Hidden Coins Part I

The story of "I Hid the Coin Collection" in the recent issue of the Esylum reminded me of a few happenings in my early days with Stack’s.

Often we were called upon to assist in the appraising and eventual selling of coin collections, and there were infinite times when we saw a collection, and then a few weeks or months later family members found more that they didn’t know about. In this and the next article are two such happenings, which I experienced, one together with my cousin Norman Stack, and one on my own.

The first was when Norman and I were asked by a family to go to New Jersey and appraise an estate collection. We were to make an inventory and take it for auction.

The late owner of the collection was a great friend of the Stack family and had attended most of our auctions in New York from the 1950s to the 1970s. He enjoyed first reviewing the lots in our shop, and then came on Saturdays, every month or so, to attend an auction. Not only was he interested in assembling various series by date and mint but, as there were many large lots in a number of sales, he also bought quantity. He would take his purchases home, carefully re-examine what he had won at the sale, put them all in order, and then he would know what he had and what he was still missing.

At one of the sales, he did acquire a number of large lots, which together were too heavy to carry. So he left his lots in the shop, while he got his car, and Norman and I assisted him in loading the material into his trunk to take home. Norman happened to ask the collector where he kept all these coins. He responded by saying in albums and on shelves, and the rare coins he kept in a hidden closet in his house. He wanted the coins on hand whenever he worked on his collection.

After the collector died and we went to his home, his wife showed us where he had the bulk of his collection, and Norman and I inventoried the coins. We realized that some of the rare and unusual specimens were not with the collection. We asked her, “did your husband have a closet he kept coins in?” She was not aware of any. When Norman asked if there were any hidden closets in the house, she replied, "none that I am familiar with." Norman remembered how the collector had told him that the hidden closet was in a closet and rarely entered. After looking around, Norman asked and was given permission to open the gentleman’s clothes closet in the bedroom. Pushing some clothes aside, Norman saw a door in the rear, and asked if he could open it. "Of course" was the answer. Norman realized that this closet backed up to the bathroom on the second floor and gave access to the plumbing for the shower and water for that room. On a shelf, which was made of 2 x 4 lumber, was a large metal box and in the box was all the missing coins we remembered. Together with the balance of the collection, the auction was a source of rarities and quality coins, which would not have been offered or even found were it not for Norman’s innocent question while loading a car for a friend and good client.

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