Building a World Class Numismatic Gold Coin Collection: The Josiah K. Lilly Collection Part 12

my last installment I ended with our call to Mr. Lilly informing him that we
had found the 1926-S double eagle he needed to finish his collection of that
denomination. We returned to the bourse floor the following
morning. Then the “sky started to fall.” One dealer offered
us a 1926-S for $2,500, while another
had one for $2,000. Then we could get one for $1,500 or even $1,300, without the
 We took an option on the $1,300 coin, as it was of equal quality as the
we got from Kelly, and were
lucky enough to reach Mr. Lilly on the telephone. 

told him the whole story, and that we would buy the $1,300 piece,
deliver it to him in May and consider the $3,500 not available.  Mr.
Lilly said: “Mort, let me tell you that what happened to you
was surely not your fault or your company’s.
You tried for about a year
finish my double eagle collection. You tried something different than I
have ever seen in the hobby business, by
tempting someone with a reward to find the coin. You may have been taken
advantage of, but I will take the first specimen at the
$3,500 you paid for it.” He went on to thank
Morton and Stack’s for building his set at a fair market price, and felt that
he had benefited from our experience and network of contacts.

that was a gentleman. In 1956 to give up $2,200 (the difference of the
cost of the one we purchased from Kelly and the one we could have gotten
for $1,300) represented a sizeable
amount of money to lose. To compare, remember that gold was still at $35 an
ounce then and common coins (and even some rarer ones) sold for small multiples
over face value. Even with
market increasing after World War II and the U.S. economy growing, rapidly

$2,200 was still a lot of money. Then
records were in the five or ten thousands; today we have records that run well
into the millions (even up to $10 million for one coin!). Mr. Lilly was
definitely a class act.

we continued our search, working to help Mr. Lilly build a world-class
collection and in May 1956 I made my now familiar delivery trip to

Join our mailing list

Don't miss an auction!

Subscribe to our newsletter.


Contact Us

West Coast Office • (800) 458-4646

Midwest Office • (800) 817-2646

East Coast Office • (800) 566-2580

Hong Kong, China Office • +852 2117 1191

Follow Us

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter

We are sorry, an unexpected error occurred!
Please enter a valid email address

I'm Interested In...

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Stack's Bowers Galleries e-newsletter.