Numismatics and Philanthropy, Part 2

Last week I wrote about the first part of the sale of the Robison Collection, sold through Stack’s in January 1979 for the benefit of both Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This showed how Doris and Ellis Robison used the now famous Robison Collection to endow two educational institutions.

In February 1982 the Robisons decided to gift to four institutions the Robison Collection of United States Silver, Copper and Colonial Coins for the benefit of Cornell University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Russell Sage College and Brown University.  It was a huge gift and Stack’s once again cataloged and offered at public auction this portion of the collection.

As mentioned earlier, "Roby" (as Ellis Robison was called by his close friends) had provided herb gardens for both Cornell and Union College, where these plants were grown for the advancement of medicines to help cure illness.  His coin collecting hobby not only provided him with great pleasure and accomplishments, but also enabled him to make gifts to further education.

Roby always believed that athletics combined with education made the graduates better.  To each of the schools, in addition to the academic support he encouraged, he directed money toward building better sport facilities, including field houses and outdoor playing fields.
He wrote: "There is no better way I can use what funds I have available than applied towards facilities for students. They are able to graduate with better minds and sounder bodies.  I think there should be a balance between academics and sports. Usually all the money goes to education."

The sale of this portion of the collection, in itself a spectacular accomplishment, provided coins that had been for many years out of the reach of collectors. The catalog of February 1982, which attracted buyers from all over America, included many great rarities and highly pedigreed examples. A collection like this was only possible for Roby as a result of the fabulous collections that happened to come on the market while he was searching.

This portion of the collection offered early American colonial coins, starting with the Sommer Island Shilling 1616. This was followed by an extensive offering of Massachusetts silver, the Maryland coins, Rosa Americana patterns, six Elephant tokens, Virginia pieces, Higley coppers, Chalmers coinage, four different Continental dollars, Immune Columbia silver and copper, Connecticut coppers, New York Excelsior, and Clinton cents, New Jersey and Vermont coppers and Washington coinage, including the 1792 patterns. This tells only a small sampling of the colonial coinage offered in our 1982 Robison sale.

U.S. half cents,  1793 to 1857, included numerous varieties, highlighted by the 1811 and 1852 in Proof, plus both varieties of 1796, and featuring an additional 29 Proof examples — originals and restrikes. The U.S. large cents offered a comprehensive collection of early coppers from 1793 to 1857. With many varieties in Condition Census condition, the colonial coins, half cents and large cents of the Robison Collection comprised an incredible first session of the sale.

In Part 3 I will tell more of what was offered in this noteworthy collection.


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