Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing up in a Numismatic Family, Part 71

After having a very successful year in 1976, the market seemed to want to keep growing, as people saw coin values going up. While 1977 opened with a slow start in January, enthusiasm grew and the hobby became very active. This was helped by prominent cabinets coming on the market, as certain collectors either passed away or decided they were getting too old to continue. This cycle of excellent material coming up for auction and encouraging new collectors to increase their participation, created a market that was dynamic and exciting. Not only did this impact the public auction sales that Stack’s conducted almost monthly, but it also enhanced over the counter trade at our New York City store.

The Bicentennial celebrations that started in 1976 carried forth into 1977, as many exhibits were planned for a two-year period. Both New York City and Philadelphia had numerous places to visit and experience the nation’s early history. In New York we received many visitors and collectors due to this ongoing event. Our retail shop was always crowded, and the seven auctions we conducted were always had lots with excited bidders. At this time, in-person attendance at auctions was the norm and the bidding that went on between attendees provided great entertainment. In these days before Internet, fax and phone bidding, we did accept bid sheets by mail, acting as agents for the clients who sent them. There were also those attending the sale that bid not only on their own behalf, but also for clients or friends who could not attend.

But the drama of the auction all took place "in the room." As I had been a licensed auctioneer since 1955, I had a great perspective from the podium and could watch the action in the room and learn how different bidders executed bids and observe the interplay that occurred between them. "Working the room" as an auctioneer required skill and experience, and the more of both I gained added to my enjoyment of the experience. While those times required a commitment of time and money on the part of bidders to attend auctions, they also fostered a community experience that made auctions very exciting and a lot of fun.

There were other ways that the coin market was changing. In 1972 the American Numismatic Association had launched ANACS – the American Numismatic Association Certification Service.  This service was started to combat counterfeit and altered coins that continued to enter the market. The coin experts at ANACS would provide guidance as to whether a coin was genuine or counterfeit. This was a big help, especially to beginning collectors.

At the same time, the ANA had to continued to work on their grading standards, a project begun a few years earlier. Finally the standards were ready and The Official ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins was published. In time, ANACS would use these standards to assess the coins that were sent in and assign them grades, beginning the move toward third-party coin grading that would eventually cause a sea change in numismatics.

Stack’s had always maintained a staff of highly qualified experts and so was able to offer our clients assurance that the numismatic items they bought from us were authentic, accurately graded, and well priced. Members of our staff wrote reference books and, in fact, four later became curators of national numismatic collections. Offering a wide variety of specialties, these experts were always there to help collectors, whether beginning or advanced, and also to provide instruction to me and the other Stack family members as we grew as professional numismatists.

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