This is the latest installment in a series of articles delving into
the careers of professional numismatists who have traveled the coin
show circuit for more than four decades. In this installment, we
take a glimpse at the decades-long career of Harvey Stack.
Currently a senior numismatic consultant for Stack’s Bowers Galleries,
Harvey Stack has been at the forefront of numismatics for well over 60 years.
Stack has been surrounded by the hobby since birth, with the Stack’s
Rare Coin Shop that Harvey’s father, Morton Stack, and uncle, Joseph
Stack, established in 1933. Harvey joined the family business in 1947,
two years after cousins Norman and Benjamin Stack also joined.
Harvey’s son, Lawrence, joined the firm in 1973, and daughter,
Susan, three years later.
Harvey Stack and his cousins continued the numismatic tradition
established by their respective fathers.
Stack’s, over the decades before, during and after Harvey’s
association, has handled the sale of many numismatic rarities and
collections of prominent collectors whose holdings the firm assisted
Some numismatic luminaries whose collections have passed through the
halls of Stack’s —during acquisition of coins for the collections and,
later, their auction under the Stack’s family name — include William
H. Sheldon, David Proskey, James A. Stack Jr. (no relation to the
owners of the numismatic firm), Col. James W. Flanagan, J.F. Bell,
Anderson Dupont, C.A. Cass. George O. Walton, Reed Hawn, Louis E.
Eliasberg Sr., George Clapp, Jimmy Hayes, Josiah K. Lilly and Amon
Carter Jr., among many others.
Harvey Stack became a member of the American Numismatic Association
in 1947. He credits his numismatic education to some of the most
learned numismatists of the period that worked at Stack’s. These
included Hans M.F. Schulman, John J. Ford Jr., and Vladimir
Clain-Stefanelli and his wife, Elvira. The latter two eventually
became co-curators of the National Numismatic Collection in the
Although Stack’s has conducted business from several storefronts in
New York City since its establishment, the current 123 W. 57th St.
location, where it has been since 1953, remains the most familiar to
Each location has had sit-down showcases, to allow collectors to
relax while pursuing their hobby.
Harvey Stack obtained his auctioneer’s license in 1955, the same
year he became a full partner in Stack’s.
Stack observed changes in the marketplace, noting that as the
interest in collecting coins increased and old-time collections became
available in the market, dealers who couldn’t acquire the rarities
began hawking Proof sets and rolls of coins.
In 1967, Lilly, whom Harvey and his cousins had helped to assemble a
collection of 6,150 gold coins of the world over a period of years,
died. Unlike many of the collections the Stack family helped
collectors build over the decades, the Lilly Collection did not go to
the auction block after the owner’s death. Instead, it became the
property of America’s citizens, after the Smithsonian approached
Congress and secured passage of legislation that gave a tax break to
the Lilly estate and brought the Lilly Collection into the National
In the Mas1970s, Harvey and his cousin Norman inventoried the
numismatic collection of the Massachusetts Historical
Society that had been formed by Presidents John Adams and John
Quincy Adams. Stack’s sold the collection for the society in a series
of sales from which proceeds were used to curate and preserve
historical documents from both Adamses.
Harvey Stack testified before a congressional subcommittee in 1972
leading up to the passage the following year of the original Hobby
Protection Act (which has been updated since). Stack testified
again nearly 25 years later while promoting and endorsing legislation
that would authorize the 50 States Quarters Program.
In addition, Stack has testified on what he characterized as the
abuses of the U.S. Mint’s flooding the numismatic market with products
that Stack contends have little or no secondary market value. His
concern is that as it becomes more costly for collectors to acquire
one of everything offered, more collectors will give up the hobby,
Stack remains opposed to the Mint’s continuous issuance of special
coinage, stating, “In most cases they strike far in excess of demand,
have no buy-back policy to maintain a market, have so many ways they
sell new issues as to confuse the market by their reckless marketing,
and huge profits.”
The Stack family has also been numismatically philanthropic.
Harvey and Lawrence Stack donated in 1994 two Proof 1879 Quintuple
Stellas, one in gold and one in copper-gilt, to the National
Numismatic Collection. In 1992, the Stacks donated extensive
correspondence from Charles E. Barber, Mint engraver, from the period
1880 to 1917. Among the Stacks’ other contributions was a 1792 Birch
cent in 1993.
Harvey Stack has handled the sale of countless numismatic rarities
both privately and at auction, including 1804 Draped Bust dollars and
1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins.
He negotiated the joint sale with Bowers and Merena in 1996 and 1997
of Eliasberg’s silver coin collection.
He was also involved in representing the family firm in the July 30,
2002, sale held jointly by Sotheby’s and Stack’s of the only 1933
Saint-Gaudens $20 gold double eagle declared by the federal government
as legal to own. The coin sold for $7.59 million.
Having assisted in several of the collection’s acquisitions, the
company counts as one of its crowning achievements the sale of the
collection amassed by John J. Ford Jr., who died in 2002. Stack’s
offered the first of 24 auctions of Ford numismatic material in 2004,
and finished selling the collection in 2013. The last several Ford
auctions were conducted under the Stack’s Bowers Galleries banner.
Cumulative gross sales neared $70 million.
Harvey Stack has been a member of the Professional Numismatists
Guild since 1978 and served on its board for nearly a decade,
including a two-year term beginning in 1989 as president.
Stack received in 1993 the PNG’s highest award, the PNG Founder’s
Award, for his dedication to the hobby. The ANA Numismatist of the
Year award followed in 1997 and he was named to the ANA Numismatic
Hall of Fame in 2002.
Harvey Stack writes weekly on the Stack’s Bowers website about his adventures
and experiences during nearly seven decades as a professional numismatist.
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