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Harvey Stack Remembers: Growing up in a Numismatic Family, Part 88

1983 was a super year for Stack’s. The markets got stronger, old time collectors had their confidence strengthened, and an avalanche of new enthusiasts seemed to enter the hobby, Stack’s experienced a great growth in business, both over the counter and at our auctions, with overall results during this year that were outstanding.

What specifically happened to set this year apart? In 1983 a group of old-time collectors consigned to Stack’s for public auction some outstanding collections, primarily of United States coins. In addition, we acquired one of the largest hoards of United States $20 gold double eagles (mostly of the Saint-Gaudens design), to be available since the embargo on importing gold was lifted in 1967. For me personally I had been elected to the board of the Professional Numismatists Guild in 1980 and would become president in 1989. This and the fact that our family had fairly recently lost my father, uncle, and cousin Ben, caused me to step up as a leader in our firm and in the wider numismatic hobby.  The Stack’s family business continued to grow, with me as Chief Operating Officer, working with my cousin Norman, my son Lawrence (Larry), and a large staff of expert numismatists. We all worked together to deal with clients and present prize-winning and major pedigree auctions. Though this meant a large amount of time away from home, we at Stack’s were proud to have maintained our place in numismatics as we celebrated 50 years since our firm opened.

In the early part of the year, Stack’s was contacted by a foreign bank to see if we would be interested in acquiring a large holding of United States gold coins, primarily Saint-Gaudens double eagles. We learned that this was among the major banks that received U.S. gold coins as part of government payments.  The size of the inventory (the exact number still remains a secret) was so great that we decided that for such a large hoard we would partner with one of our New York colleagues, Manfra, Tordella and Brooks (MTB) to finance and sell this great find nationwide. When we saw the coins, we were surprised and pleased to find that most were in Mint State, as they had been stored in sacks and not disturbed for decades. This was a bonus and we were able to make the deal and bring the coins back to the United States. The fact that MTB was a private bank that dealt in foreign exchange and international banking helped facilitate the payment transfer. This major deal would keep Stack’s and MTB busy over the next few years as we distributed these coins to collectors nationwide and through private sales to clients. It was time consuming to spread out these sales over years, but with such a large quantity, it was important to maintain their value on the market and to protect the deal’s value to Stack’s and MTB.

Our 1983 auction season featured nine separate public auctions that presented some famous collections that had been built over the past half century or more. The number of lots was large and many great rarities in outstanding condition were also included. Collectors who had been active since the end of World War II and before decided it was time to market their collections through Stack’s, and give new generations of numismatists the opportunity to enhance and complete their cabinets.

February 1983 brought our offering of the Eugene J. Detmer Collection of United States and world coins, a catalog that comprised over 1,350 lots. Eugene J. Detmer, was a mechanical engineer, who served on the U.S. Navy in the Second World War. His interest in coins began when he served in overseas offices of the Navy during the war, and he visited as many dealers as he could to add to his collection. He was first drawn to early coinage and the sale offered about 484 outstanding lots of ancient gold and silver coins. When he came back to the States, he developed an interest in the gold and silver coins of the United States as well and set out to assemble a noteworthy collection. He amassed nearly 1,000 coins from all series. Highlights among United States gold included a 1854-D $3 (the only one of this denomination struck in Dahlonega), and a $4 Stella, which interested him because of the uniqueness of the denomination. There was a selection of other gold coins from the gold dollar to the double eagle. He specialized in some early $5 half eagles and $10 eagles, because they were among our earliest gold coinage, and among later gold, he had an almost complete set of Indian Head eagles that included both varieties of 1907, a 1920-S, a 1930-S, and the rarely offered 1933. For double eagles he had some great rarities, like 1854-O, 1855-O, 1856-O, 1861-S Paquet, 1870-CC, 1882 through 1887, 1920-S, 1921, 1926-D, 1926-S, 1927-S, 1929, 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D, and 1932.  Also of note were gold Proof sets of 1899 and 1905 as well as a great type collection of territorial gold coins. This important collection attracted both old timers and new collectors to participate.

The Detmer sale started off 1983 with a bang for Stack’s and set the stage for more great sales to come in the rest of the year.

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