Eric B. Hyde

My earliest numismatic mentor was a sprightly old gentleman with black horn-rimmed glasses and a shock of bright white hair, a cigar smoking old rascal – or so I like to fondly recall him — named Eric B. Hyde, a real estate broker from Hallandale, Florida, who was delighted to hear from my parents way back in 1961 that I was a coin collector. I had recently purchased my first two coins, a large cent and a two-cent piece, on the playground at Hallandale Elementary, and many of you know the “rest of the story.”

It seems Mr. Hyde, as I always called him, had been collecting coins since he was a young man beginning before the turn of the 20th century, mostly from pocket change in the early years, and later at coin conventions and the like. I would pedal my bike to his storefront on a Saturday morning and sit – for as long as an 11-year old could actually sit – and listen to his stories, and if he knew ahead of time I was planning a visit, he would bring treasures to thrill the young collector in me. One clear memory is of his 1896-S Barber quarter, a coin he prized greatly; he even showed me the clash mark in Liberty’s ear and told me never to buy an 1896-S without the “stair steps” in Liberty’s ear.

One Saturday he told me to bring my Liberty nickel folder on my next visit. I couldn’t wait for that Saturday, and when the day finally arrived and I went to Mr. Hyde’s office, I was not to be disappointed. My tiny Liberty nickel collection at the time consisted of two or three dates in AG-3 or so, housed in a 29-cents Whitman blue folder. When I made myself comfortable in one of the big stuffed chairs, Mr. Hyde produced a big green canvas bank bag filled with dozens and dozens of rolls of Liberty nickels, the sight of which nearly dazzled my young mind. He then asked how much money I had and asked if filling the holes in my album was worth a dime apiece for coins in VG or so, to which I immediately and enthusiastically replied “yes!”

I left Mr. Hyde’s that day with 20 or so consecutive dates in the Liberty nickel series, including my then pride and joy, a 1912-D which he charged me 15 cents for as it was in Fine with most of LIBERTY complete. He taught me a lesson with that coin as well. I took it when he offered it to me and pressed it immediately into my folder at which point he said “turn it over and look to make sure there’s a D mintmark, there are some people in coins who will cheat you if they can” — wise and timely advice that has never lost its edge, even now a half century later.

In retrospect, I was very lucky to have an old-timer like Mr. Eric B. Hyde take me under his collecting wing and tell me the things he knew and show me the coins he owned. I’m sure Mr. Hyde passed on at some point in my teenage years during the 1960s. He was in his 80s when I first met him and my family moved back to New Jersey in 1962. I never saw Mr. Hyde again, but I have never forgotten him. He springs to mind fleetingly every time I catalog an 1896-S Barber quarter or a high-grade Liberty nickel, and every time I answer a numismatic question for an 11 or 12-year old kid I can sense him looking over my shoulder.

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