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Did You Know?

By  Ron Gillio, Numismatic Acquisitions Coordinator

Author: Ron Gillio / Wednesday, August 01, 2018 / Categories: Did You Know?

Did you know one of the stars of the Stack’s Bowers Galleries official auction of the ANA World’s Fair of money is The Finest Known 1913 Liberty Head Nickel, the Dr. William-Morton Smith Specimen?   Lot 1096 will be sure to draw a lot of attention during our Rarities Night Session, which crosses the block starting at 6:00PM on Wednesday, August 15 in Room 115A of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  Interested in the story behind the famous 1913 Liberty Head Nickel? Continue reading to learn more about Dr. Morton-Smith in this appreciation written by Ron Gillio, our Numismatic Acquisitions Coordinator. You can also download a free PDF of the catalog to your mobilized device by clicking this link: http://media.stacksbowers.com/VirtualCatalogs/2018/SBG_1913_Nickel_Supplement_LR.pdf


Dr. William “Bill” Morton-Smith


Dr. William “Bill” Morton Smith was born on March 16, 1948, in New York, New York. He and his sister, Adrienne, were raised in the city by their parents, Katrina and  James. Bill attended The Buckley School, St. Mark’s Preparatory School and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He completed his medical degree at the University of Southern California.


While on medical rotation in London, Bill was set up on a blind date with his future wife, Rhodabel. After a long distance relationship, Rho and Bill were wed in Gargrave, Rho’s hometown in Yorkshire, England. After Bill completed his residency at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California, the couple moved to Santa Barbara, where Bill would live for the next 35 years. Bill and Rho had three children: Timothy, Nicholas and Emma.


“Dr. Bill,” as most knew him, ran a private medical practice for 20 years. As Santa Barbara’s medical community would tell you, Bill was an exceptional physician who cared for his patients with the utmost excellence and deepest compassion. In 2001, he closed his practice and, after Rho’s passing, he shifted his focus to volunteer and humanitarian work, locally and around the world.


Several decades ago, I got a call from Bill asking me to come to his home to view his coin collection. His collection contained a complete set of Proof Liberty nickels, various other U.S. sets, colonial coinage, large cents, and half cents that he had inherited. Bill was interested in the value of the coins and wished to discuss having them certified, as he had researched the best way to handle coins.


I spent hours at his house examining the collection. All the while we talked about numismatics and he told me the story of how the coins came into his possession. The story begins with Bill’s inheritance of an antique desk that had belonged to his grandfather, William Spaulding.


William Spaulding belonged to a prominent Boston family. He amassed great wealth mainly through his partnership in the Nash, Spaulding & Co. sugar refining company. He also held important positions in other businesses, including as a director with Boston Consolidated Gas Co. and a trustee with Suffolk Saving Bank. The Spauldings lived in a mansion at 99 Beacon Street and they had a passion for acquiring art. Their donation of 6000 Japanese prints to Boston’s Museum of Fine Art in the early 1920s is an important part of that Museum’s collection.


Bill continued his story by telling me that he was inspecting the desk’s drawers and compartments one day when he opened up a compartment and discovered the coins. He was stunned that the coins had not been found before! He said this find transformed him from someone with a casual interest in coins into a true collector.


I advised Bill to submit the set of Liberty nickels to PCGS along with other highlights from his collection. He did so and we were both happy with the results. After he received the graded coins, he remarked that his only complete set was the Liberty nickels. I pointed out that he was missing the 1913 date, a very rare coin that would make his set complete. It was then that Bill asked me to find a 1913 Liberty nickel to finish his collection. We eventually acquired one – the Gem Proof example being offered in this auction.


Bill and I became good friends and met regularly for lunch. We would talk about coins, old cars, the stock market, and various topics of the day. He developed his knowledge of numismatics and obtained more rare coins for his collection. He always looked forward to going to the Long Beach coin show and would usually bring a special coin from his collection to show to other collectors.


In addition to coins, he also inherited and purchased other fine antiques and collectibles, which he loved to display to family and friends. He hosted dinner parties where he would feature a coin or an item from one of his other collections, or a guest would bring an interesting piece to share. I enjoyed attending a few of these gatherings. I recall one party where a guest brought a cased set of Colt Revolvers and another party where a special, old bottle of French wine was the showpiece.


Bill was devoted to his family, to his patients and to his humanitarian work. He was also a collecting enthusiast who truly appreciated the historical importance and artistry of numismatics.


Ron Gillio

Numismatic Acquisitions Coordinator

Stack’s Bowers Galleries