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Tales from the Bourse: Rare Dime from Europe


By David Lawrence FeigenbaumDavid Lawrence Rare Coins
Some years ago when I was still dealing in circulated Barbers, we had a customer in Italy who used to call us about every month or two and place a small order. He has a very distinctive voice and we always recognized him after just a few words. He never ordered anything valuable because we both were afraid a shipment could get lost in the mail.

One day he told me he was coming to the States and would make some large purchases at the Long Beach show. I said I looked forward to meeting him and even agreed to hold a 1916 Standing Liberty quarter aside until he came on Friday.

Since this was an expensive coin, I asked him to come by my table as soon as the show opened and see if he liked it. Friday morning came and the hours ticked by, but he didn’t show up. I got antsy and left my table to walk the floor. I told John to call me on the radio if “Alberto” arrived.

About 1 pm I was on the other end of the bourse floor when I heard his voice coming from the table behind me. I wheeled around. “Alberto,” I said to the dark-haired fellow. He was speaking to a dealer who specializes in Bust half dollars.

He looked up and I approached him with my hand extended. “I’m Dave Lawrence, nice to finally meet you. After you finish here, please come with me to my table. Remember, I’m holding that 1916 quarter for you, and John wants to meet you too.”

We shook hands. While I waited, I called John on the radio and said, “Found him. We’ll be back soon.”

Ten minutes later we were sitting at my table. John showed him the quarter, but he told us he had already bought one somewhere else. “In fact,” Alberto said, “I have two coins I need to sell to pay for it.”

He reached in his pocket and pulled out a 1794 half in Fine condition and an 1856-S dime. The latter was blazing white with nice luster. John and I thought it had the slightest amount of rub and Alberto agreed.

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“At an auction in Italy,” he replied. “I need $1,100 for it.”

David Lawrence Feigenbaum and John Feigenbaum. Photo Credit: Feigenbaum Family.

That was far in excess of the wholesale value for an AU. “Why so much?” I asked. It was easy to see why no one else had bought it, even though several dealers had had the chance.

“That’s how much I paid for it,” he said, “and I just want to get my money back.”

John was shaking his head. “That’s too much” he said to me, but a little bell sounded in my head and I hesitated.

“Leave the coins with us for a few minutes” I said to Alberto. “Let us look into it.”

After he left the table, I turned to John: “Something tells me this dime may be scarcer than we think. I remember from editing Brian’s Seated Dime book that some of the early S-Mint dimes are very rare in high grade. Take it around and show it to a few people and see what they say.”

A few minutes later he came back. “Well, Heritage will give us $2,000. There’s only one uncirculated coin certified and I’m told it’s pretty dark. This one might be the second finest known.”

“What about the Seated specialists?” I asked.

“They won’t give us much. Some BS about others being around.”

When Alberto returned, we bought the two coins and made out a check directly to the dealer he had bought the 1916 quarter from. We talked for a while, showed him some Barbers (I think he bought one or two cheap ones), and he left.

“You know, this dime just might be unc,” John said to me. “I think we should walk it through PCGS (the grading service). It will cost us $100, but it’s worth a try.”

And that’s what we did. The next day, the dime came back. PCGS had certified it as MS62! We were both ecstatic. I turned to John. “Let’s see what Heritage will pay now.”

“$5,000,” he said when he returned. “Should we sell it?”

We talked it over. We knew it was the finest white one known and very desirable. We considered taking it to auction but, in the end, decided to take the money then and there.

It was hard to believe that so many dealers had passed up this opportunity. In fact, one very knowledgeable Maryland dealer had had it in his possession for several days before the show!

Word of this dime must have gotten around. Some months later, this dealer asked me if we had graded it, and I told him we had and what the grade had turned out to be. I happily told him. He knew he had blown an opportunity.


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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