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Building a World Class Numismatic Gold Coin Collection The Josiah K. Lilly Collection Part 28

I continue the story of my spring 1966 trip to
visit with Mr. Josiah K. Lilly in Indianapolis. After he picked me up at the
Athletic Club in the morning, the driver told me we would not be going to
Eagle’s

Nest as Mr. Lilly was at his home in
town. I had never visited it, and had wondered about it.  We drove through
a lovely residential area of Indianapolis with large homes on large pieces
of property; most were fenced or had shrubbery for privacy. We turned into a
driveway with a stone arched entrance, and onto an inner driveway, sheltered on
each side by huge trees just starting to bloom.  I learned that the
house stood on 26 acres of wooded and flowering gardens, We must have
driven a mile before we came to the house, It was fieldstone and brick,
and very large.  To one side was a large greenhouse, where I learned
that Mrs. Lilly grew prize-winning roses and other flowers. Gardening was
one of her hobbies.  In addition she was very involved with the
various charities she worked with and supported.


We
arrived at the front door, were greeted by a uniformed houseman, and were
ushered into the foyer, which opened up to the large living room. This room was
surrounded by decorated windows that overlooked the gardens, and was furnished
with period furniture with rare classical paintings on the walls. A curved
staircase led to the upper floors. I felt I was in a museum or a castle and I
was excited to have been invited there.

The
houseman took my topcoat, and took me to the upper floor and showed me to
Mr. Lilly’s bedroom. I found him there, sitting on the edge of the bed and he
got up and greeted me with a warm smile. He said, ” I am so happy that you
made the trip, for I enjoy our time together discussing my collection.”


We
moved to a small table with two chairs in his bedroom, and I laid out the coins
I had brought with me.  They included a number of Spanish American
doubloons (the series that started his collection), both cobs and portrait
issues; a group of hammered English and French gold coins; several coins of the
Ancient world; ducat and double ducat issues of the early German States, and a
few coins from China, Japan, and India.

Mr.
Lilly examined each carefully, asked about some that were undated, and we
discussed world numismatics.  “These will make fine additions
to my collection,” he said. “I hope you will keep searching for
more.”


Looking
at my watch I realized I had to conclude my visit, as my stay was already a few
minutes more than the half hour I had promised to spend. So I got up, shook his
hand and thanked him for allowing Stack’s to build this outstanding collection
with him. We bid each other goodbye, I wished him improved health, and I left.

The
car was waiting for me, I stopped at the Club, picked up my bag, and was
taken to the airport. Little did I know then that I would not see J.K. Lilly
again.


On
May 5,1966 Josiah K. Lilly passed away.  The funeral was to be private for
family only.

As
I continue with more of this story, I will tell about how the Lilly Collection
made its way to the Smithsonian Institution.


 


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