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10 million memories

I was saddened when I read the news that Chicago coin dealer Walter Pershke had died.

His passing May 20 at the age of 77 but not revealed until last week closes the door on an era of super rarities.

Walter Pershke in 2012 with his Brasher doubloon.

Walter Pershke in 2012 with his Brasher doubloon.

This does not mean rarities will cease bringing incredible prices. What it means is the generation that turbocharged prices in the 1970s is now passing from the scene.

Pershke epitomized the decade when he purchased his Brasher doubloon for $430,000 at a Garrett Collection sale in 1979.

I was about a year into my career when he made the bid that passed into history. He was one of the numismatic giants and I was hardly more than a kid, somewhat intimidated by a person who moved in such high circles

Because I was the kid on staff here in Iola, Wis., I was nowhere near the auction when it occurred.

My career and Pershke’s did not bring us together until 2012 when he began the effort to sell the famous rarity.

I talked to him at the American Numismatic Association convention.

He was polite, relaxed and he stuck to the script.

He thought the coin was worth $10 million. That was the price tag.

I tried to coax a little statement of flexibility out of him that he was open to negotiation, but I failed.

Did I see a hint of a smile when I asked the question?

Probably not.

He was a consummate businessman with a poker face that did not betray what he was thinking.

“That $10 million figure has a real ring to it,” he had said to me.

I expect he thought the more the $10 million figure was repeated, the more likely the coin would sell for that sum.

In some ways I felt like the kid of 1979 meeting an icon. I was still somewhat in awe of the person who owned such a famous coin.

We ended our short time together by walking to the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation booth where the doubloon was on display.

It was in a tall glass case.

The coin was about chest high.

We could not remove it.

How could I get both the owner and his famous property in focus together?

I tried several poses where he stood beside the case and I didn’t like them.

I persuaded him to stand behind the case so he sort of loomed over the slabbed coin.

The photograph shows him with an expressionless poker face behind the glass.

He did not like it.

I thought it told the story as I had experienced it perfectly.

Less than 18 months later the coin was sold in a Heritage Florida United Numismatists auction for $4,582,500.

He didn’t get the $10 million.

But I think he knew that would be the case when I talked to him.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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