One of the Most Significant Cabinets of the Modern Era
For three decades, Sydney F. Martin was a preeminent figure in American numismatics. He served as president of the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and was the author of standard references on no fewer than four early American numismatic specialties. Mr. Martin was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founder of The Sytex Group, which provided services to the defense and intelligence communities before its acquisition by Lockheed Martin in 2005.
Stack’s Bowers Galleries has been selected to sell Martin’s many remarkable numismatic collections at public auction over a several year span, beginning in 2022. Stack’s Bowers Galleries has sold most of the finest collections of pre-Federal coins presented at auction over the last 50 years. Many of Martin’s most prized specimens will be offered at events in conjunction with the Baltimore Whitman Expo, the American Numismatic Association’s (ANA) World’s Fair of Money, and the November conventions of the Colonial Coin Collectors Club.
“Our world-class expertise in this specialized area was a natural pairing with Mr. Martin’s world-class collection,” said Brian Kendrella, Stack’s Bowers Galleries president. “After spending years of his life and many millions of dollars building one of the finest numismatic cabinets of all time, Syd left very particular instructions on how the cabinet should be dispersed. We’re grateful that we are able to provide all the aspects he sought from a numismatic auction firm.”
Blessed with a warm personality, remarkable memory, and limitless curiosity, Martin’s approach to numismatics was organized and studious, informed by strong relationships with dealers and fellow collectors as well as a superb numismatic library. His cabinet began modestly, but his acquisitions increased in magnitude in the early 2000s. At that time, he undertook the construction of a reference collection broad enough to fully examine the die varieties of series like the Rosa Americanas, the St. Patrick coinages, the Wood’s Hibernias, and the coins of the French colonies in North America. He was as attracted to humble pieces of great academic value as he was to marquee rarities, and his success in business and careful approach allowed him to acquire great numbers of both. The Martin Collection includes thousands of early American coins and medals, and it will take years to carefully catalog and present at public sale.
The Martin Collection could be compared to the Norweb Collection (sold by Bowers and Merena in 1987-88) in its expansiveness and its inclusion of headline rarities, but it’s both bigger and deeper than Norweb. It could be compared to Garrett (1979-81) or Ford (2003-13), but either comparison underestimates the breadth of series that Martin explored. The collection of Connecticut coppers is both the most complete and most important ever assembled. The collections of other early copper series, notably including the New Jerseys, are similarly important.
The series that Syd Martin collected and researched vigorously enough to produce new standard references — the St. Patricks, the coinage of William Wood, and the French colonial series — are unlike any collections that have ever been formed or could conceivably be formed again. Massachusetts silver, colonial type coins, Fugio coppers, coins and medals of George Washington, Betts medals, and more, are all present in world-class quality.
The cataloging of the Martin Collection will focus on Martin’s unique approach and important legacy, with early American expert John Kraljevich leading an experienced Stack’s Bowers Galleries team. Kraljevich and Martin’s friendship dates back decades, to small-town shows in their native Pennsylvania, and continued as both grew in experience and expertise.
“It’s an honor to have a chance to contextualize Syd’s amazing efforts and bring them — and his coins — not only to a new generation of collectors but to pages that will memorialize his contributions for numismatists not yet born,” Kraljevich said. “The man was the total numismatist: scholar, writer, collector, and companionable colleague. I’m so thankful he did so much work to improve the community of numismatic scholars and collectors, and we all owe him a debt. These catalogs are one way we can say thanks.”