After I became the market-maker in Canadian coins in the 1970s and felt them to be woefully underpriced (this related in an earlier story), I decided to try to put together the finest Canada 10-cent set possible. I only put fully brilliant uncirculated or toned uncirculated coins in that set. I was progressing well when I was able to purchase The Magnificent Hoard. Again, a tale told earlier. I went through all 50 pieces of every date from 1900 to 1938 and chose the most exquisite of every date. Those were hard choices since so many of the pieces were so grand.
I was getting down to the real nitty-gritty. I only had a few holes remaining. One of the hardest was the 1893 Round Top “3.” I despaired of finding an uncirculated piece. I didn’t know whether such even existed. Even today, Bill Cross leaves the MS-60 column blank.
I was attending a coin show in Muncie, Ind., and had sold a lot of silver to SilverTowne. Yes, clear back in those ancient days of the early 1970s I was friends of the Hendricksons and did much business with them. I had been paid in cash. One of the notes was a $1,000 bill.
Amazingly, those notes were still used in the channels of commerce at the time. Now, I understand that any old $1,000 bill is worth at least $2,000. Would it not be nice to be paid in $1,000 bills now?
Brian Jenner was a dealer in Canadian coins. I believe he was from Vancouver. In browsing the floor I found that he had a nice EF 1893 Round Top “3.” He had a price on it of $1,300. Remember, this is 40 years ago.
As stated earlier, dealers in Canadian coins at the time were noted for their really low offers and so I was pretty sure he would have paid perhaps $800 or less for the piece. I said, “Tell you what, I just sold some silver and was paid with a $1,000 bill. That bill is yours any time you want to accept it for your Round Top ‘3.’”
He countered strongly. He said no way. He knew I needed that piece for my set and would possibly not find a higher grade coin. I knew he wanted to sell that piece in the worst way and probably had no prospect of selling it elsewhere. It was a professional numismatic game of chicken.
A bit later, he came by my table. He indicated that he still had the piece and I should fork over the $1,300. I told him I had the $1,000 bill and it was his any time he wanted to take it for the coin. This same scenario played out one more time. The standoff continued. We were packing up to leave the show and he came by with the coin. He said, “OK, you win. Here’s the coin.” I dug out our cash box and gave him the $1,000 note.
When I decided to close my business and enter the Peace Corps and go to Ecuador, I was liquidating some of my coins. I valued the 10-cent set at $70,000. Two men from Detroit asked to see the set.
I knew these men had the means to buy anything they wanted. When Cadillac announced that they were going to discontinue making a convertible model, these men bought five brand new Cadillac convertibles, drove them to a warehouse and put them up on blocks. It was a simple investment. They had that kind of money available.
We made arrangements to have them view the set. They decided not to buy the whole set but listed the pieces they wanted. They paid $35,000 for those pieces. I sold the rest to other people and got $35,000 more, so I got what I felt the set should bring.
I’m sure no one had finer pieces than mine from 1900 to 1938. There may have been nicer pieces in some of the earlier dates than the ones I had. Bill Cross does list an AU grade for the 1893 Round Top “3” in his catalog. Whether any exist in that grade, I do not know. I do know that I had a great time in pursuit of the finest set (long before third-party grading services introduced registry sets and had some money to live on while in the Peace Corps.
John S. Queen: I am in my 89th year and there are stories 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.