Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing up in a Numismatic Family, Part 111

In 1992 the growth of the numismatic market continued. More collectors started visiting our shop, ordering from us, and responding to our auction sale catalogs. In addition, more people were attending coin club meetings, and joining with other collectors at the various conventions all across the country. Our staff had increased, and some started joining Larry and me at many of the shows we attended. They had the opportunity to meet and chat with our clients. Business seemed to be gathering steam as each month passed.

Stack’s was receiving important collections to sell at public auction from many old-time collectors we had served over the years, as well as from estates and trust officers. Just for our May auctions we received multiple consignments that, because of their importance, we offered in three separate catalogs in conjunction with the Metropolitan New York Numismatic Convention held annually. Two of the major consignors, Herman Halpern and Gilbert Steinberg had been very active with this famous show for years and both felt that this would be a very successful venue for consigning, as there was a vast number of collectors who always attended.

Over the counter sales added to the year’s success, and now that the general commercial market had rebounded, prices began to improve in nearly all series. The exception was the sale of late issue Proof sets and special "medallic" items from the Mint, resulting from the fact that several years earlier they had flooded the market and now desire for such pieces was down. The Mint realized that sales of their products were dropping off and substantially reduced the number struck. However, the prices they affixed to the new issues were beyond what the market could absorb, so these also dropped in value. But scarce and rare coins improved in value, and were once again highly sought by collectors.

The cataloging team had been led by my cousin Norman Stack, just three weeks younger than I, while my son Larry and I dealt with the "business of business," so to speak.  However, as noted earlier, we had to make some adjustments as Norman had developed cancer and had to limit his work and his cataloging time. With his diagnosis in early 1991, and the treatments he was receiving, we decided he needed to limit his work and stay home from the office whenever he could. Larry and I would bring the coins to his home, (which was less than a mile from my home on Long Island) and let him rest when he had to, and work when he could. We could stop by in the evenings and the mornings to deliver and pick up items, and this gave him something to do while he was receiving treatments and distract him a little from the pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, his condition worsened and by October 1992 he had to stop working. By the middle of November 1992 he had passed away.

This was a major blow to me as Norman was not only my first cousin, but a warm and close friend, with both of us having joined Stack’s in 1947. He was dedicated to numismatic, which he loved, and really enjoyed his cataloging work. He was respected by the staff and our experts, as well as by the many collectors and dealers with whom he had done business for 45 years. He and I had shared a "partner’s desk," where he sat on one side facing me on the other. Surrounding us was a large section of our library that included the catalogs that had been published for decades by Stack’s and other dealers and scholars. Our extensive library of references on Ancient, World and United States coins was in an adjacent room. We worked tirelessly at the combined desk, depending on each other to complete our work.

Catalog production was very different in those days, with photographs limited to black and white. The photographer would take the pictures and deliver sets of pictures of various intensity. We would choose the ones we liked best, cut them out, mount them on index cards, paired obverse and reverse and then send them to the printer who had them made into "copper cuts" that were used to illustrate the catalogs. There was a lot of work that went into this and many who visited were amazed at what went into the production of our printed catalogs – comparing it to cutting paper dolls. Norman and I would work together at our desk for hours and I remember it as a fun and funny time in our lives together.

Besides working closely together, since we lived near each other, Larry and I would pick up Norman when traveling to and from work. We would talk shop on the way to work, and the way home, so that we could take care of business matters during the commute. We never had a disagreement and many an important business decision was done in that matter.

Larry and I enjoyed being with Norman and we still miss him greatly. With Norman’s passing, our responsibilities in the office naturally increased, and my daughter, Susan, who had been with us since she graduated college in 1976, took on the job of full charge bookkeeper, as well as extra responsibilities in office management. It was a family business and when we lost someone, as we had previously with my father, Morton, my Uncle Joseph, and my cousin Benjamin, family members stepped up to fill any voids that were created. By late 1992, Larry and I took over full control of Stack’s and the business continued to thrive. Despite this being a time of personal difficulty and loss for the Stack family, 1992 was still a major year when public auction history was made by Stack’s, as will be discussed in my next article.

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