Recollections of U.S. Numismatics in the 60s
by Wayne Homren
Weinberg submitted these thoughts on the state
of the numismatic hobby in the U.S. in the
Having read Bob Rhue's reminiscences of his
hobby experience in the 1960's, I thought I'd
jump in with a few more general thoughts.
There were a lot fewer collectors and dealers in
the early 60's. Most had no real affinity for
natural toning and brilliant/bright was "in".
"Original skin" by any terms was unimportant.
The 2nd largest & most important "coin show"
(currency was not widely collected or emphasized
back then) was the New York Metropolitan Coin
Club show held once a year, in March, at the
then New York Park-Sheraton Hotel, a five minute
walk from Stack's who held their annual
pre-eminent auction at that show.
The bourse size was a tiny fraction of today's
large coin show bourses but the dealers set up
and the material available, all "raw" of course,
was usually top of the line. Bob Batchelder,
Herb Tobias, Ed Shapiro, Max Kaplan, Dan Messer,
the Stack "boys", a youthful Dave Bowers and Jim
Ruddy, Ford & Wormser, Kreisberg & Cohen, Kosoff,
Cathy Bullowa, FK Saab, "Foxy" Steinberg, "Izzy"
Snyderman, Hans Schulman, Lester Merkin, Jerry
Moskowitz, Dick Picker, Bill Anton Jr., and Ed
Hipps offered me a four-piece Gem Proof Stella
gold set for $40 grand and I passed and another
time a Gem Unc 1792 half disme at around
$10,000. A few others lined the walls around a
relatively small "ballroom" in the hotel. To my
memory, only four of these oldtimers are still
very active on today's bourse- a then very young
Donald Brigandi (monitored by his effervescent
dad Tony) and today's very senior but very
healthy Ben Levin, Ed Hipps and elder statesman
QDB writing and administering the reconfigured
I almost forgot to mention Morris Geiger (who
called everyone 'kid' )- he was well liked and
had a street-level coin shop on 44th St where
incredible material would walk in. He was active
into his mid 80's and, having retired to
Florida, annually set up at the Jan FUN show
until he died perhaps 6 yrs ago. Surprisingly,
he looked virtually the same in his 80's as when
he dealt actively in the early 60's.
Grading? While I have mixed feelings about slabs
and the point by point grading system today,
there were significant abuses back then, with EF
and AU coins, often doctored or whizzed , being
offered as Brilliant Uncirculated .
I learned early on in 1960 not to ever buy a
coin in an auction that I didn't first examine
when I "won" a Proof 1829 half dime for approx
$50 from a very prominent NYC coin firm auction-
the coin was a polished AU which I kept as a
"lesson" I never forgot.
You could buy all the gem proof Barber halves
and quarters you wanted for $50 or less on the
bourse. Choice VF or EF (I mean choice!) 1793
chain cents - take your pick of 3 or 4 on the
bourse floor. Nice Wreath cents? - too common
and available to seriously consider spending
real money on. Choice perfect EF-AU New Jersey
coppers literally a "drug" on the bourse floor
at $25 apiece at NJ and NY shows - and rarely
Crew-cutted Bob Batchelder of Ambler PA, who
almost invariably had the best and highest
quality material at each NY show, was the first
bourse dealer any serious collector would
approach. He wasn't cheap and his prices made
you swallow hard, but he had the "stuff" and a
pleasant personality to boot. He left
numismatics abruptly decades ago - I never knew
why - and made a name for himself in the rare
autograph business still in Ambler , passing
away around at 80 only perhaps two yrs ago.
Similarly, Long Island's Dick Picker always had
a fascinating assemblage of rare colonial coins
(he was the only regular dealer in such
esoterica back then - Bill Anton only
occasionally set up and was more of a collector)
and Dick's prices were always sky high but you
were paying for his expertise and his was the
"only game in town". Dick always refused to
"grade" his coins- he firmly insisted the grade
was reflected in his price.
My biggest regret in all these years was when
Dick called me up at home the summer of 1962 -
I'd just graduated from high school. He had the
Virgil Brand Brasher Doubloon and offered it to
me for $15,000. I just didn't have the money and
Dick sold it immediately to Jack Friedberg.
Chicagoan Walt Persche has owned it now for
decades, having bought it at a RARCOA auction
for about $434,000 and last I heard he wanted $5
or 6 million for it.
Dick Picker reigned supreme for years until the
theft of a briefcase out of an ANA show security
room (contents never recovered and the unique
die trial uniface WM 1792 Roman Head cent is
still outstanding) and the resulting years-long
battle with the ANA resulting in Dick's being
barred from the ANA bourse sapped him of life.
I do recall being pulled aside at the circa 1960
NY Metro bourse and being warned by Martin
Kortjohn, then the club official, that I could
not offer a 1797 half cent to bourse dealers -
only bourse dealers could sell coins. How things
And John Ford and Max Kaplan standing up
mid-Stack's auction circa 1962 and yelling at
each other to back off driving a price up - Ford
enjoyed intimidating (or trying to) his auction
competitors for decades thereafter.
And, perhaps at the same early 60's Stack's NYC
auction, John Pittman striding up to the front
of the auction audience all the way to the
auction podium, turning around to stare at the
audience and raising his arm to bid like the
Statue of Liberty, daring his competitors to
drive him up. Wouldn't work very well today!
And an utterly "Gem Proof" iridescently toned
1796 quarter that Stack's auctioned in the
Milton Holmes sale in 1960 for an unheard-of
$3,000 - I believe to "too-tall" collector (6'5"
and under 200 lbs) Bill Wild who had a
discerning eye but limited financial resources
and used to repeatedly place his Gem 1792 half
disme up for loan collateral to buy another
And an apparently teenaged Johnny Rowe boasting
to me that he would/could buy the About Unc.
Kellogg gold $50 fast approaching in the Stack's
auction and me doubting him - he bought it - for
around $15 grand!
Was the hobby more fun then? More enjoyable?
More rewarding in every aspect? A resounding
"Yes!" Knowledge was King back then - you didn't
have the excellent reference books now available
so Picker, Anton, Ford and others really
prospered. They knew true rarity and they knew
their clients. Collectors like me learned at
their feet and from attending and
watching/listening at the FAR fewer shows than
are held today. Life just seemed less intense,
more relaxed back then. And the hobby was too.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: ROBERT
RHUE'S RAMBLINGS ON THE HOBBY IN THE 1960S (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v13n15a17.html)