Old Time Collection Part 2

The Make Up of the Milton A. Holmes Collection

The collection of Milton A. Holmes was offered by Stack’s at public auction March 5-8, 1960 in six sessions! The collection was very diverse and presented a "treasure trove" for collectors trying to add choice and rare coins to their collections. Stack’s received mail bids from all over the world and there was bidding by phone when callers could get through — remember this was 1960 when phones were not as plentiful as they are today. The auction room for each session attracted standing room only audiences of collectors, dealers and representatives; the huge response showed what a rare opportunity this was.

The Milton A. Holmes Collection was extremely diverse. He collected some ancient coins, no great rarities, but as examples of currency used during that period. That’s how his interest began, learning about how coins were used through the centuries. He had a vast (for the time) collection of foreign gold coins, about 1,500 pieces, which spanned the Byzantine period through the Middle Ages to the 20th century.

He specialized in Latin and South American coins, (as these were coins that circulated in the United States) and then had a sampling of other gold coins from Asia and Africa. The coins represented the gold that circulated along with United States coins in America and illustrated the similarities of one country’s gold coinage to another. Hence he had examples that were used to facilitate world trade. If available today, the Holmes coins would have constituted a foreign gold auction by itself!

The balance of the collection, about 2,500 coins, were from the United States. As noted in Part 1, being a collector when Milton A. Holmes collected was not easy. The coins were not offered for sale in any great numbers and collectors held on to them in their holdings. This added to the fun of finding missing links.

Mr. Holmes colonial coins contained just a small representative selection of the series. However, his early copper collection was formidable. His half cents started with 1793, had a good date assemblage. For those dated 1831 to 1857 he had 28 different Proof examples (in those days they were termed "specimen strikings" as that was what the Mint used on their billings of the coins). His large cents made up a more concentrated collection, starting with 1793, moving on to some 60 varieties of 1794 (he had the Hays book as a guide), 1798 (16 varieties from the Newcomer sale), a superb 1799 (sold to him by Macallister) and many other early dates. He also had an outstanding collection of late date cents 1816-1857. It was evident he had the "copper fever" that Dr. Sheldon wrote about, and he used both the Sheldon and Newcomb books in his variety collecting.

The Holmes Collection also had a vast offering of small cents, two- and three-cent pieces, and five-cent pieces, mostly complete with circulated to Mint State and Proof examples. We believed the many of the Mint State examples came from change in circulation, while the Proof coins came from original Proof sets sold by the Mint each year.

Next week I will tell more about the silver coins in the Milton Holmes Collection.

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