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The D. Brent Pogue Collection Part IV, An Appreciation

By John Kraljevich, Numismatic Consultant

Author: John Kraljevich / Thursday, April 28, 2016 / Categories: Crossing the Block

Just as history is always more intricate and intense as it is being lived than it seems in retrospect, assembling a collection like this one is a more complex endeavor than a neatly organized auction catalog containing 63 superb coins may make it seem. While the coins acquired by D. Brent Pogue and his father Mack fill this catalog, the fourth in a series, what’s not included perhaps defines the Pogue Collection as much as what is included. Nowhere on the pages to follow will there be evidence of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of auction catalogs that were scanned and set aside after discovering they offered no coin important enough to add to this collection. The hours of phone conversations held with trusted advisors are unrecorded and unmentioned. Trips to dozens of coin shows across the United States, peering in cases and fielding offers from all comers, are not cited within, nor are the years of experience required to discern true gems from fool’s gold. Much of this collection was formed before the era of certification, placing extra importance on the eyes and courage of the purchaser. The expertise and confidence needed to purchase coins in such an environment is implicit here, even as the results of those processes are evident to all.

This collection was formed one coin at a time. While a few small groups were acquired en bloc, including the Lawrence Stack Type Set and the Foxfire Collection, most were added as they revealed themselves singly to the marketplace. Such an endeavor requires both patience and quick reflexes, the former enabling a collector to wait for the right coin, the latter allowing them to pounce when it becomes available. The spaces in between acquisitions were full of study, consuming books and catalogs, listening more than speaking when experts were around, and studying far more coins than will ever bear the Pogue provenance.

Building a catalog is not entirely unlike forming a collection. For every research reference that is cited, several more proved useful, and dozens of further sources were examined despite yielding little. Experts in every specialty allowed ready access to their knowledge and libraries, typically on a deadline and with nothing in return but gratitude. The brute labor of numismatic research is not a profitable endeavor, but people like Saul Teichman, Craig Sholley, John Dannreuther, P. Scott Rubin, and others harvested facts with a sharpened scythe for years in expectation of no greater return but the joy of discovery and the pleasure of their work proving useful. It has, and to these gentlemen and others, who opened their notebooks, libraries, and memories, I am grateful beyond words.

Just as the work of coin buying became a little easier after the dawn of coin certification, so too has the work of numismatic research become less onerous in the age of digitization. Had the extraordinary riches of the Newman Numismatic Portal been available when the first three D. Brent Pogue catalogs were being written, they might each be a pound heavier. Only time limits the amount that can be discovered from the published works and unpublished archives made available by the NNP. Other institutions have also made these travails less trying, including the American Numismatic Society and the American Numismatic Association, whose searchable digital archive of The Numismatist makes membership one of the numismatic community’s greatest bargains.

With some sadness, this catalog ends the presentation of the half dollars and half eagles of the D. Brent Pogue Collection. These denominations formed the heart and soul of the cabinet. The half eagles, in particular, are easy to access as the finest such grouping ever assembled. Before this catalog, there was only one living numismatist who had ever cataloged an 1822 half eagle. It’s humbling to become the second name on the list. The silver dollars herein, though few in number, pack perhaps the greatest punch, coin-for-coin, of any selection of the series ever offered.

The intricacy and intensity of the day-by-day production of this work would not have been possible without the synergistic help of Stacks Bowers Galleries employees in three different offices, as well as the aid of my wife and family here in South Carolina. Late night texts from California to confirm a provenance, mid-afternoon assurances that the home front was under control, and early morning access to the vault on 57th Street are contributions that will never be described in the pages of a catalog, but they were nonetheless vital and appreciated.

The Pogue Collection was formed to be enjoyed by others, but also because of an individual’s love of numismatics. This catalog was written the same way. I hope you enjoy it.