Building a World Class Numismatic Gold Coin Collection The Josiah K. Lilly Collection Part 31

After his passing, and with the permission of Mr.

we were permitted to use the Lilly
name in advertising. Before then, Stack’s had kept
the identity of Josiah K. Lilly a secret, as
this is how Mr. Lilly wanted it. In the fall of 1966
we placed a series of ads that were worded
like this:

“The secret that isn’t secret anymore! For 16 years
(1951 to 1966) Stack’s was secretly building the most outstanding collection of
United States, foreign and ancient gold coins ever assembled in the United
States if not the world!

It was formed by the late Josiah K. Lilly, who
dedicated his collecting skills and avocation to forming a world class gold coin
collection. Stack’s is proud that Mr. Josiah K. Lilly selected us to help him
collect and develop this collection.”

the ads appeared we received numerous calls about the final disposition of this
superb collection. We responded that it would be determined later.

of the calls came from curator of the Smithsonian National Numismatic
Collection, Dr. Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli. He asked if we could get him an
invitation to examine the collection and even to record the contents. He was
invited to see it, and he did so, accompanied by his wife, Elvira, who was also
a curator of the National Collection. They worked for several days, making
notes and commenting that they had not known or heard of a collection of this
scope and quality ever formed in the world.

basic opinion was that the collection was so extensive and of such great
quality, scope and value, that it should not be broken up but should be kept
together, possibly through it being acquired by the Smithsonian. Wow! This was
a great compliment, but somewhat of a disappointment as we were hoping to be
awarded the sale by auction. If the collection was not to be placed on the
numismatic market, Stack’s would lose the possibility of selling it. It would
be available for study, examination, and comparison by students and collectors.
But, no collectors would be able to add pieces to their collections.

question was: how would the government acquire this?

J.K. Lilly Collection of World Gold Coins contained:

1,227 Coins of the United States, (including
153 Pioneer and Territorial Gold coins.

Latin American gold coins

3,237 Gold
Coins of Europe

243 Gold
Coins of the Near and Far East

38 Ancient
Gold Coins of Greece

60 Gold
Coins of Ancient Rome

A Grand Total of 6,115 Gold Coins of the
World (with no duplicates)

Clain-Stefanellis took all their notes, and went back to Washington to lobby
the officials of the Smithsonian, the Friends of the Smithsonian, and various
congressmen who liked numismatics — anyone who might help to keep the
collection intact.


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