This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
In 1973 I decided to terminate my employment at Paramount International Coin Corporation and go into business for myself. My wife had always graciously accepted my decisions and fortunately they had almost always turned out to be right. She was most apprehensive about this decision.
Why in the world would I quit a secure well-paying job to launch a new business with all the uncertainty and risk? My logic was most simple. I would work half as hard, make half as much money and have twice as much fun.
I had a month’s vacation coming, so I left Paramount on Dec. 1 and would then begin my business Jan. 1. Sometime during December I received a phone call. The man on the other end identified himself as a medical doctor from Battle Creek, Mich. He indicated that he had had a most difficult time finding me since Paramount would not give him my address or phone number.
He had contacted all the towns around Englewood and finally found me. He said he knew me by reputation and knew that I was the one he wished to deal with in an investment program in coins. He said he would send me $10,000. I exclaimed, “Whoa! Wait a minute. I have no inventory. I have nothing to sell you.”
He replied that that was fine. He knew I would find the right coins and send them to him. I thanked him profusely and thought we were done. We were not. He said, “There is another doctor here in Battle Creek who wants to get into coins. He told me that if I found you to tell you that he would send $10,000.”
For those too young to know, let me say that in today’s market $20,000 would not make much of a splash. Back in the mid-1970s, that was no small chunk of change. I had capital to start my business.
Two asides. Many years later that doctor traced me down by the aid of Google to tell me that he had sold his collection via a Bowers and Merena Auction and had made out like a bandit. He was most appreciative of what I had done for him.
Second aside. That first year I paid in income tax the exact amount I had projected as my total income for the year.
After being in business for a while I observed that much of the whole Canadian coinage was of very low mintage and yet the prices for such low mintage coins were only a fraction of coins of the U.S. of similar mintage. I felt that investing in Canadian coins almost had to be a winner. As a result, I went to my bank and told them my plan to buy heavily into Canadian coins and that I wanted to go to a Canadian show and buy coins. I asked if I could pay by check and then when I got home tell them how much I had borrowed. The bank agreed. (No one could do that today.)
I went to Torex, the biggest and best Canadian show at the time. I would go to the table of a dealer that had a good quantity of BU coins. I would tell the dealer, “Figure all of the 10, 25 and 50 cent pieces you have from 1937 to 1967. Be sure they are all BU. I’ll come by later when you have them listed and priced and I will pay you.” I did this throughout the whole show.
I had determined that these sets would make excellent investments. When I got back and started putting sets together, I was not able to complete a single set! This indicated to me that these coins were far scarcer than recognized. My opinion that they would be excellent as an investment seemed clearly confirmed. From that time on I became by far the most prominent dealer in Canadian coins.
I was at a coin show in New York City. Frank Rose came by my table. He was a dealer from Toronto. His was the most prestigious name in Canadian numismatics. He did “Canadian Trends” for Coin World.
Frank said, “John, after the show closes, I am going to see a collection here in New York that is supposed to be outstanding. If I get it, would you be interested?” I gave him a most enthusiastic affirmative reply. I knew the way Frank, along with almost all Canadian dealers at that time, ran his business. He would buy only by paying 30 to 40 cents on the dollar. I was certain that if he got the collection and bought the complete group, he would sell for 50 to 60 cents on the dollar. He would make a big profit without any work but I would be able to make a large profit also.
Shortly after returning home I got a call from Frank. He indicated that he got the collection and that it was indeed outstanding. We set a time for me to meet him in Toronto. I knew it would be a large sum of money – far more than I had. I went to the bank and told them the story. We agreed that I would go to Canada, negotiate the purchase, then I would call the bank and they would wire the money to Frank’s bank.
I met Frank at his bank. He started presenting coins. I was totally astounded. All the coins were silver from 1900 to 1939. There were 5-cent silvers, 10 cents, 25 cents and 50 cents. Most of them were in government issue burlap bags with either 50 pieces or 100 pieces as issued. By some combination of burlap, the place of storage or type of storage, it produced the most magnificent toning one could possibly imagine. The coins were absolutely breathtaking. No wonder it became known throughout the industry as the Magnificent Hoard.
As I had thought, Frank was willing to sell at an absurdly low price for such unbelievable coins.
An aside. In the draft wired from my bank to his, there appeared a figure “1” that should not have been there. The draft was $100,000 greater than it should have been. I had to stay in Toronto an extra day to get that cleared. The numismatic grapevine worked wonderfully well for me. Soon dealers from many parts of the nation came to my humble office in West Milton, Ohio, to buy those gorgeous coins. For the next couple of coin shows people flocked to my table either to buy or just view such beauty.
Can anyone possibly imagine that there could be hoard of U.S. 10 cents, 25 cents and 50 cents with 50 or 100 perfectly preserved pieces of each date and denomination from 1900 to 1939, all with unbelievable toning?
I’m sure it has never even come close to happening and never before or since ever happened again with Canadian coinage. What a thrill to have been a part of that discovery!