Old Time Collections Part 3

The Silver Coins of the Milton A. Holmes Collection


"Old Time Collectors" were motivated by the pride of acquiring, possessing and displaying their items. At the time there was very little phone service and information came from newspapers or the radio. There was no television, computers, or email to distract from learning and collecting. Collecting something, in this case, coins, was a way to stay busy and entertained.


As noted in earlier stories, the scope of the Milton A. Holmes Collection was vast. The silver coin collection was choice and relatively complete. When Mr. Holmes saw a piece he needed in a catalog or offered by a dealer, if it was affordable and attractive, he would acquire it. His goal was simple: "Go as far as you can with your hobby." Let’s look at what made up his silver collection.


Starting with his half dimes, he had four varieties of l794, and 14 varieties of 1795 — because he had used the Valentine reference as a guide. The half dimes continued from the early issues to an almost a complete set through l873, with a vast offering of rarities and Proof issues. It was possibly one of the best offerings at the time.


His dime collection started with two examples of 1796, two of 1797, and the extremely rare 1798 small 8, all in choice Mint State. Most of the Bust types were in Mint State and he had a virtually complete offering of Proof specimens through 1915. The Liberty Seated dimes were highlighted by a Gem Mint State example of the rare 1871-CC. Among 20-cent pieces he had six varieties, not including the rare 1876-CC. 


Mr. Holmes’ quarter collection started in 1796 with a glittering Brilliant Proof, (acquired from the Ten Eyck sale in 1922) and was enhanced by most of the Bust type coinage in superb Mint State, and the later dates (including the Proof coinage from 1858 to 1915) in outstanding and beautiful condition. The half dollar collection was outstanding. A 1794 in superb Extremely Fine, was followed by nine varieties of 1795, followed by almost 200 lots of Draped Bust and Bust dollars through l839, all attributed to Beistle, with many scarce and rare varieties included. The Liberty Seated, and Barber half dollars were represented by virtually all available Proofs with the balance in Mint State. 


Silver dollars commenced with the year 1795 and featured 37 dates and varieties dated before 1803, then two Gobrechts, early Proofs (including 1852, 1856, 1858) and then a well-represented Morgan collection. 


The overall catalog showed just how Mr. Holmes collected. He acquired the early Proofs, mostly from original sets sold by the U.S. Mint. Mint records show that only a small number were issued each year, and that all were not sold in their year of issue. Some earlier collectors had been aware of these special issues being sold but many had not. So while the rarity of these coins was not so great at the time, the opportunities to acquire them were limited. Major collections that had been formed in earlier periods were offered for sale only a relatively few times in the late 19th and early 20th century. This combined with the limited communication often left numismatists at the mercy of the "Luck of the Collector." But the “Old Time Collector” persevered and because of this, collectors today are able to enjoy owning these old-time coins. But as time went by, these collections were sold and the coins went to different homes and fewer and fewer of these holdings exist. Today’s collectors should appreciate the collecting habits of these old time collectors and the care they put into saving these coins for future generations.


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