Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing up in a Numismatic Family, Part 68

As I mentioned at the end of my last article, there was a last-minute glitch when the time came for the Eliasberg Collection to make its way to the Philadelphia Mint. It may sound unreal, but the grand display of the collection for the U.S. Bicentennial nearly didn’t happen because of a technicality that affected one of the only people who had the power to put a halt to the plan.

The time came for the collection to be shipped from Baltimore to Philadelphia. The Mint was set to provide two large armored trucks staffed by armed guards, as well as three "chase cars" to go in front and behind the trucks. Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. had wanted to accompany the collection and see it set up, but he became critically ill and was unable to go. He appointed his son, Louis, Jr., to go along and help get the display set up. When asked I agreed to be in Philadelphia when the "delivery" arrived and to help set up the display. It was an honor for those of us from Stack’s to be part of this unbelievable display during our Bicentennial, and was a nice continuation of our relationship with Mr. Eliasberg and a reminder of the part our firm had played in building such an incredible collection.

Louis Jr., who in the past had worked with his father displaying the collection at banks in the Baltimore area, felt he had been given a great responsibility when asked to do this job. He wanted to ride in one of the trucks or "chase cars" and carry his gun, for which he had a Maryland gun permit. Although the Mint was providing plenty of security, having his firearm was very important to him. However, the Mint officials said that they could not allow him to carry his gun on this interstate journey.

Louis, Jr. was not happy about this at all. He stated that if he could not carry his weapon that the collection would not leave Baltimore! The Mint officials were stunned at this as all the arrangements had been made, the display area was all set up, and there was no way to come up with another option. I was very concerned and quickly called Louis Jr. to see what I could do to help. He was adamant; his father had asked him to take care of the collection and he was going to protect it.

My next step was to call people at the Treasury Department who had been part of the original agreement. I told him that Mr. Eliasberg’s son felt that the only way he could fulfill his father’s requirement to keep the collection safe was to bring his gun with him and was there anything they could do to make this happen. As the Treasury was also in charge of the gun and firearms department, a senior official at the Treasury had a special license issued for Louis, Jr. so he could bring his weapon on the interstate journey.

It was a harrowing few hours while all this was accomplished, but Louis, Jr. got his way and he personally supervised the moving of the collection into special shipping boxes, watched them loaded onto the trucks and saw the doors securely locked. He got into one of the "chase cars" with his gun on his lap. No one was going to make off with that collection if he had any way of stopping it! Luckily it did not become an issue and the convoy arrived safely at the Mint and I was there to meet it.

As he had in Baltimore, Louis Jr. supervised the removal of the shipping cases from the trucks, through the building, up to the special balcony where the collection was to be displayed. He supervised the setting up of the dozen or so special steel stands, and he personally unpacked each frame full of coins mounted in two sided holders so that the pieces were visible from both sides. They were inserted into the special holders that kept each of these frames upright, and each stand handled from 12 to 15 frames. In many cases each series could be viewed on both sides, and in chronological order. These special display tools had been made especially for Louis Eliasberg, Sr. to use when showing his collection to visitors at the bank. It was a clever design, created with viewers in mind. He had also previously produced a booklet about the coin display, which was used at the Mint during the Bicentennial.

After all the frames were in place on their vertical stands, Louis, Jr. inserted a special seal at the insertion points and then he was satisfied that all was secured. This concluded what had been a very exciting and challenging process, from broaching the idea to Mr. Eliasberg to making sure Louis, Jr. could bring his gun with him to Philadelphia. Millions visited the Mint during the Bicentennial and the numismatic display was one of the highlights of the event. Unfortunately, Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. succumbed to his illness without having the chance to visit the display or hear the wonderful comments from the people who viewed it. Luckily, Louis, Jr. was able to photograph the exhibit and show the pictures to his father before he passed away.

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