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Harold Shaw Bareford, A Legendary Collector, Part 2

By Harvey G. Stack, Senior Numismatic Consultant

Author: Harvey G. Stack / Wednesday, January 16, 2013 / Categories: Harvey G. Stack Remembers
This week I will tell more about Harold Shaw Bareford and the extraordinary collection of coins he formed. He attended his first ANA convention in Philadelphia I 1941 at the urging of a business associate Joseph Spray. It was here that the bug bit!

It is difficult for those who did not experience it to comprehend the golden age of numismatics that was the period from 1945 to 1955. For an advanced collector like Harold classic early coins were available in droves, as a result of the break up of many old collections formed at the turn of the century, featuring names such as Will W. Neil, Adolph Menjou, Allenburger, Charles W. Green, F.C.C. Boyd (“World’s Greatest Collection”), Farouk duplicates, Eliasberg duplicates, Geiss, Renz, Atwater, Memorable, Wayte Raymond holdings, and the hoards of Colonel E.H.R. Green and Virgil Brand. On the other side, only a few collectors were buying and “investors” were non-existent. The prices coins were bringing were such that almost any other investment earned a higher return. Harold only hoped that eventually the coins he bought could be sold for a little more than he paid. He just wanted to have fun collecting and hopefully not lose money.

What set Harold apart from most other collectors of that time were four “Rules” he formulated early.

First and most important, he bought only the very best condition coins he could find. Many of today’s collectors who style themselves “condition freaks” were decades behind Harold in appreciating quality. In 1947 he described the kind of collection he was assembling to Paul Seitz in the following terms:

“I acknowledge receipt of your Mail Auction Catalogue of May 7th, 1947, and am interested in a few items… Perhaps a word about myself is in order. I collect only the finest specimens… and am not interested in any coin that is not perfect… I am enclosing herewith bids on a few of the coins based on the assumption that they are exactly that. If they have scratches of oxidation, which affects the appearance, on the face of the coin, or in any way are not perfect coins, I wish you to cross out my bid on such coins. To me a perfect brilliant proof… has no defects of any kind whatsoever, the same as gem uncirculated.”

Secondly, he tried to buy the rarest coins first.

Thirdly, he never knowingly bought duplicates and he would never buy an inferior coin hoping to get a better one later.

And fourth, he would never overpay for a coin. He would always work out ahead of time what he thought he should pay and would not exceed this price at auction.

The best examples of how these rules worked were three coins Harold neverowned. He never bought a 1796 quarter. Though many Gem Uncirculated coins were sold in this period, none ever had the eagle’s head on the reverse with a full eye visible. He said there had to be a better one fully struck up somewhere and he was going to wait for it. The second example was the 1802 half dime. He knew that F.C.C. Boyd owned the finest he had ever seen and when it was not sold in the World’s Greatest Collection sale, he asked Fred and received assurance that he could have first choice when and if. That coin has never been found and Harold would not buy an inferior substitute. The last was the 1822 half eagle. C.M. Williams had bought this coin at the Dunham sale in 1941 and had authorized Abe Kosoff to sell it privately in 1950. Kosoff set the half eagle to Harold on approval. Instead of the usual day or two to study a con, Harold spent over 10 days on this one. Each night after dinner he would get out the eight early half eagles he already owned, take them out of the envelopes and arrange them on felt. He would then add the 1822. He would study them for hours, then put them all back in the safe and repeat the whole thing the next day. Finally, with much reluctance, he sent the coin back to Kosoff. Even though it was the best obtainable, the condition was not good enough and he would not compromise on this principle.

Harold was very proud of his whole collection and particularly so of many of the individual pieces and series in it. He tried for completeness in only two series, half dimes and dimes. Although the collections were missing a few pieces, they were clearly the finest collections ever assembled. But he was most proud of his Dexter 1804 silver dollar. It was probably a goal of every major collector (and dealer for that matter) to own an 1804 dollar and for a perfect Proof to appear privately at just the right time was rare luck, since it precluded the need of having to bid on it and going over his limit.

Harold Bareford essentially stopped U.S. silver coins after 1955. He just couldn’t bring himself to pay more for common date coins than he had paid for the rarities he had purchased earlier. As laughable as it seems now, he was priced out of the market.

So he turned his attention to English coins, particularly collecting English silver pennies by ruler, with special emphasis on the coins of Charles I. And at just this time, Harold was fortunate that the massive Cyril Lockett Collection was beginning its odyssey through the market. Harold said he collected Charles I coins because he rooted for the underdog, which explains why so many of these coins are from the English Civil War.

The appeal of these silver pennies for Harold stemmed from several causes. One is, of course, history. The second is size. For some reason he had a special fascination for coins of smaller size: English silver pennies, U.S. dimes and half dimes, quarter eagles and half eagles, and English sovereigns and guineas. The third cause was the lack of a standard reference work for English pennies, offering the challenge of research and study.

The acquisition of these coins gave Harold S. Bareford a tremendous amount of enjoyment. It was his desire that they be sold at public auction after his death in order to give as many collectors as possible the chance to enjoy the coins has he had. His sons William and Harold were proud of the collection, and felt that through their cataloging and photographing of the collection, Stack’s had provided a fitting memorial to Harold Bareford and his collection.