A private advance viewing of the Eliasberg Morgan Silver Dollars

THE ELIASBERG COLLECTION AUCTIONS IN THE MID-1990’S WERE ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF MY NUMISMATIC CARREER. BEING AUCTIONED WAS THE ONLY COMPLETE COLLECTION OF U.S. COINS EVER ASSEMBLED, AND A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THE COINS WERE THE FINEST KNOWN EXAMPLES. MORGAN DOLLARS WERE NO EXCEPTION, AS MANY KEY DATES SUCH AS 1893-S, 1889-CC, 1886-O, 1892-S, 1883-S, ETC. WERE AMONG THE FINEST EVER SEEN.

The auctions were conducted by Bowers and Merena, and Dave Bowers personally invited six of the top Morgan Dollar specialists in the field at that time to visit their offices in Wolfeboro, N.H. for a private viewing of the Morgans several weeks before the auction. I was fortunate to be one of those six. We were the first to see the coins in hand, other than the Eliasberg heirs and the B&M Auction principals. It was a thrill I will never forget!

We were all close friends, so we travelled to Wolfeboro together.
Besides myself, the others were Jack Lee, John Dannreuther, Bill Spears, Robert Lehmann, and Gregg Bingham. Jack and Gregg were two of the top three Morgan Collectors at the time, while Rob and I represented the third top collector, who wished to remain anonymous. Jack, John, Bill, Rob and I were all major Morgan Dollar Dealers at the time, as well.

They sat us around a joint table just beside a door to the vault area, and just by good fortune I ended up in the seat closest to that door. I didn’t realize when I sat down in that position, that i would end up being the first person to see each box as it was brought out to us. But that’s what happened, and what a thrill!

All the coins were raw. Nothing had been certified, so it was a real test of our grading skills. But everyone at the table was a top Morgan dollar grading expert.

I will never forget announcing to the group that I was holding the 1886-O that I thought would be the first to ever grade MS-65. It did. At that time, 1886-O was was the only Morgan date that had not received a single MS-65 grade by either PCGS or NGC. Everyone around the table agreed with my evaluation. It was valued on the Grey Sheet at $325,000, even though none were known at the time.

Soon after the 86-O I opened the envelope for the key date 1889-CC, and was immediately blown away. It was virtually flawless, and I graded it MS-68, three grades higher than the finest known at the time. As it moved around the table everyone concurred with the MS-68 evaluation, and it immediately became a foregone conclusion that Jack Lee was destined to be the buyer. He made no effort to conceal his enthusiasm.

He did, and it in fact graded MS-68 at PCGS.

The next notable coin was an 1891-CC. While not a key date, It was of flawless quality, even better than the 1889-CC. Again we all agreed on MS-68, since plus grading did not exist at the time, and we did not think either service would be willing to give out a MS-69 grade. Once again PCGS proved us right.

I could go on with several more awesome discoveries from that day, but you get the point. A very lucky group of six people, all friends, but also all friendly competitors, all sharing mutual respect and camaraderie, spent a day together that none of us will ever forget. Sadly, Bill Spears and Jack Lee are no longer with us, but will ever be remembered for the fine gentlemen and wonderful friends that they were.