Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.
A Collection of World Gold Coins & Medals
Louis E. Eliasberg was born in Selma, Alabama on February 12, 1896. His family moved to Atlanta, GA shortly thereafter before settling in Baltimore, MD by the time he was 19. While he was still in his teens, his father passed away and Louis was left in charge of the family affairs. Louis attended high school at Baltimore City College before becoming a runner for the Citizens National Bank of Baltimore where he would later win a challenge from a track star at John Hopkins University. His mother remarried to Simon Greif and Louis worked with the Greif family to further educate himself. His talent was soon recognized, and Louis joined with others in investing $35,000 in the Capital Service Corporation, later renamed the Finance Company of America.
Louis took special courses at the Wharton School of Finance and was a member of the Class of 1921. Throughout the ensuing decades he managed the Finance Company of America, with excellent results for the shareholders. Anticipating problems with the economy in the late 1920s, Louis Eliasberg took measures to protect the company, which remained profitable throughout the Great Depression.
By this time, Louis had developed an interest in rare coins, having made selected purchases regularly since 1925. Eliasberg’s concern for the stability of the U.S. Dollar drove him even deeper into collecting, as he focused on gold coins.
By the early 1940s, the Eliasberg Collection included a wide representation of pieces in all series. In 1942 the collection of the late John H. Clapp became available. Through Stack’s of New York, Eliasberg acquired the collection en bloc for $100,000, the largest American numismatic transaction up to that time. In the 1940s, Eliasberg set out to do the impossible: complete his collection of United States Coins to include every date, denomination, and mintmark, from the first coin minted to the most recent coin minted. Finally, by November 1950, he had completed his United States Collection.
Although the American section of the collection received the most attention from the numismatic community, the world coins were also of immense importance. The holding of Latin American gold was unsurpassed in its combination of rarity and quality. To these, many Proof and Presentation sets of European countries were added, along with gold types from dozens of other locations. The collection was featured, in part, in the April 27, 1953 issue of Life magazine, in which the color-illustrated article published 61 images of American coins and 23 images of world coins. Life magazine reported that it received more reader comments on this article than any other it has ever published, except a 1937 feature about President Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court. After this article was published, Eliasberg received over 7,000 letters and fan-mail, to which he personally responded to each one. One letter was addressed: “King of Coins, U.S.A.”, which Q. David Bowers thoughtfully titled his biography of Eliasberg in 1986, Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.: King of Coins.
Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. passed away on February 20, 1976 and was survived by his two sons: Louis E. Eliasberg, Jr. and Richard Eliasberg. Louis E. Eliasberg, Jr. arranged the auction of the United States Gold Coins through Bowers and Ruddy. By 1996 and 1997, Richard Eliasberg had arranged the sale of the American Copper, Nickel, and Silver coins through Bowers and Merena, which realized $11,443,074 and $20,892,783, respectively.
In 2005, the final portion of the Eliasberg Collection was offered at Auction by American Numismatic Rarities, a subsidiary of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. Gems and Treasures from the world coin section of the Eliasberg Collection crossed the block with over 2,500 lots. This breath-taking assemblage of Foreign Gold Coins sold for $10,170,305 and further cemented Eliasberg’s legacy in the history books.