It was with great sadness that I and others learned of the unexpected passing of D. Brent Pogue, quietly in his home. I have had the privilege and honor of knowing and working with Brent ever since he entered numismatics in the 1970s, and in recent years all of us at Stack’s Bowers Galleries have partnered closely with him and his family in the sale by auction in five events, of his extraordinary collection of early American federal coins from the 1790s through the 1830s. Brent was the very definition of an extraordinary numismatist, a connoisseur. A careful student with a fine library at hand, he researched every coin he hoped to add to his collection.
In connection with our offering of his coins I and Christine Karstedt interviewed him several times, learning the story of his adventures in numismatics. Brent was born in Dallas on December 19, 1964. It has been said that some people are endowed with a collecting spirit and intellectual curiosity from birth, and for Brent this was certainly true. Starting as a teenager and with the guidance of his father Mack, Brent with connoisseurship, knowledge, and persistence built the finest-ever collection of early American federal coinage of the early years. No other private or museum collection past or present has come even close to his achievement.
In 1974 his dad, Mack, a nationally-known real estate developer based in Dallas, brought home a large bag filled with wheat-back Lincoln “pennies,” the type made before 1959. He had bought it from his brother Jack for $100. Mack, with a keen eye on encouraging entrepreneurship, gave it to Brent with an option to buy it for $110 within a week. Brent took it to his room, and with a copy of the Guide Book at hand, proceeded to go treasure hunting. Before long he found a 1915 cent that was as bright as new! It was worth $65!
“I was immediately hooked,” Brent recalled.
That was not all, Brent continued. “My first thought, since there was no mintmark, was ‘How did this penny make it from Philadelphia to Dallas? Then I asked myself ‘who was the president of the United States in 1915? What else was happening that year?’ Only after that did I think about the business side. I walked into my father’s bedroom. He was reading the newspaper. I exercised my option the same day.”
The rest, they say, is history: as the familiar comment goes. And what a nice history it has been from that day 45 years ago up to the present time. After having looked through the bag of cents and having immersed himself in reading the Guide Book from cover to cover, Brent expanded his horizons. Using the local bus he went to North Dallas to visit Ed Hipps’ coin shop and talk with the owner. “He was always so kind to me,” Brent recalls, although “I was hardly his biggest client.”
From that point Brent became a dealer of sorts, in a modest way. In his words:
“In 1974 I was in elementary school. I walked to school every morning. Didn’t everybody? I was not allowed to cross busy Douglas Avenue on the way. I broke the rule one day, crossed, and went into a 7-11 store where I purchased two jawbreakers for two cents.
“Each day the bell would ring calling us to class. Until then, my classmates and I would play touch football on the school’s grass field. On this particular day I had one of the jawbreakers in my mouth. A friend of mine asked if he could have the other. I said ‘no.’ He said he would give me an 1855 half dollar for it. It was at his house. I did not let him out of my sight that day and followed him home after class. He found the coin. The next day I sold it to another one of my friends for $16. It was off to the races! Coins were a fixture in my life from then on.”
Brent expanded his numismatics interest further and began building a fine reference library of auction catalogs and standard works. In 1978 his dad, having been an observer up to this time, joined him in numismatics. A familiar comment from Brent was “I was the steering wheel and my dad was the gas.” Both followed the market and participated in many sales.
In 1979 when Bowers and Ruddy Galleries conducted the first of four sales of the Garrett Collection for the Johns Hopkins University, Brent and Mack participated. In 1982 in the same firm’s sale of the Louis E. Eliasberg U.S. Gold Coin Collection, Brent and his dad were front row center during the preview. For the sale itself Brent was beside himself as he had to travel back to Dallas to participate in a track meet. The Pogues kept their eyes on the important coins in the sale—the only 1822 half eagle in private hands and the only 1854-S half eagle privately owned. In the end, Mack telephoned Brent, “We got them both!”
Speaking of the track meet, Brent was an athlete in several venues, ran marathons and triathlons, and participated in ocean swims. Recreational sports continued to be a lifetime passion.
Brent enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin and in 1987 was awarded a degree in economics. After that he worked with Goldman Sachs on Wall Street for three years as an analyst in that firm’s real estate department. In 1990 he went to work for the family business, the Lincoln Property Company based in Dallas, but with their New York City office. Next was a move to the Chicago office, followed a few years later to a move back to Dallas where he helped form a mortgage acquisition business as a subsidiary of Lincoln and established the Praedium Fund. In that capacity Brent moved to Los Angeles as an asset manager. “That went on for several years until my passion for coins overwhelmed me.”
In 2001 Brent went into rare coins full time and turned his passion into a business. While adding to his own collection he attended many conventions and auctions to buy and sell. His first major transaction was the purchase of a type set of copper and silver coins from Stack’s in 2002. In 2003 he completed the acquisition of the Foxfire Collection formed over a long period of years by Claude Davis, M.D. In 2005 he negotiated for and completed the purchase of the Great Lakes Collection of $3 gold, complete except, of course, for the 1870-S. This was the finest known such collection at the time, replete with many gems.
Figuratively, “I have fallen asleep with a coin book on my chest every night, from the beginning. Adding to my pleasure has been working with you as well as other leading dealers and auction houses,” he commented.
Brent had other interests than coins, in case readers wonder. He lived in California, where he enjoyed making headway on his golf game. Over a long period of time he went to many places and did many things, traveling in America and in foreign lands. On the personal side, he was a close friend in other areas, such as visiting Wolfeboro, New Hampshire and being a house guest, also visiting with Chris Karstedt and her family. Among his adventures was driving a boat on Lake Winnipesaukee. More daring was something I did not know about until after it happened. One day during a visit here he and my son Andrew decided to go sky diving. They drove over to the coast of Maine and did exactly that—proudly returning to tell their parents after the fact.
Brent was a superb host to us both in Dallas and in California and also the definition of a kind, generous person. Combining his personality with his coin collecting I can say that he ranks among the finest of all people in numismatic history.
Now, I and his other friends are only left with memories.