This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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I am in my 89th year and there are stories of coins hoards that so far as I know have never been told in the numismatic press. Before they are lost forever, I feel they should be told. To me, they are of great interest and should be enjoyed by many. Here is the first one.
It happened in 1972, I think. It was long ago and I do not remember the exact time. In the fall of 1968 I was called to help Jim Kelly in the auction department of Paramount International Coin Corporation. At that time, it was a most prestigious firm. I worked with Jim only one month when he suddenly died. To my great surprise, I was asked to head the auction department. I had certainly not had time to prove myself and the Paramount auctions were the industry leaders. I had probably been there three years and had been asked also to be chief buyer., which would then mean this story occurred right about 1972.
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One morning a call came to my desk. Upon answering, I discovered that the caller was a lawyer from New York City. He told me that he knew of an accumulation of gold and told me he would give me the name and phone number of the man who had it if we would pay him a finder’s fee should we be successful in purchasing the coins. I assured him that we would be most willing to do that.
He gave me the name and number of a man in Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. I called the number. The man I talked to said that he had heard of our major company and its reputation and he would be glad to see if we could do business. We set a time and place. The place was one of the larger banks in Willemstad.
We had just called a young man by the name of Ron Howard to be a part of the Paramount family. I have not followed Ron’s career but last I knew, he was a chief grader at Professional Coin Grading Service and I assume he is still there. I took Ron with me and we flew down and kept the appointment.
We met in one of the bank’s conference rooms with a big table. The man we were to see came in and planted himself across the table from Ron and me. We passed the time of day and eye-balled each other. He finally said, “It sounds like we might be able to do business.” He left.
In a short time he returned lugging a bank bag which appeared to be about one-third full. It obviously weighed many pounds. He proceeded to dump the whole bag out on top of the table. What a pile! It was all $5 U.S. gold pieces. He leaned back and said, “Now it is no use fooling around. Either you are a serious buyer or you are not. I know what these are worth and if you are not willing to pay the price, we need talk no further. I want $55 each.”
At that time, our buy price for any EF $5 gold piece was exactly $55 and so I knew we would buy them, but I did not wish to seem too anxious so I said, “Well, let me take a look.”
Right away it was evident that there were very few EF coins. Most were AU and BU. I thought, “We can make a bundle on these.
But wait. This one has a “D” mintmark. Dahlonega.
Whoops! This one has a “C” mintmark – Charlotte.
Also “CC” for Carson City.
Of course, these were worth multiples of $55. What a mother lode. We counted them and figured the price. I forget the figure, but it was a big chunk of change. I leaned back to relax. He did the same but then said, “Would you be interested in U.S. gold?” I responded with enthusiasm. Yes, we most certainly would.
A most similar scenario was played out with about one-third of a bag of $10 gold. Again, I was pleased and thrilled. We were going to make a ton of money. But wait. We went through the whole thing again with U.S. $20 gold. I was dumbfounded. But he was not done.
“Would you be interested in Spanish American gold?” What in the world more could happen? Well, a lot. He presented a bag of 8 escudos in exceptional condition. Many were just glimmering BU coins for which we could get multiples of what he asked. I never made an offer. He set the price every time and it was far below what I would’ve offered. The 4 escudos came next and finally last.
I don’t know what gold hoards have been found before, but most certainly this was one of the largest and perhaps the largest ever to have surfaced.