This is the last of six profiles of seven numismatists who have
been in the hobby professionally more than 40 years and which was
first published in the April 6 Monthly edition of Coin World.
Additional profiles will appear in the April 13, April 20 and April
27 Weekly issues.
The co-chairman and chief executive officer of Heritage Auctions,
Steve Ivy first began collecting stamps at the age of nine, having
been introduced to philately by a neighbor while growing up in Fort
Ivy said his introduction to numismatics came the following year
when he obtained his first copy of A Guide Book of United States
Coins, the “Red Book.” A friend’s father had a shoe box full of
coins, which fascinated the young Ivy, who now labels himself as
having had the “treasure hunter instinct.” Ivy quickly learned he
could find good coins in circulation and sell them for a profit.
Ivy said he was enamored with the commercial aspect of obtaining
coins at face value and turning them around for a profit. As a
12-year-old in the early 1960s, Ivy would mow lawns to get the funds
to finance his hobby and entrepreneurship.
“It became painfully obvious I could make more money buying and
selling coins than mowing lawns in 103-degree Texas heat,” Ivy said.
Ivy placed his first print advertisement in the February 1964 issue
of The Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine under the name of his
attorney father, R.L. Ivy, since the periodical would not accept
advertising from a minor.
That first ad offered inexpensive Indian Head cents, Jefferson
5-cent coins, U.S. Proof cents and the like.
Ivy said he continued to advertise coins through his high school
years and into college, with the company name changing to Steve Ivy
Rare Coin Co. when he became of age. He also set up at shows in the
Fort Worth area.
In business school at the University of Texas in Austin, Ivy felt
the professional world of numismatics beckoning him full-time.
“I basically ignored my studies and just got by,” Ivy said. “I was
not particularly inspired or motivated by school.” Ivy said he spent
two years at college, before dropping out the second semester of his
In January 1970, Ivy moved to Dallas.
Read the rest of our profiles:
Even before the move to Dallas, Ivy began to appear before a
national audience — Ivy attended his first ANA anniversary convention
with the 1965 edition in Houston and has attended each one annually since.
In 1976, Ivy went into the auction business as Steve Ivy Numismatic Auctions.
In the early 1980s, Ivy and Jim Halperin from New England Rare Coin
Galleries merged their talents to form Heritage Rare Coin Galleries,
now called Heritage Auctions. Halperin is also a Heritage co-chairman.
“It made sense at the time,” Ivy said of the partnership. “We both
have complementary skills. It’s been a great partnership.
Heritage launched its own grading service, Numismatic Certification
Institute, in 1984, and then Ivy Press the following year, publishing
the NCI Grading Guide, written by Halperin.
With the advent of Professional Coin Grading Service in 1986, Ivy
said it was decided to close down NCI because it was felt PCGS was
able to do a better job.
Increased use of the Internet and World Wide Web for all sorts of
purposes, including numismatic business, as the 1990s ended served as
a catalyst for the numismatic industry, according to Ivy.
“It professionally changed the face of the business,” Ivy said, much
the same way that third-party grading revolutionized numismatics in
The Web offers an additional venue for buying and selling coins. And
having the coins certified eliminates many market hazards, he said.
The Web allows collectors to be active in numismatics regardless of
where they live geographically, giving them access to a wider supply
of coins and collectibles.
Heritage strongly embraced the opportunities the Web has to offer,
especially in the realm of auctions, providing collectors and
potential bidders a direct, real time participation, Ivy said.
Over the years, Heritage has handled some of the most prominent
collections and numismatic rarities at auction, which combined have
generated prices realized totaling in the hundreds of million of dollars.
“We’ve sold just about everything,” Ivy said. “It’s hard to put one
coin in a class above all others. If you told me I would be handling
what we have handled, I wouldn’t believe it.”
Still, Ivy named a few favorites:
➤ The 1792 Birch cent sold in January 2015 from the
Donald Patrick collection for $2,585,000.
➤ The 1787 Brasher, EB Punch on Wing doubloon that sold
for $4,582,500 in January 2014; and in the firm’s January 2005 sale,
another 1787 Brasher, EB Punch on Wing doubloon that sold for
$2,415,000 and a 1787 Brasher, EB Punch on Breast doubloon that sold
for $2.99 million.
➤ The George Walton specimen of 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin, which realized
$3,172,500 in April 2013.
Ivy said the barriers to entering the world of numismatics today are
not much different than 50 years ago.
Numismatics, he said, is “fierce” but “truly a business for young
entrepreneurs” if they can recognize fair value and pricing. Heritage
Auctions has a number of former Young Numismatists on staff whose
interests the firm cultivated.
Ivy said Heritage has had its own internship training program for
many years, and now participates in the intern program conducted by
Numismatists Guild. The PNG introduced its Promoting Numismatic
Growth project in 2014 with interns placed in sponsoring numismatic
dealerships with the goal of the interns establishing professional
careers in the hobby.