The R.L Miles, Jr. Coin Collection, Part 5

In the early part of this story I told of the dedication and interest that R.L. Miles Jr. put into completing to the best of his ability his collection of United States gold , silver and copper coins.

R.L. Miles, Jr. (known to his friends as "Skinny," a name he received while playing various sports in college) began collecting when he was a cashier in his family’s Oyster business, and, using the Guide Book listings of his time, proceeded with the challenge to collect the varieties listed in that reference.

He read the catalogs that Stack’s sent him each month and bid actively at these sales. He also reviewed sales catalogs from other auction houses and allowed us to represent him at many of these sales. He appreciated the value of a well pedigreed coin, as he felt that he could benefit from the knowledge that collectors of the past had used when building their fine collections.

I was able to attend the first three days of the opening of the new Bank of Virginia, where the R.L. Miles, Jr. Collection of United States Coins and the restored Mace of Norfolk were displayed. It was exciting and I had the opportunity to explain collecting to many of the visitors. One visitor, a senior vice president of the bank, got a reaction from R.L. Miles when they had the following interaction: "Skinny," the banker said. " Which is the rare coin you purchased for $16,500 at auction? That sure is a goodly sum to pay for a single coin!" Skinny, with great pride took him by the arm and walked him over to the $3 gold display frame. "That sure is a beautiful coin!" said the banker. Skinny replied: " It is the rarest collectible date in the series and it is a beautiful Proof!" The banker blurted out, " Skinny, you have even rarer coins in this frame. If the one dated 1875 is worth $16,500, what is the first one in the display dated 1854 worth? It is 21 years older, and so it must be rarer!" Skinny turned and informed him sharply: "Jack, you should stick to your banking and leave the collecting to me! Age does not create rarity. It is the number struck and how many have survived that make something a rarity. Do you know that I tried to buy the 1875 coin for over a decade before I was able to get one? And, finally, I had to pay a record price for it!” R.L. Miles then continued: “I am going to send you a Guide Book and the write up on this coin from the Stack’s catalog. If you are willing to read about this coin and others, you will be able to appreciate them and speak more authoritatively." Skinny turned away from the banker and left the exhibit room and did not return until the next day. He had learned decades before that you should read books, learn about coins and their rarity, before making remarks about coins.

Stack’s was privileged to offer the R.L. Miles , Jr. Collection in two sales, the U.S. silver and copper in one, and the gold in another. These were landmark auctions at the time, and this is still considered one of the great collections formed and sold in the second half of the 20th century.

As was true with so many of the collectors I have dealt with over the past six decades, buying and selling coins for R.L. Miles had a great influence on my career and taught me a lot about people and their feelings about the coin collections they built. And, my dealings with Skinny left me with very pleasant memories!


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