Between 1973 and about 2002, Dan Holmes acquired the most complete collection of United States large cents ever assembled. This was sold in a series of four auctions by Ira and Larry Goldberg in 2009 to 2011.
I met Dan when I attended the EAC convention in Cocoa Beach, Florida, in January of 1979. As I recall, Dan took a dealer table although he did not consider himself a dealer. The dealer fee supported the club and the table gave him a place to sit and talk with his friends. His friends were many.
Dan Holmes, Jr. was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 24, 1938. He earned a bachelor’s degree from New York University and went on to earn his MBA there. Later he studied management at the Harvard Business School.
In the 2009 catalog for the sale of his early date cents, Dan told an amusing tale of his summer in 1960. He worked as a guide for the “Three-Corner-Round Pack Outfit” in the southern Sierra Mountains. At the end of the summer he hitchhiked around the west and headed home. He was wearing clothes made from elk hide and had a full beard with curly hair. He carried a recurved bow, a quiver of arrows and had a bowie knife on his belt. He linked up with a group of hobos.
“Thus I began a new career as a hobo. Since I was headed for Cleveland, the advice I received was to wait for a train that would be headed for Kansas City or Chicago. In the meantime we just hung out under the loading dock and watched the trains. Eventually one came along and parked near us. It included a tank car that was leaking. We were nervous that the leak might be dangerous so one of the hobos volunteered to check it out. He came back with a coke bottle full of a dark red liquid and reported that he had struck gold – it was a wine car! We all grabbed our bottles and headed for a fill-up!!!”
In 1962, Dan Holmes, Sr. bought Morrison Products, makers of fans for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC&R). Dan Holmes, Jr. joined the firm in 1971 as a foreman in the manufacturing plant. He moved up to become President of the firm in 1979.
Dan Holmes, Jr. married Joan Rice on September 1, 1962. Their son Wyandt was born in 1966 and daughter Anne in 1968.
Wyandt worked as a paramedic in Fort Collins, Colorado, and was spokesman for Poudre Valley Hospital EMS. He is married with a daughter. Anne joined the management at Morrison Products and was married in 2010.
When I remember Dan, I think of Sheldon’s color set that he showed off at the EAC conventions. He would tell about meeting Dr. Sheldon in 1976 and acquiring the color set shortly afterward. This was a black leather tray with six columns and eleven rows holding 66 pill boxes. The 60 large cents and six Colonials came in as many colors as there were slots in the tray. There were shades of brown ranging from light tan to charcoal gray. These browns could be mixed with shades of red.
In the other direction were browns mixed with various shades of green. Dan paid $3200 for the set on March 29, 1976. The set remained intact and was sold at auction on September 6, 2009, for $37,950.
The annual EAC auctions included serious offerings of some great copper coins. For comic relief the auctioneer would put up a six-pack of some local beer with the proceeds to benefit the club. Dan was a frequent winner of these beer lots. As winner of the lot, he would present the first bottle to the under bidder. On one occasion when he could not attend the sale, he won the beer lot with a mail bid.
Dan Holmes, Sr. Died in 1984. With success in business, his son had the assets to pursue a serious collection of United States large cents.
By 1986 Dan had completed a collection of the varieties of middle date cents 1816 to 1839. Previous “complete” collections were completed by Frank DeWette Andrews with 205 varieties in 1883 and by Floyd T. Starr with 243 varieties. Three new discoveries brought the Holmes set up to 246 pieces. His collection of middle date cents, 1816-1839, was sold by the Goldbergs on May 30, 2010.
Within the Early American Coppers Club, members generally know who needs the rare varieties and who is likely to be bidding at an auction. The Jack Robinson collection came up for sale in 1989 and there were a number of pieces I aspired to own. If there was a coin that Dan Holmes needed, I knew that I did not have a chance to outbid him, and I never did.
The key to the early cent series is the 1795 S-79 and it is frequently the last variety to be acquired. EAC members can often predict who is next in line to buy that variety and complete the series. In 1986, it was Jack Robinson. In 1989 it was G. Lee Kuntz and in 1991 it was J. R. Frankenfeld. Holmes could have jumped the line but he watched as these collections were completed. In 1993 he acquired the S-79 that had passed through the collections of Dr. Sheldon and “Ted” Naftzger.
The Holmes late date cents 1840 to 1857 included 384 of the 385 known varieties assembled by 2002. The one missing variety is a unique piece in a collection in Rochester, Minnesota. This segment of the collection was sold by the Goldbergs on January 30, 2011.
On March 20, 1997, Dan bought the last variety needed to complete a collection of early date large cents 1793-1814 according to the 295 Sheldon numbers. He was the twelfth person to complete such a collection. He also had 52 of the “NC” varieties, missing one unique piece held by the American numismatic Society. This early date collection was sold at auction by the Goldbergs on September 6, 2009.
Dan served as President of Early American Coppers in 2005. He was diagnosed with ALS and resigned his presidency in April 2009. He was 70 years old and understood that continued involvement with the hobby would be limited. He gradually lost control of his muscles but never his mind, which remained sharp.
The last time I saw Dan was at the May 2012 EAC convention in Buffalo, New York. I am sure that travel was a challenge for him in his motorized wheelchair. He came to see his friends and his many friends were glad to see him.
Dan died on January 5, 2016.