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harvey stack remembers part 97

Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing Up in a Numismatic Family, Part 97

By Harvey Stack, Co-Founder

Author: Harvey Stack / Thursday, June 03, 2021 / Categories: Harvey G. Stack Remembers

After rejoining the firm at the end of his military service in 1955, Norman, a dedicated and knowledgeable collector, decided to build a high quality type set that Stack’s could use to show a good way to start collecting. A type set offered a chance to learn about and own various denominations and designs, and explore how coin motifs at the U.S. Mint evolved over the years. This method of collecting included major and minor changes to a motif, or even adjustments in weight or composition that altered a coin’s design in some way. By 1977 Norman, with help from me and my son, Larry, finished what he felt was a good example of a Type Set of United States Coinage. We decided to issue a book explaining the coins that would enhance such a collection. First, we showed all the obverse designs needed to build an introductory set. Second we featured the various reverse designs that were used, some of which shared an obverse design, further expanding the set. Third, we discussed where the coinage of the various mints could fit into the set and provided a list of major additions to each design (if changes were made) that could further expand the set.

Norman Stack’s type set was exhibited as an example of collecting to many beginning numismatists, as well as those who were more advanced. It was admired by many, often duplicated or imitated, and became a model for developing collectors of United States coins. The book that was created, though copyrighted in 1977, featured color photographs and by the mid 1980s had become an outline for this popular way of collecting. This panoramic approach to acquiring U.S. coins provided a goal in and of itself, but also led many to develop an interest in a specific denomination, series or design that took them on an entirely new numismatic journey. This “textbook” for building a type set was one more thing that added to the growth of the hobby during the 1980s, and some of the collectors who used it built fine pedigreed collections.

The continued growth in coin collecting and the publicity about the hobby attracted promoters, who entered the field not because of interest but specifically to make money. Some were unscrupulous which resulted in sales of polished, doctored and counterfeit coins being advertised and sold as high quality collector items. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent out the few people they could to investigate and stop these fraudulent activities, with the goal of arresting the offenders and punishing them with fines and/or jail. While they tried the larger dealers, they found that most offenders were smaller general store merchants or fraudulent mail order houses, not those whose businesses had staffs of knowledgeable professional numismatists. This situation led to the FTC wanting to start a licensing requirement that would be similar to that which governed pawn brokers and second-hand dealers. The problem was that this might require a coin dealer to hold for a minimum of 30 days before selling anything bought from a private individual or business. For those who dealt in precious metals that could mean losing a fortune. And for those with limited capital, holding items for a month without reselling was an impossibility. This would be considered over the next few years, protested by numismatic organizations, and would not be resolved until 1989, when Barry Cutler debated Luis Vigdor and myself in a forum. (But that is a story for a later chapter.)

As the interest in numismatics grew, some well known collectors became dealers, issued price lists and auction catalogs, opened retail stores and attended many coin shows held nationwide. The Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) expanded its membership to attract as many professional dealers as it could, and as a leading dealer organization, it worked to provide stability in the fast growing hobby.

As for Stack’s, having held our first auction in 1935, we were poised to celebrate our 50th anniversary of presenting public auction sales, almost 400 in all. While the founders, Joseph B. and Morton had passed away (as well as my cousin Ben who died in 1983), the Stack family members who remained – myself, my cousin Norman, my son Larry, and my daughter Susan – felt this was a very special year, and that we should be sure to honor it appropriately. We planned for a 50th Anniversary Sale to feature coins and paper money of all eras from all over the world, and made a great effort to attract as many consignments as we could for it, in all fields of numismatics. Assisting us in this were the great numismatists who made up our staff.

But even before that important auction, set for October 1985, we had many other sales to prepare for and present earlier in the year, as well as continuing to be leaders in the retail side of the hobby, both in our New York City store and at shows and conventions across the nation.​