Hidden Coins Part II

This week I continue my reminiscences about hidden coins from my early days at Stack’s.

My second recollection of hidden coins is a story that almost set me on my heels. We were close friends with numerous New York and New Jersey collectors and many were members of the various coin clubs in the Metropolitan area. The collectors were close to each other and we were very pleased to share their confidence and friendship.

One such collector was active in many of the New York/New Jersey clubs as well as the American Numismatic Association and also served as President of the ANA. He was a good friend of my father, Morton, and my Uncle Joe, as they supported his efforts in the various numismatic clubs and shows.

A few months after his passing, the collector’s wife asked if Stack’s would sell his collection at public auction. This gentleman was an educated and meticulous collector and spent numerous hours on his coins, and also attending various club meetings. It was known he had an extensive collection, assembled over many years of collecting. Being an outstanding accountant the collector approached the hobby with the skills of an actuary. His record keeping was outstanding with the inventory on wide spreadsheets used by members of his profession.

It was exciting to visit his home, where his wife greeted me as an old friend of the family. On the dining room table, the collection (as she found it) was spread out for viewing and checking of inventory. I was given the time to check each album page, usually the Wayte Raymond 5 x 8 type, with plastic slides protecting each side of the coin. As I checked off the detailed inventory he had kept, there were great voids – things missing from the listings. I did not see any album pages or envelopes that would have covered the items not there. I was somewhat shocked as I had never heard of the collector offering or selling any coins — he loved them too much — yet they were not present on the dining room table.

I asked the wife where her husband had worked on his collection and she answered "in the attic room." He had made that room into an office of sorts, she related and, using a large 4 X 8 plywood board mounted on huge carpenter horse legs, he worked on his collecting and office work as well, away from the noise and disturbance of his family below. I asked if could I see his “office.” She responded that I could and stated: "I do hope you find what you are looking for, as I plan to sell the place ‘as is’ in a month or so." I told her that our family often found that collectors who worked at home found little places to keep their valuable coins, and still have them available to check and compare as they made additions to their collections.

The attic was just as she described. In the center was this large “desk” with papers still on it, makeshift library shelves for his catalogs and reference books on the walls, invoices and papers in neat piles — a real numismatic work area. The collector’s wife asked if I knew who would want all his books and catalogs, and I said we would take them and donate them in her husband’s name to museums and coin club libraries, so that they would continue to be used as he wished they would.

I proceeded making my way about the attic. Then I found an unusual pile of magazines piled alongside of his desk. It appeared to be every issue for some five or six years of The Numismatist. Weird, as there were far more important magazines and reference books all over the library, but these ANA magazines were right next to where he sat. Maybe, I thought, his closeness to our national organization, made him keep The Numismatist close to his side. I picked up the first half dozen or so and in each original envelope, I found The Numismatist, consecutively arranged, month-by-month.

As I went down the pile, envelope by envelope, I found the previous issue in precise date order. As I got to the tenth envelope, my eyes popped and my jaw dropped, for in each successive envelope was a Raymond Album page, containing the coins missing from the original inventory I had worked on in the dining room downstairs. The album pages I found, together with the basic collection that I had been shown originally, made for a great sale that Stack’s conducted shortly thereafter.

How easily this treasure could have been lost. If I hadn’t been aware that collectors often desired to keep their coins near them when working on them, if a fire occurred, or if all the catalogs, magazines and books had been trashed, what a loss the family could have sustained. Either the trash man or a disposal company would have benefited from the coins’ value, for no one knew about the "hiding place" that was used.

These stories are but a few that I experienced or heard about during the 65 years I worked at Stack’s, which always made me ask when visiting a collector or his heirs, "where do you (or did he) work on the collection?" I always suggest that collectors who plan to leave their collections to their families tell them where the "hidden coins" are kept.

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