Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing up in a Numismatic Family, Part 70

After our sale at the 1976 ANA Convention was completed, a group of dealers gathered in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel to discuss our success selling this massive group of coins in a single sale. Ed Rochette, the executive director of the ANA, asked a group of us if we could have a private talk about future ANA sales. I was exhausted after selling thousands of lots during the past few days, but a meeting was important, so I attended.

Ed explained that the ANA was expanding and need more space at the headquarters in Colorado Springs. He said that running the conventions was becoming more expensive and that there was a limit to what they could charge dealers for their bourse tables. The ANA Board had decided that the fees bid by dealers to hold the ANA convention auctions would have to be increased. Stack’s had paid more than $50,000 for the 1976 auction; this higher amount was get the addition to the ANA library finished. Now it turned out that the board wanted to institute a minimum bid of $250,000 to get the annual contract. Dealers could then bid more than that to try and get the sale. If there had been room where were to faint, all of us would have been on the floor.

Those of us in the dealer group tried to explain that while market values for coins had increased, they were leveling off and some were going down. In addition, the costs of catalog production, printing, and mailing were going up, as were the expenses to conduct the actual auction. We all objected, as a quarter of a million dollars was far more than any sale was worth in the current market and stated that we could not run a sale without losing money if the fee was that high.

Ed, speaking for the board, said that they felt it could be done and that the rise in market prices meant that the auctioneers should be willing to pay more. We told him we would think about it, but that initially he would have to go to others to get an auctioneer that was willing to pay that amount.

The group of dealers left the meeting and decided we needed to discuss it, as it was a scary idea for us to contemplate. We found a conference room that wasn’t in use and ordered some drinks and food. During the meeting we all said in different ways, we would all just have to forego the ANA convention as a place to run our sales. We thought about the idea of joining forces to run the sale, as had happened in 1952 when New Netherlands, Merkin, and a few others each gathered consignments and worked together to hold the sale.

Then the idea came to the table, as if each of us had the same thought. Why not work together to hold an auction, not during the ANA Convention, but a week or so before or after? As those of us who were at this meeting were considered the leading coin auctioneers at the time, we could not see any reason not to give this serious consideration. We thought it sounded like a good idea, so four companies made a tentative deal. Stack’s, Paramount, Rarcoa and Superior would investigate the idea of joining together to hold an annual auction We did not want to hold it concurrent with the ANA Convention, as we wanted to continue to attend the ANA show and have bourse tables, a fact that depended on maintaining a relationship with the ANA. So we decided we would not bid for the upcoming ANA auctions and instead would seek out locations for our "Summer Sale." We would not hold our auction the first year we stopped bidding for the ANA sale. In fact, the first such auction would not be held until the summer of 1979.

The program would be simple. Each company would gather say 500 lots, making it a 2,000 lot sale. The catalogs would be sent by each of us to our mailing lists and we would individually represent our mail bidders so as to keep our clients confidential. The cost of running the sale would be shared, including the cost of the facilities, an early dinner before each evening session, the lot showing staff, and the many other expenses that are incurred to run a public auction. It would cost far less than Stack’s paid to host the 1976 ANA convention auction and, of course, a pittance compared to the $250,000 that the ANA wanted to ask.

Dave Akers came up with the idea that we would call it the "Apostrophe Auction" and use the title "AUCTION ’79." The names of all four companies would appear on the cover, all the same size. If the auctions continued, we would rotate the order in which the names appeared. We were energized by how this idea had so quickly grown into a project we were all excited about that gave us an alternative to trying to hold ANA auctions. The "Apostrophe Auctions," which would continue for over a decade, became a very important venue for Stack’s and the other dealers involved.

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