Collectors learned that the Mint was still producing over three million Proof sets each year and that sales were not keeping up. Large stores were building up in the Mint's vaults. Rolls and bags of current issues of U.S. coins in Mint State lost much of their premium, and collectors returned to building collections of more classical coins. This revival led some old time collectors to decide to sell their collections, as it was an opportunity to get a more favorable price. These collections could be quite comprehensive, even including more modern pieces. These became available, sometimes intact, and could be sold to beginner collectors who appreciated having some of the initial work done for them.
Collectors who had basic "short sets" could advance by expanding them into full runs or by specializing in a series that had more interest for them. It could put them on the path to investigating die varieties as well as earlier issues. Many moved on from Proof sets and modern coins to half cents, large cents, half dimes, and early dimes, quarters, half dollars and silver dollars. The additional challenge of completing collections piece by piece, either of a series or of varieties, was very enjoyable and brought casual collectors deeper into the hobby. Old time collections coming on the market resulted in more fresh coins, increasing interest in numismatics by making things more exciting.
Stack's continued to be a leading public auctioneer, providing specialized catalogs for the sale of the most desirable collections. In 1962 we were fortunate to start the spring season with a few smaller collections. We then were the official auctioneer for the Greater New York Numismatic Convention where we were privileged to offer The R.E. Cox Collection of Half Dollars, 1794 to date: a date, die variety and mintmark collection with over 500 different coins. Though not complete with every known variety, it was complete as to all varieties then listed in the Guide Book. It also contained rarities that were rarely seen in the market place. It was one of the most outstanding collections of half dollars and collectors were very enthusiastic.
At the sale we had one of the largest audiences to participate in a specialized collection we had every experienced. The collection contained outstanding half dollars of 1794, 1795 3 Leaf, both l796 varieties as well as 1797. The extremely rare 1838-O was offered as was the 1847/6, 1853-O No Arrows, 1866-S No Motto, 1870-CC, 1878-S, and the 1892-O with Microscopic O. The R.E. Cox Collection was known nationwide, as Mr. Cox had showed the coins at many exhibits, coin shows and schools. He was dedicated to displaying his collection, and prepared for each coin a cardboard holder, 2 X 3 inches. In the center of each holder he placed a coin and hand-labeled each with pertinent information about the coin. These blocks were placed in frames measuring 2-1/2 by 3-1/2 feet in size, in perfect order by date and mint, with the great rarities highlighted in the frames. It was a great way to show the coins for a public exhibition.
At the Stack's auction, each coin was offered still in its individual holder, which were delivered to the buyers along with the coins as proof of pedigree. Many were retained in their original holders until more recent times as collectors found other ways of showing and keeping their coins. However, to this day many of the Cox Collection coins still remain as they were sold in 1962, preserved as they were housed originally.
At the same time that we sold the Cox Collection, in the same catalog we offered other collections, collectively making the sale have well over 3,000 lots. This sale was a highlight of the year. Other fine auction offerings would follow in 1962, as I will describe in my next article.