Lammot Dupont

In the late 1940s and early 1950s many famous collectors came through the doors at Stack’s busy 12 West 46th Street headquarters. Even before I began working full-time in 1947, I had the gold fortune to meet and serve many of these well-known collectors. I recognized all of them as numismatic leaders. The passage of time has revealed just how great many of them were in the broad history of American numismatics.

I met Lammot Dupont in the latter part of the eventful 1940s. I was working at a cataloging desk midway down the length of our retail counter. Part of my job was to keep an eye on who came and went through the front door.

One day a gentleman came in and sat down at the counter. My Uncle Joe and father, Morton, both responded to the counter to serve the visitor. It was a bit puzzling to see both senior Stacks going to greet this particular visitor. He was dressed in a heavy winter coat, somewhat out of style for the period and actually a bit threadbare. He also wore a large brimmed felt hat, somewhat crushed, with a band that was a little stained.

As my father spoke with our visitor, Joe came to my desk and said, “Where is that 1795 silver dollar that I bought yesterday?” I had it on my desk as I was enveloping it for stock. My uncle ran back to the visitor and then came back to me for some other new additions we had acquired for stock.

On one of Uncle Joe’s many trips to my desk and inventory stock boxes, I asked, “Who’s that, that BOTH of you are so attentive to?” He responded, “That’s Lammot Dupont!” I quickly reached into the file and took out a 1795 silver dollar in Mint State. I asked “Why did you show him the 1795 specimen in About Uncirculated rather than this lovely Mint State?” The first was in stock at $60 while the Mint State coin was then about $100. My Uncle Joe immediately responded “He doesn’t buy early U.S. coins in Mint State.” I was naturally intrigued and decided to check into this puzzling matter.

After Mr. Dupont left I asked, “I’m sure that the money was not a concern to him, so why didn’t he buy the Mint State example?” I then learned a key lesson: to give the customer what HE likes, not what I saw as a good buy and a worthy addition to an important collection.

At that time Mr. Dupont gravitated to lightly circulated coins. It wasn’t the price but rather the story the coin might tell. If a 1795 silver dollar was not quite Uncirculated, it was quite certain that the coin was actually used in the late 1790s. Mr. Dupont loved to take a coin, hold it by the edge, roll it between his fingers, and wonder who in the 1790s had held and used this same coin. He would imagine that it could have been in the possession of a famous American, such as Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, a member of the Adams family, or even George Washington.

He thought all this could make him a part of that long-vanished era, and therefore such lightly circulated coins had vastly more meaning to Mr. Dupont. Yes, we have had many such people who were prominent collectors who wanted coins that might have a story. To Mr. Dupont, the story was as important as the coin itself. It was fun for me to watch him as his deepest thoughts took him back in time.

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