By Rick Bretz for Coinweek….
Coins coming from personal collections are often given a Pedigree status and this seems to be a growing trend, as almost every auction by a major auction house now promotes coins as from the “So-and-So Collection”. As a fellow pedigree collector told me in a recent conversation:
“Rick, those collections are fine. Some contain examples of truly rare and museum quality items but they also contain a bunch of just plain, common coins. None of them do anything for me because I would rather have a coin that has an interesting story associated with it. I would take a shipwreck coin over a common MS60 silver dollar from the Bass Collection any day.”
He also went on to say that all the personal collections showed “was that some guy with a lot of money built a nice collection”.
I found this an interesting position because I share his feelings. When I speak about pedigree coins at various functions, audiences are interested when they hear the story about the Champagne Lanson gold find, the Binion Collection, the Fitzgerald Collection, the Wall of Greed, etc. But when I start talking about the personal collections of Bass, Duckor or Benson, I lose 90% of the audience.
Two major problems with private/pedigree collections are:
- There’s just no story (as my friend observed), and
- They’re expanding as rapidly as baseball cards did in the 1990s.
That expansion killed the baseball card-collecting hobby. Private collections and artificially-created collections are increasing at an alarming rate. Stack’s and Heritage have numerous “Collection” sales every year and many coin dealers are adding their name or a catchy phrase to give the appearance of a pedigree.
I have to admit, my fellow pedigree-collecting friend not only got me thinking about personally-named pedigrees but also pretty much killed my desire to have private pedigrees in my collection. While I do have some that I really like, I’m not going to pay a premium for a coin with no collecting value other than having belonged to “some guy with a lot of money”.
Case in point.
Here are three coins from personal collections:
- An 1884-O, MS60, Morgan silver dollar from the Bass Collection.
- A 1943, MS66, Mercury dime from the Benson Collection.
- A 1959-D, MS63FBL, Franklin half dollar from the Duckor Collection.
Why would or should any of these coins be worthy of having a pedigree name associated with them? They are as common and plentiful as coins get. Just because it is from a private collection should not automatically classify the coin as a legitimate pedigree.
Skidaway Island Collection
In my humble and reserved opinion, there are probably around six collections that deserve a true Pedigree name or status. One that I just learned about is the Skidaway Island Collection that was recently featured in several auctions by Heritage. Here is a recap of the collection:
“Heritage Auctions introduced an exceptional collection of Bust Half Dollars to pedigree collectors at the Dallas Invitational PNG US Coins Signature Auction at the Gaylord Texan Hotel on February 26 – March 1, 2015. The collection was graded by NGC with “Skidaway Island Collection” on the label. The Bust Half Dollars have exceptional eye-appearance and are a true “collection” versus a “hoard” of coins. The collection included 437 of the Overton numbers and approximately 500 Bust Half Dollars in total. Ownership previously resided with a private collector who remains anonymous.
Some of the Skidaway Busts acquired in the Heritage (February PNG) auction are now starting to appear in the secondary market at coin shops, shows and on eBay. However, if you would like an example for your pedigree collection and don’t necessarily feel like paying the flip premium then you are in luck as the coins are still appearing in current and future Heritage auctions.”
The achievement of assembling a near complete set of all bust half varieties is clearly worthy of pedigree status. It is much more than “a rich guy with a lot of money assembling a nice collection.”
How can you honestly use a common date silver coin to represent the Duckor or Bass collections which are some of the finest ever assebled. To compare Bass, a collection with a full exhibit in the ANA Museum to the Skidaway Island collection is a joke.
I don’t think the point was to in any way diminish the Bass or Duckor collections, or even compare them to Skidaway. It was a cautionary tale that pedigrees, even from famous collections, when assigned to the most common of coins, do not add value. Pedigrees have sometimes been used as a type of “Branding” in order to market coins. Some buyers of pedigreed coins actually submit them for re-holdering to remove the pedigree. One could even argue that the addition of famous collector pedigrees on common coins, such as an 84-O Morgan in MS-60, could actually negatively effect the “Brand” itself. In any case, the coins were NOT being used to represent the collections.
To compare the so-called Skidaway Island collection to the Bass collection is to compare a gnat to an elephant. To quote John Dannreuther, Bass “began assembling a gold coin collection that would eventually include over 6,000 coins. Not only did he collect by date and mintmark, he collected by die variety and die state!” Even setting aside Bass’s massive pattern collection, clearly Bass’s collection wasn’t just so ho-hum personal accumulation.
