Old Time Collection

Posted on 6/6/2013

Every once in a while a truly old time collection comes to market. The Eric P. Newman Collection is one such example.

There are old time collections and then there are really old time collections. We have a joke on the rare coin circuit that an “old collection” now is one that was put together ten years ago. Collectors these days seem to start a collection, find the coins, and exit the market much quicker than in years past. In a recent conversation with Dave Bowers, he stated: “Collectors used to buy coins and keep them 30 years or more. Now if someone buys an 1804 Silver Dollar, it may appear again at auction in a few months.” It is almost as if many collectors have become traders in a sense. I think this speaks well of the rare coin market in many ways. This rapid trading is only possible because of the liquidity rare coins offer. Could you imagine how well you would do buying a $100,000 antique or painting and trying to sell it a few months later?

Every once in a while a truly old time collection does come to market. The recent offering of coins from the collection of Eric P. Newman is the epitome of “Old Time.” Eric Newman turned 102 this year! He began coin collecting in 1918 at the age of seven, when his maternal grandfather Adolph Pheiffer gave him an 1859 US Cent. Eric began visiting the St. Louis Stamp and Coin Company at the age of ten. The owner, Burdette G. Johnson, declined to sell him a coin until he learned about them. Johnson lent him a numismatic reference book and told him he could buy coins when he could “recite the history of that coin.” Eric Newman went on to become one of the world’s great numismatic experts. In the last nine decades Eric Newman assembled what is one of the greatest coin collections of all time. One of the cornerstones of his collection includes a selection of coins from the sale of the Colonel E.H.R. Green collection in the 1930s. Seldom does a collection come up for sale with coins that have been off the market for 80 years!

The sale of the Eric P. Newman collection is slated to take place in installments over the next several years. Proceeds from the sales will go to support charities selected by Eric and Evelyn Newman, including the Newman Money Museum at Washington University in St. Louis. Heritage Auctions held the first sale during Platinum Night of the recently held Central States Numismatic Society Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois. The first 159 coins sold for $4,087,743, which is over $25,000 per lot on average. The highlight of the offering was one of the most amazing coins I have ever seen. An 1852 Humbert $10 Gold piece graded MS 68 by NGC that sold for $1,057,500. The coin is near perfection and traces its ownership back to Augustus Humbert. Pedigrees like this are extremely rare and the marketplace rewards such a stellar background.

The selection of coins in this initial offering was somewhat random and eclectic, with everything from a 1955 Double Die Lincoln Cent to a large selection of US Patterns. There were two Proof Pattern 1915 Panama-Pacific Half Dollars without mintmarks. The copper example graded NGC PR 66 sold for $199,750 and a silver example graded NGC PR 65 sold for $176,250. These are impressive numbers for pattern commemoratives. It is obvious the Newman pedigree increased sales prices. Pattern coinage was selling for nearly twice recent auction records of similar coins. A 1972 Double Die Cent sold for $1,527.50, which is well above current price levels. People love fresh coins and they don’t get any fresher than these. Many of the coins included pedigree information from when Eric purchased the coins in the 1930s. Some coins that he paid $10 for sold for over $10,000. When I heard about the offering of the Newman collection and that NGC was chosen to grade the coins, I called Mark Salzberg to congratulate him. He related how much fun it was to see and grade coins that had been off the market for so long.

Collectors and dealers eagerly anticipate the next offering from this legendary collection. I don’t know if anyone other than Eric knows exactly when or what coins will be offered. Eric does control a numismatic museum, and some of these great objects are surely destined for that venue. The collection is no doubt outstanding. My hat’s off to him!

Questions about the rare coin market? Send them to wmr@ngccoin.com.

Jeff Garrett bio

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