By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek….
“A billion dollars ain’t what it used to be.”
So said Texas oil magnate Nelson Bunker Hunt after he and his brother William Herbert Hunt, along with a group of wealthy Saudi partners, tried to profit by cornering the world’s silver market, only to have the entire scheme come crashing down in March of 1980.
Known as a hard money advocate, conspiracy theorist, conservative activist and evangelical Christian, Nelson Bunker Hunt was a larger-than-life personality, the kind that Texas seems to own the patent on.
Hunt died of congestive heart failure on Tuesday (October 21) at an assisted living center in Dallas, according to the Dallas Morning News. He had also been dealing with dementia and cancer. Hunt was 88 years old.
Born in Arkansas but raised in East Texas, Nelson Bunker Hunt and his brother William inherited their fortunes from their father, billionaire oil tycoon Haroldson Lafayette “H. L.” Hunt, who was one of the inspirations for the character J. R. Ewing on CBS’s prime time soap opera Dallas.
The rise and fall of the Hunt Brothers, and their role in the silver bubble of 1979-1980, is well known in numismatic circles. And despite the consequent market collapse, by most measures the Hunt brothers remained wealthy. Others weren’t so lucky.
After the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission banned Nelson Hunt from trading in not only silver but all other commodity markets, the Hunts were dogged by legal issues and lawsuits. Both brothers were convicted of conspiring to manipulate the market in 1988.
What’s also known (if less talked about) is the irreparable damage to numismatics the Hunts and other period speculators were responsible for, as untold rolls and bags of unsearched silver coins were dumped into the smelter’s pot in order to cash in on the rising market. Because of this and subsequent “great melts”, the mintage figures for pre-1964 silver coins are practically worthless as a gauge of availability
Hunt is survived by his wife Caroline and four adult children.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that the television show Dallas aired on NBC. It did not. Instead, Dallas aired on CBS from 1978 to 1991.
Not mentioned is the numismatic aspect of Nelson Bunker Hunt who formed a magnificent collection of ancient Greek coins sold at auction a few decades ago. He paid enormous prices for the very finest Greek rarities and ancients bearing his pedigree are today highly sought, several worth multi-millions of dollars. His preference was for superb and ex rare ancient Greek decadrahms, the largest known and most visually impressive of ancient coins and apparently meant as awards rather than as circulating medium.