Moreover, Bass was more than “a rich guy with a lot of money assembling a nice collection.” Maybe the author of the article is unaware of Bass’s educational contributions to the ANS (as well as the ANA). Bass was President of the ANS for 6 years and, among many other endeavors, initiated the Coinage of the Americas Conferences. It’s not for nothing that the ANS has the “Harry W. Bass Jr. Library.”
I have no idea of the collector behind the Skidaway Island collection (which seems a very nice collection) but I expect Bass and the Bass pedigree will be remembered and collected well after Skidaway Island is forgotten.
This is an embarrassing article and I’m shocked that Coin Week even published it. What is the author trying to achieve here? Is he trying to sell the “Skidaway Island Collection”, trying to bash collectors (dead and/or alive) who have or had top registry sets? Congrats Rick, you pulled three “widgets” from these collections, EVERY collection has a few….
“Guys with a lot of money” have been bringing positive publicity to the coin community, have been getting people back into this hobby (young and old) and getting people excited about the hobby again. These spectacular offerings are keeping this hobby and industry going strong.
CoinWeek publishes articles that we feel add perspective and value to the hobby. Sometimes authors express opinions that we do not necessarily agree with, but in order not to stifle the conversation, we present these ideas to you- our readers. Rick is a devoted collector of Pedigree & Hoard coins and we believe that what he tried to accomplish in this short essay was to elaborate on how his thought process developed towards private collection pedigrees. If you stick with the series, you will see how these concepts develop and grow.
Regardless, we appreciate your feedback and thanks for chiming in.
The inclusion of Bass on this list (who collected early GOLD by die variety AND die state) reveals that the author is extremely uninformed – the rest of the article is completely untrustworthy as the author has no clue about numismatics except for perhaps a financial interest in this Skidaway collection. This article reads like an advertisement and Coin Week should be ashamed for publishing it.
There have been many collections put together over the years that were done by “some guy with alot of money”. However, many times the case has been that those collections brought low end money as there was no passion and care taken into building the collection.
Quality coins from Duckor and Bass are examples of people that not only had money but spent years searching for the perfect coins for their collection- something that was clearly noticed as a feeding frenzy ensued when their collections were sold off.
Champagne, Binion, and Fitzgerald were not collections but just someone who hoarded large amounts of stuff.
Perhaps the reason the author has not had any recognition from his speaking functions is that the above 3 hoard groups can be found all the time as they are a dime a dozen and carry no real value premium (and therefor can be found in many dealers stock), but Duckor, Bass and many other famous collection names get scooped up immediately from the market and are not normally seen around.
Furthermore, to real passionate coin collectors- we go aggressively after the coin. We dont need a multicolored shiny holder (fitzgerald) or a green insert (bininon) to sell the coin. The coin stands by itself (which once again is why names like Bass and Duckor are important as they automatically tell you there was something special about this coin which is why it was chosen for the collection to begin with.
The authors 3 coins were not part of any of the 3 names main collections but happen to be lying around when the rest of the major collections was certified and therefor slabbed along side. Some people will pay extra for these just to say they have a piece of history from those 3 giants of collectors.
I also remember the skidaway collection and personally I was not very impressed with the quality at all.The significance of this collection as stated by the author was that it 437 of the 500 overton variety’s. Yes there was a couple of really nice pieces, but most were just ho hum. In fact, I would guess that the collector was not very picky with what he chose and would have gladly placed any quality in the collection to get the overton set complete This of course deserves a big pat on the back for the collector but his level of accomplishment in my opinion gets crushed by the likes of Duckor and Bass who labored for years to find the nicest pieces and didnt just choose whatever came their way..
I also encourage the author to give a class to advanced collectors and bring up the names Benson, Bass, or Duckor. He will get an earful on the meticulousness of the collections. Mention to those same people Fitzgerald, Binion, and Champagne Lanson and the only sound he will here is one old guy going “who?”
I must respectfully disagree with the author of this article concerning the Skidaway Island collection. While it is an impressive assemblage of die varieties, I found this collection to be generally of low quality, with a very high percentage of cleaned or unattractive coins. Furthermore, the collection wasn’t complete – this was the epitome of some rich guy building a collection. He had all of the easy pieces – anyone with money and a little time could build this collection (it was missing many of the rarest pieces).
For a collection to be worthy of a pedigree, it should have one of a couple of characteristics:
1.) It should have a great story.
2.) It should have great rarity.
3.) It should be of extremely high quality or exceptional eye appeal.
4.) It should be extremely deep, broad, or complete.
Collections like Bass, Pogue, Garret, Newman, and Eliasberg were noteworthy for one or more of these categories. Something like the so-called Skidaway Island collection has none of these.
I am not “a guy with a lot of money”, but would love to have a Pogue Pedigree in my collection!