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Why Museums and Institutions Sell

By Harvey G. Stack, Senior Numismatic Consultant

Author: Harvey G. Stack / Tuesday, June 03, 2014 / Categories: Harvey G. Stack Remembers

Over the many years we have served the numismatic hobby by auctioning coins, our catalogs have presented numismatic items in a scholarly manner that others have tried to duplicate but with little success. We have been fortunate to serve well over 100 well known museums, colleges, universities, historical societies, libraries and other well known depositories of historical items, primarily with their numismatic items.

 

Though many of these institutions are supported by private donations, they also receive funding from the Federal Government, state, county and city grants. Within the last decade, funding has diminished as the economy varied from one year to another. One large donor was the Endowment for the Arts supported yearly by Congress. Because of budgetary restrictions this source of funding has been reduced over the years.

 

As an example, let me tell you of a collection of great numismatic items owned by The Western Reserve Historical Society. The Western Reserve Historical Society was founded in 1867, making it the oldest cultural institution in Cleveland, Ohio. The library headquarters in University Circle and includes a library and two museums. The History Museum features a mansion built in 1911 that reflects the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and of the servants whose lives differed dramatically from the main house glamour. The Chisholm Halle Costume Wing is always dressed to the nines, with rotating special exhibitions of garments from the late 1700s to the present. In the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, more than 100 antique, vintage and classic cars, ranging from Model T's to modern day Jaguars, tell about Cleveland's early leadership in the auto and aviation industries. In both museums, rotating special exhibitions focus on many different chapters of life in Western Reserve. The library is the principal repository for histories, records and papers relating to the growth and development of Cleveland and the Western Reserve. It also includes one of the best genealogical collections in the nation.

 

The Society also maintains many landmark sites outside of Cleveland relating to the history of Ohio.

 

The Western Reserve Historical Society is an official Smithsonian Affiliate. Through its continuous restoration and acquisition activities, the institution continues to a new future for the past so that Ohioans will be able to discover and learn from all the people of the region.

 

In 2002 we were asked by the Society to auction a portion of their numismatic holding so they could continue their mission to retain and preserve items of interest and importance to the history of Ohio. Some of the material that they felt was necessary to sell to continue their mission to advance and continue development came from private collections such as the Franklin S. Terry Collection, a prominent executive from Cleveland. This collection came into the possession of the Society in 1929. The numismatic pieces held by the Society were not accessioned into its collection, as they did not necessarily reflect on the life in Ohio over several centuries. The sale of these items represented an opportunity to gain the necessary funding needed to refine and improve the collections related to all the people of northeast Ohio. The proceeds of this sale were to be used to acquire and /or preserve additional collections to fulfill the Society’s mission.

 

The Society's numismatic items included examples of the Libertas Americana medals in silver and bronze as well as Franklin plaques and medals. A large collection of Lincoln memorabilia and a general collection of United States gold, silver and copper coins from 1793 to date, including early Proof and high quality examples, and also general circulated items often found among the holdings of institutions like the Society.

 

The auction was a wonderful source of funding for the future, and the pedigree to the Society was cherished by collectors who purchased items. Our firm served these institutions and we will continue to do our best to serve all for the betterment of numismatics.