For some 16 years Stack’s had been dedicated to building
a world class gold coin collection for Mr. J.K. Lilly of Eli Lilly & Co. As
previously mentioned he would visit Stack’s twice a year in the spring and
fall. He would advise us how he wished to proceed, we would
endeavor to find the coins he desired
and get them together for his approval. He would review the purchases, usually
accept them and then the coins would be personally delivered to him in
Indianapolis, usually by me. The coins would then be put in what he considered
his Hobby House, along with his many other collections.
However, in September of 1965 we got a call from Mr.
Lilly’s secretary that he was ill and would not be going to Palm Beach that
year. Mr. Lilly requested that we hold any coins for later delivery. We kept in
touch with his secretary who kept us informed of his condition. Sometime in April
1966 he had her call to ask if I could make a very brief visit to him within the
next two weeks. Of course I made a date and went to Indianapolis with the coins he wished to add to his collection.
I arrived in Indianapolis and promptly at 8:30 was picked
up and taken to Mr. Lilly. On this visit I was taken to his home in town called
"Oldsfield." It was a beautiful estate , near the cultural center of town.
It had about 40 acres of magnificent gardens, mostly roses in full bloom, and there was a lovely
home made from large granite natural rock, with incredible views of the gardens.
I was welcomed at the door by the houseman, who told me that Mr. Lilly was upstairs in his
study next to his bedroom. There I found
Mr. Lilly, sitting at his desk in the center of the room. He got up to greet me and asked me to sit down. Remembering the instructions
I received I showed him the box of coins I brought, he looked at them, and said,
"What wonderful things you have
assembled for me. I am delighted and thank you." He insisted
in making out a check, even with his shaking hands and giving it to me. He expressed his gratitude for all our
family had done to build his collection. I was embarrassed, but pleased, by his
warm remarks and we shook hands. The
time to go arrived quickly and I bid him good health and said goodbye. Two weeks
later, to the day, I received a call from Mr. Lilly’s office that he had passed away the night before. I asked about the services, for I did
want to attend. After all I considered
him a friend and had worked with him for 16 years. However, the family decided to have a private ceremony.
This was a very close and important numismatic
relationship for me, especially since I was present when he began and was with him when he acquired
his last coins. His desire for privacy
meant we never revealed his name to anyone, and only to our immediate staff did we ever mention that it was just one collector.
Everyone thought we had maybe five
different clients who specialized in gold coins, but no one would think it was for one special collector.
Once the family agreed that we could talk about the collection and the work we did with Mr. Lilly
we took out an ad that said:
"The secret isn’t secret any longer. We, for
the last 16 years built a gold coin collection that is surely ‘world class’ and
is the finest collection of its type built by a single collector with a single
“This world wide collection of gold coins, including
a virtually complete collection of United States gold coins is one of the most
extensive ever built, as it contains over 6,100 different gold coins of the
“Further information will be announced in the