get a type set together, showing design variations from the Half Cent to the Silver Dollar, with highlights from the “washlady design” and the popular Amazon issues.

JULY: As we had done since 1979, Stack’s joined with the numismatic auction houses Rarcoa, Paramount, and Superior to offer the famous and popular offering commonly called the annual Apostrophe Sale, this one being named AUCTION ’84. Each company was limited to 500 Lots, so the selections were many of the best that each one could have consigned. To give examples of what was part of this sale, I list some of the highlights: 1802 and l803 Proof Silver Dollars; 1884 and 1885 Trade Dollar Proofs; Early Proof Sets from the 1860s and on; early U.S. Gold in mostly Mint State; the 1838-O Half Dollar; the 1880 Stella; the 1855 Round Kellogg $50 gold; just to mention some.

SEPTEMBER: September featured a comprehensive offering from Dr. George Kosko, Thomas A. Bergin and duplicates from the Yale University collection. It was an offering of all denominations of U.S. coins, from the Half Cent to the $20.00 Gold, mostly in Choice Mint State and Proof condition.

OCTOBER: As we received two important consignments for our October sale, we decided to issue a separate catalog for each: the BARTLE FAMILY COLLECTION and the RICHARD PICKER COLLECTION. Unfortunately, the main builders of both collections passed away before each sale.

The Bartle collection was a comprehensive offering of United States coins, highlighted by complete sets of Indian $2.50 and $5 gold, a complete set of Indian Head $10 gold (including both varieties of 1907 and the extremely rare 1933) – all in outstanding condition. The sale also had a stellar group of Morgan Dollars. It took three sessions to sell the Bartle coins.

Richard Picker was a close friend to both myself and Norman Stack, having met just after World War II. Though he earned his money from owning and servicing vending machines, he later became a full-time dealer and specialist in the enticing Colonial Coin industry and provided collectors such as Bareford, Roper and many others with guidance. He was sorely missed when he passed away the year before this sale

The Picker collection was relatively small in number (only 326 pieces), and even though it was a general collection it contained a goodly number of rarities and almost-impossible-to-find specimens. Among these were a Sommers Island shilling; a New England shilling; 45 examples of Massachusetts Silver; a Lord Baltimore; a Mark Newby Farthing; Higley Coinage; Chalmers coins; three Continental Dollars; a comprehensive collection of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont issues; Albany Church pennies; Fugio Cents; and Washington pieces (28 different examples including the Roman Head and ‘Born Virginia’). Though not as large as the Roper collection a year earlier, it was a splendid assemblage that brought many specialists to his sale.

DECEMBER: A GROUP OF SPECIALTY COLLECTIONS OF UNITED STATES, FOREIGN AND ANCIENT COINS formed by Dr. Constantine Generalales, Harry H. Trackman, and duplicates from the Floyd T. Starr collection. These were combined in a single sales catalog.

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Links to Earlier Parts:

1928-35 | 1935-45 | 1945-51 | 1951-52 | 1954 | 1955-56 | 1957 | 1958-59 | 1960 | 1961-62 | 1963 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968-69 | 1970-71 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983

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