It has been my
experience that people are very curious about what motivates people to set
records when buying
very rare coins for their collections. Many have asked me for my thoughts on
J.K. Lilly agreed to purchase the 1822 gold half eagle from the Amon Carter
collection for $50,000, he had a very simple motivation. In a second call after
we let him know that we had been successful after about five years of trying to
purchase it, Mr. Lilly answered that question. Basically, he really wanted to
fill that major gap in his collection and was fortunate enough to be able to
afford to do so, even at a record price.
this motivation, while seemingly simple, was about more than just this one coin
and this one collection. It was not
the full story. This series of
articles is not just about the items that came to make up the J.K. Lilly
Collection. It is about the way this man collected, not just coins but also
stamps, literature, documents,
and arms used in the War against England in the 1776 period.
He wanted all of his collections to be as complete
as possible, as a reflection of what he saw as the importance of collecting. He was a great believer in preserving history
and his collections represented
what he wanted to be preserved for future generations to appreciate and learn
from. He had a great belief that education would be served.
On the phone after he bought the 1822 $5 gold, Mr. Lilly explained that he was not a young
man. He noted that he was older by a number of years than Louis E. Eliasberg, who
owned some items Mr. Lilly
desired for his collection. He thought that Eliasberg would outlive him, and
that it was unlikely that the Eliasberg coins would be available in his
lifetime, meaning he would not get a chance to purchase some of the Eliasberg
rarities. Because of this, Mr. Lilly believed he would never be able to acquire
the unique 1870-S three-dollar gold piece.
So, with one 1822 half eagle in the Eliasberg
Collection and one in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian,
Mr. Lilly knew that the Carter piece was the only one that would likely be available for the foreseeable future. He knew
he had to make his move and get it while he could. This collecting spirit spilled over into his other
collectibles as well as I will tell more about later.