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Viewpoint: Leon took time for buyers big and small

 Leon Hendrickson

Leon Hendrickson

By Bob Bair

I was saddened to learn of the recent death of Leon Hendrickson. Like so many others who came into contact with Leon through the years, warm memories of the wonderful person that Leon was remain for me.

One of those memories occurred at a Milwaukee Coin Show in the spring of 1988, shortly after the birth of my only son. I went to the coin show hoping to find an 1888 $20 Liberty gold coin, to give to my son as a “centennial coin” when he became adult.

I went to Leon’s table at the coin show, figuring that if anyone would have a specific date $20 Liberty gold coin, it would be Leon. I got in line behind four or five “major buyers,” all dealers wanting things from Leon like “a dozen nice Saints,” or “five rolls of nice unc. S-mint Morgans.”

With some anxiety, based upon my relatively minor potential purchase, I waited my turn, joined during that time by three or four more dealers (probably major buyers like the others!) who got in line behind me.

When my turn came, Leon politely asked what he could get for me.

“Uh, Leon, I just want one coin. See, my only son was born in March, and – if I could – I’d like to buy an 1888 $20 Liberty gold coin for him to have as a ‘centennial coin’ when he grows up.”

“Ohhh,” said Leon, suddenly interested. “I know I have one! Hmmm. Let me think. Which box did I put that in?”

Leon turned and began sorting through boxes at his table.

“No, it’s not in this one. Gosh. Where did I put it?”

Totally focused on his “mission” to find the 1888 $20 Liberty, Leon paid no attention to the dealers in line behind me, who were by now tapping their toes and rolling their eyes, impatient at not being able to fill their large orders with Leon because he was taking lots of time looking for one coin for some guy’s kid!

Some minutes went by before Leon, rummaging through the umpteenth coin box at his table, exclaimed, “Here it is! I knew that I had brought one with me!”

Overjoyed, I paid the (very favorable) price that Leon asked for the 1888 $20 and turned to go, to virtually audible relief on the part of the dealers behind me, who could now fill their large orders with Leon.

My son, now an adult, has his “centennial” 1888 $20 gold coin. And I have an unforgettable memory of Leon Hendrickson and the wonderful person he was to a young dad, looking for one coin to give his son.

This “Viewpoint” was written by reader Bob Bair.

Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to

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More Collecting Resources

• More than 600 issuing locations are represented in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1701-1800 .

• The Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money is the only annual guide that provides complete coverage of U.S. currency with today’s market prices.