began, Stack’s was coming off a very successful year in 1963. However, the new
year was to bring various challenges to the coin hobby. First of all, Congress realized
making U.S. coins – dimes, quarters, and half dollars -- was providing the
silver almost at market price. From 1961 to 1963 the price of silver rose by some
20% and the Mint was virtually “giving away” the coins at close to or slightly above
the value of the silver in each coin. So, Congress decided to start issuing dimes
and quarters after 1964 in a clad metal and also to reduce the amount of silver
in the half dollar by 40%. Meanwhile, earlier coins which were 90% silver in
many cases increased in value as the price of silver rose.
in precious metals started to buy up standard silver coins and store them away for
future sale and possibly melting. This became a distraction to the numismatic
hobby. Silver speculators, including the famous Hunt family of Texas, invested in silver coins on speculation. Dealers
were flooded with orders to provide silver coins to those who felt the future market
would be favorable, and general interest in collecting was deterred by this speculation.
Even those who collected classic coins like Morgan silver dollars, thought that
the market for silver might go up enough to increase the value of the collections.
So many held back from selling either by private sale or at auction.
in precious metals was also evident for gold coins during that year, increasing
the demand for what could be acquired here in the United States as import
regulations remained challenging.
publicity affected the auctions of some current collections. We had sales almost
every month of 1964, but with the exception of a few, most were general collections,
causing collectors to have some trouble filling out their want lists.
One of the
highlights was the Philip Ward Collection of United States and Foreign Coins, in
gold, silver and copper. It was a super collection of worldwide coins and
appealed to buyers as a "real old-time collection." It was not full of
high price rarities but was a basic collection of quality coins, providing us
the opportunity to help quite a few of our clients. The collection formed by “Irl
Baker" was an outstanding offering of United States gold, silver and copper
coins that contained some classic rarities. The other collections were much smaller,
but for some of our clients offered a chance to build on what they had already collected.
factor that influenced the coin business was the tightening by the Treasury's
restrictions on importing gold coins without a license, overseen by the Office
of Gold and Silver Operations (OGSO).
This import licensing was required for all coins imported into United States
at the Post Office, Custom House and even for people who bought gold coins overseas
and returned carrying them. The rules and regulations were so oppressive that they
slowed the importing of gold coins. The problem was that the OSGO never published
a list of what could clear Customs and what was prohibited. Dealers and collectors
were confused by the lack of clarity and distressed when they tried to bring
gold coins from overseas for sale or personal collections. It seemed to some,
including me, that the OSGO made up the rules as coins were presented to them
for licensing. These rules and restrictions encouraged some to smuggle coins and
buyers had to exercise great care not to buy illegally imported gold coins. This
had a very damping effect on collecting as others experienced the difficulty of
the licensing procedure.
had the perfect way to test the import regulation, and in my next article, I
will tell the story of how that came about.