I continue my commentary on coins in everyday circulation. Last
week I ended with the comment that Mint Director Eva Adams blamed coin
collectors for the shortage of 1965 and 1966, when speculators and
investors rushed to take as many coins from circulation as possible —
as a profit could be made by melting them.
Dimes, quarter dollars and half dollars disappeared. Very few of
these people had anything to do with numismatics.
Collectors were punished by a halt in production of Proof sets and
removal of the Mint marks on Denver issues, making new coins less
interesting. Collectors and dealers were furious. Proof sets had been
issued continuously since 1950, and now they were gone. Mint-marked
varieties were bedrock of the hobby.
Interestingly, after she left office Miss Adams “got religion,”
and actually embraced the American Numismatic Association, even
getting a seat on the board of governors. To many bystanders, this was
simply amazing. Even more amazing was the ANA inducting her into the
Hall of Fame. For what numismatic accomplishment?
Miss Adams was a very friendly person. I found her charming, but
for many it was hard to reconcile the punitive actions she took
earlier. At the ANA banquet on the evening of Aug. 27, 1977, with Miss
Adams in attendance, ANA President Grover C. Criswell Jr. lambasted
her up one side and down to the other — to the embarrassment of most
people attending. Numismatic rogue that she may have been at one time,
this excoriation was not considered to be good manners. The ANA Board
later sent her an apology.
In the 1960s, coin dealers in particular, but also entrepreneurs
setting up shops in motels and the like, did a land office business in
buying old silver coins. Sometimes long lines formed as people waited
their turn, holding coins, silverware, jewelry and other items made of
If you had gone to any major convention in the late 1960s there
would not be a moment of silence, as there would be a constant ringing
of coin counters across the bourse, nonstop from the opening to the close.
In the meantime, it was illegal for Americans to hold gold bullion
or any modern gold coins struck since 1933, with a few scattered
exceptions for foreign Proof coins. There arose a great business in
buying and selling gold $20 double eagles in quantity for those who
wanted to own gold.
A nice double eagle of a common date and Mint could be bought for
less than $60. Imagine that!
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.