E.H.R. Green inventory, photographic albums set for auction

Lots in January sale to be on exhibit during August ANA convention
Published : 07/23/11
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Photographic albums depicting Col. E.H.R. Green’s U.S. gold coins and an original inventory of the Green collection will be offered at auction by Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers LLC in New York City Jan. 7.

The numismatic literature dealers acquired the Green materials through a “rather remarkable confluence of events,” according to company owners George Frederick Kolbe and David F. Fanning.

The photographic albums are the property of a “prominent educational institution,” while the inventory of the Green collection is from the library of George C. Perkins, according to the firm.

“Upon his death in 1936, Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green had amassed one of the most important coin collections ever formed,” according to Kolbe & Fanning.

The firm cites Green’s obituary in the July 1936 issue of The Numismatist, which summarizes the collection: “Although he kept his personality well in the background in numismatics, he had been for a number of years one of the largest and most active collectors in the United States, and when his collection is disposed of — if it is, publicly — even those who knew him well will probably be surprised at its size. He had several agents among the dealers who were always on the lookout for rarities for him, and for whom he was always a desirable customer.”

In American Numismatic Biographies, Kolbe & Fanning notes, Pete Smith sheds light on this amazing assemblage: “On October 25, 1936 [Colonel Green’s] collection was transferred from South Dartmouth to the First National Bank of Boston. The move required eight armored cars, sixteen private guards and seven state policemen. At the time the value of his coin collection was estimated at $5 million. … In 1937 F.C.C. Boyd was asked to make an appraisal of the collection. The courts determined that the value for tax purposes was $1,240,299. His total estate was valued at more than $40 million.”

According to the auction firm, “Only one other example of the Green inventory appears to have come to market: the one in George F. Kolbe’s June 1, 2004 auction sale of the John J. Ford, Jr. Library, where it sold for $42,550, including the 15% buyer premium, to a very private buyer.

“The newly discovered Green Inventory is virtually identical to the Ford copy, except that it features an additional leaf that has been boldly signed by the compiler, F.C.C. Boyd, and is also notarized. It is likely that a third copy of the inventory was originally prepared but its survival is doubtful.

“In a recent communication, centenarian Eric P. Newman who, with B.G. Johnson, acquired much of the Green collection (including all five 1913 Liberty Head nickels), stated the only copy of the inventory that he knew of was the one belonging to F.C.C. Boyd, which later passed to John Ford and was sold in 2004 as noted.”

According to Kolbe & Fanning: “Colonel Green’s inventory is of the highest importance because no catalogue of his monumental numismatic collection was ever made. The coins, medals, tokens and paper currency were gradually dispersed privately, and the lack of a formal catalogue is a serious impediment to provenance research. The present copy is from the library of George C. Perkins. Another may never come to sale.”

Photographic albums

The first complete set of three photographic albums depicting Colonel Green’s collections of United States eagles, half eagles and quarter eagles was sold in the Jan. 9, 2010, auction of the Stack Family Library. Joseph Stack’s deluxe set, it sold for $80,500 on a $30,000 estimate. Now, Morton Stack’s personal set of this “monumental photographic record, in outstanding condition, has been consigned to Kolbe & Fanning by a prominent American educational institution.”

Green’s remarkable collection of United States gold coins by variety, including many pieces from the famed Waldo Newcomer collection, remains one of the finest ever formed, Kolbe & Fanning notes, “causing these well-produced photographs to be of the highest importance.”

Green’s collection of gold $5 half eagles was sold largely intact in the 1940s to Egypt’s King Farouk, and a number resurfaced in the Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection, as did other Green gold coins. Some also passed into the John J. Pittman Jr. Collection.

According to Kolbe & Fanning, one mystery explained by the photographs is that of the alleged 1841-O Coronet gold $5 piece, described by Walter Breen in his 1960s series of articles on U.S. gold published in the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine. “Breen cited these photographs as his primary source for the existence of this previously unrecorded piece, but was led astray by what closer examination of the photos reveals to be a shadow on the coin in question that makes the C mintmark appear to be an O.”

No examples of the 1841-O Coronet half eagle are known to exist.

The son of financier Hetty Green — popularly known as the “Witch of Wall Street” — E.H.R. Green spent untold sums in the 1920s and 1930s on his hobbies. He vies with King Farouk as perhaps the most eccentric coin collector of the 20th century. Upon Hetty Green’s death, her son spent some $3 million a year on yachts, coins, stamps, jewels, orchid culture and other more libertine endeavors.

Additional consignments

In addition to the Green material, Kolbe & Fanning will also be offering a rare copy of the first edition of the first printed numismatic book at their January 2012 auction. Guillaume Budé’s De asse et partibus eius was printed in Paris in 1514. This extraordinarily important work on ancient Roman coins and metrology has been called “the philological masterpiece of the early Cinquecento” by Roberto Weiss, and was subsequently reprinted many times for over a century following its initial publication. “This 1514 first edition is rarely offered, and is of considerable importance,” according to the auction firm.

Both the Green material and the 1514 first edition of Budé will be on display at Kolbe & Fanning’s booth at the 2011 ANA World’s Fair of Money, to be held in Rosemont, Ill., Aug. 16 to 20.

For additional information about the 2012 auction, contact Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers, 141 W. Johnstown Road, Gahanna, OH 43230-2700. Send George Kolbe email at gfk@numislit.com or telephone him at (909) 338–6527. Telephone David Fanning at (614) 414–0855 or email him at df@numislit.com. The firm’s website is www.numislit.com. ■

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