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Tales from the Bourse: I Have a Rare Coin and Nobody Wants to Buy It!


This New Edition of Tales from the Bourse is published courtesy of David Lawrence Rare Coins….

Over the years I’ve learned no matter how hard you try, you can’t force a good deal. It will happen on its own — usually when you least expect it. Of course, it helps if you are ready to act when the opportunity presents itself.

In the early ’80′s I did three shows a year in Raleigh, N.C. It’s a 3½-hour drive and Lynn often came along to keep me company. On this occasion, we left the house early on Saturday morning and arrived at the show about 10:30 a.m. Dealer set-up was at 9:00 and the bourse was already humming when we got to our table. I hastened to unpack and display my coins. As I did so my back was to the aisle.

A man passed behind me: “I have a rare coin, but nobody wants to buy it,” he said.

“What is it you have, Walter?” I turned around to face him.

Walter and his wife had retired to a small coin shop in the resort town of Myrtle Beach, S.C. They both spoke with a German accent. I had bought a few pieces from them in the past year. Like those, this one had come across the counter. He held out his hand and showed me an 1873-CC quarter.

It had arrows at the date, and I graded it EF/AU. Other than that I knew nothing about it. I rarely dealt in Seated Quarters. “How much do you want for it?” I asked.

“$1,500. It’s a rare coin.”

Not wanting to miss a possible opportunity, I took the coin. “Give me a few minutes to think about it,” I said, and went back to my table to look it up in the Red Book.

Its Red Book value was very high but, not being familiar with the series, I didn’t know if it was accurate. I showed the quarter to a dealer friend. “What do you make of this? It’s $1,500.” In my other hand, the Red Book was open to the appropriate page.

He didn’t have a feel for it either. “It looks like a good deal, but I really don’t know. I guess I would split it with you and take a chance.”

“OK,” I said, and wrote Walter a check. I had some concerns about the coin being genuine, but Walter guaranteed it and I had a large show coming in four days. I intended to have it checked out there.

The following Wednesday, my friend and I traveled together to St. Louis, where we checked into the Days Inn at the Arch. As we rode up the elevator to our rooms, we found ourselves standing next to a dealer from New York City. He specialized in rare seated coinage. I turned to him and said, “Jim, I think I have something you’ll be interested in.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“An 1873-CC quarter.”

Jim got visibly excited. “Let me look at it,” he said and he thrust out his hand.

“Can’t do it now. It’s packed in with all our other coins and we haven’t even gone to our rooms yet.”

“I’ll come with you,” he said. At that point we reached our floor and the elevator doors began to open.

“No. This is not a good time. I’ll show it to you during set-up.”

“Don’t show it to anyone else! I’ll come to your table as soon as I get there.”

“Don’t worry,” I assured him, “I’ll put it aside for you.”

A few hours later, we made our way to our table on the show floor. Jim was already there. “Let me see it,” he implored. I rummaged through my boxes of coins, found it and handed it to him.

“How much?” he asked.

“We don’t know what it’s worth and were hoping you could tell us. What do you think it is worth?”

Jim moved closer to the table and leaned towards us. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” he said. “I’ll make you an offer right now, but you must take it or leave it right here. If you show the coin to anyone else, the deal’s off!”

“OK,” I said, “how much is it?”


I turned to my friend, who was still unpacking his own coins. “What do you think? Should we take it, or should we show it around the floor?”

Jim interjected: “Remember, if you show it to anyone else, I’m out!”

My friend and I huddled for a few minutes. “OK,” I said, “the coin is yours.”

We heard a rumor the next day that Jim turned down $12,000 for it. He considered it the second finest known of the date.

Postscript: Some time later, it occurred to me that I had given away a lot of money by offering to split the deal with my friend in the first place.

John Feigenbaum
John Feigenbaum
The President, CEO, and managing partner at CDN Publishing, John Feigenbaum, has been a professional numismatist since 1979. Formerly president of David Lawrence Rare Coins, John has taken on publishing and executive responsibilities for CDN Publishing. John has written for numerous trade publications, and published "The Complete Guide to Washington Quarters" in 1991. In 2014, John received the PNG Abe Kosoff Founders Award for his "steadfast dedication to the entire numismatic community". Contact John at [email protected].

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