Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing up in a Numismatic Family, Part 101

In 1986 the United States Mint decided to expand the scale of their
"rare coin business," selling lots of new products at a profit, to
both beginning and advanced collectors. This included special issue
commemorative coins and bullion issues that were sold above current bullion
market prices. This was in addition to the millions of coin sets that the Mint
had been issuing since after World War II, prices of which had been driven up
by the increase in the cost of silver. The Mint had a prestige place in the system
and could sell their products using the advertising slogan: "An Investment
for the Future." This marketing appeared in many numismatic and non-numismatic
publications and appealed to parents and grandparents. The Mint in 1986 created
the Eagle coinage, eventually issued in both gold and silver and bearing no denomination,
only weight and fineness. These were also a source of profit for the Mint and
were heavily promoted. The mass sales attracted by the Mint took
sums of money out of the standard coin market and had a negative effect on the
general numismatic marketplace. Old timers became concerned about the influence
this would have on the value of their
collections, and current collectors saw prices drop somewhat. This led some to
bid more conservatively or to just sit back during the year and see what would happen.​

Stack’s retail and mail order business dropped somewhat, consignments dropped in
size and importance, so we too experienced the economic pressure. Luckily, we
still had a quantity of gold coins from our partnership with Manfra, Tordella and Brooks, (MTB) that we could sell
to keep active. We also had received
contracts from several international banks to sell United States and World gold coins that had been in storage since
World War II and later in their European branches. So, Stack’s managed to stay

Even with all the
changes in the hobby, Stack’s continued
to attract
some great collections for 1986, with the result that we produced 10 different
catalogs for our public auctions during the year.  In January and March, we were pleased to
present the collections of James Walter Carter and Margaret Woolford Carter,
cabinets we had helped to build over the past few decades. James attended many
of our auctions, sat in the back row, watched how others bid and built two
United States gold coins collections for him and his wife. He loved the
competition at the sales, made a number of great buys, and assembled many great

As the Carters wanted each collection sold
separate from the other, we scheduled James
Carter’s one in January and Margaret’s in March. The January auction featured a choice
collection of gold dollars, 1849-1889, early quarter eagles from 1796 to 1838,
an almost complete set of $3 gold, a $4 Stella, early half eagles, 1795-1837,
and early eagles from 1795 to 1804. There was also a full set of Indian Head
$10 coins and quite a complete set of double eagles, including rare New Orleans
and Carson City coins and Proofs of the 1880s. Most of the coins graded at
least About Uncirculated, and there were many Mint State and Proof coins. Overall,
it was an outstanding offering. The March auction featured the gold coins from
Margaret’s collection. As she also liked silver, copper and nickel coins, there
were partial or complete sets of these included in the Part II offering.

When we first met the Carters, we learned that
they were both strong supporters of conservation of wild animals and were great
contributors to various efforts to protect wild and disappearing animals. They
were particularly fond of giraffes and a large portion of the proceeds from the
sale of their coins went to the Bronx Zoo to build the Carter Giraffe Building
where these creatures could be protected and raised. I learned that five
different male giraffes were born at the Bronx Zoo and were named James 1 up
through James 5 in recognition of the Carters’ generosity.

In the spring (April/May) we once again hosted
an auction at the annual Metropolitan New York Numismatic Convention. The first
catalog produced for this event featured the Lester Bernstein Collection of
United States Coins. Starting with half cents, Lester built a compressive, high
quality set of Mint State and Proof examples in many American series. When he found pieces he needed, he would drive
to New York, attend our sales, and capture most of what he wanted. Lester ran a
string of parking lots in the Virginia and Maryland area and started collecting
when he went through all the coins he received as parking fees. He developed a
love of chasing after the best ones he could find to fill out his growing collection.
But Lester had another hobby, which he showed to me when I visited his home to pick up
his collection as he had decided he was ready to sell. I was amazed to find
that he also collected lamps that were used by coal miners, and he had over
2,000 different types and designs, in very nice condition. Most were oil
lamps, many were worn on the hats of the miners, or had been located about the mines in
order to see while they were working. Because I was so interested in the
collection and Lester’s stories about it, he gave me one of his duplicates. I
will never forget his hospitality. I have so many similar stories of the welcome
I received whenever I visited with my collector clients, great memories I keep to
this day.

The second catalog for the 1986 Metropolitan
New York Convention had a comprehensive collection of United States coins and
paper money as well as a special offering of foreign coins. As always, we tried
to be sure our convention auctions featured a wide variety to satisfy the
collecting interests of those who attended the collection. Our 1986 "June
Sale" was a similar event that offered a group of collections for our
general United States clients. In August we participated with our three other
dealer friends to present Auction ’86, once again a joint effort that was a great success.

We had three more auctions in 1986, in September, October and December,
the last of which had two catalogs, one for United States coins and one that
brought ancient and world coins to the auction block. It was not a year in
which we presented huge "name" collections. However, we continued to
provide the services our clients wanted, and we were able to realize good
prices for our consignors. At the same time, we were adjusting to the changes
in the hobby that came along with the new grading services and the U.S. Mint’s
expanded promotional efforts.​

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