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1954 - A Year of Great Auctions

By Harvey G. Stack, Senior Numismatic Consultant

Author: Stack's Bowers Galleries / Wednesday, January 30, 2013 / Categories: Harvey G. Stack Remembers
As coincidence would have it, a number of great numismatic collections entered the auction scene in 1954. The collection which received the most pre-sale publicity was the Palace Collection, that of King Farouk of Egypt. King Farouk was a ruler who spent money recklessly on palaces, food, women and partying as well as collectibles including jewels, art and coins at a time when most of his people lived in great poverty. King Farouk was forced to abdicate, exiled to Europe, and his coin collection was confiscated by the new government and consigned to auction. Well known London dealer Fred Baldwin of A.H. Baldwin & Co. was entrusted to sell the holdings, which included an extensive collection of ancient and world coins as well as an immense cabinet of United States gold, silver and copper. Many of the gold coins came from the famous Col. E.H.R. Green Collection, originally sold in 1943-45 by the Chase Bank who managed that estate.

Joseph Stack and Morton Stack offered to assist Baldwin & Co. in preparing the U.S. portion of the catalog. Inasmuch as Egypt insisted that the coins must remain in Cairo and with the country of Egypt still in political turmoil, the U.S. State Department advised all U.S. citizens not to travel to Egypt in late 1952 and 1953 and the sale was to be held in 1954. The Stack brothers decided not to go to Egypt as catalogers, but began to assemble funds to be active buyers.

While the Stack’s waited for the sale of the Palace Collection to take place, they received a series of calls offering them several major collections for outright purchase. One was the Davis-Graves Collection from Massachusetts and the other was the Anderson-Dupont Collection from Connecticut. Joseph and Morton went to see the collections and were amazed at how extensive each was. They bought the collections outright in late 1953, which consumed the funds they had set aside for Egypt. But their feelings were “a bird in the hand …”

The Davis-Graves Collection included a wonderful collection from half cents to $20 gold double eagles, with a complete set of $2.50 quarter eagles, 1796 to 1929, an extensive holding of $5 half eagles, an unparalleled set of $10 eagles. The silver and copper coins included a superb collection of silver dollars, including the R. Coulton Davis 1804 silver dollar. The collection was sold in a two-part sale in April and May 1954.

The Anderson-Dupont Collection included, among other things, one of the most extensive and important sets of large cents sold in the mid 20th century. The collection was so important that Dr. William H. Sheldon, the dean of U.S. large cents and author of the then current book on the denomination, offered to research and catalog the collection for Morton Stack, and be reimbursed by the use of the new found information and photographs in the revised edition of his book, Penny Whimsy. It was a record shattering auction which Stack’s conducted in September 1954.

The other portion of the Anderson-Dupont holdings was a general but outstanding collection of United States copper and silver coins. Among the highlights were a pair of superb 1796 half cents, one with pole and one without, plus an almost complete set of Proof half cents. Quarters included 1796, 1823, 1827, 1878-S, a Proof 1896-S and Gem Uncirculated 1901-S, 1909-O, and 1913-S. A half dollar date set featured 1794, 1796 15 Stars, 1796 16 Stars, 1797, 1838-O, 1847/6, 1853-O No Arrows, 1866-S No Motto, 1878-S and many others. Included among silver dollars were 1794, 1851, 1852, 1858, the finest 1870-S, plus an 1884 trade dollar. Put aside for later private sale were full sets of gold dollars, quarter eagles, $3 gold (no 1870-S), and $4.

So, the Stack’s plate was quite full for 1954 and they did not venture to Cairo for the Palace Collection sale. To execute the many bids we received from our clients for the Farouk coins, we had special representation from several European dealers who attended the sale. Among the Americans who attended in person were dealers Abe Kosoff, Sol Kaplan and H.M.F. Schulman and collectors John J. Pittman and Gaston Dibello. When the dealers returned from Cairo, Stack’s was immediately offered many of the “goodies” from the Palace Collection, many of which we acquired by private treaty.

It was truly an exciting time at Stack’s and workloads often required seven days a well for months at a time to keep up with the pace. We were fortunate to be part of the numismatic hobby in 1954.