This is the third 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.
Cousins and business partners Ira and Larry Goldberg have been
professional numismatists for more than 45 years each, spending most
of their hobby careers with Superior Stamp and Coin Co. and then Ira & Larry
Goldberg Coins & Collectibles Inc.
Larry and Ira follow in the numismatic footsteps forged by their
grandfather, Isador Goldberg, with Superior’s founding in Los Angeles
in 1931. Ira’s father, Marshall, and Larry’s father, Harold, joined
Superior in 1945 upon their return from military service during World
Ira and Larry joined the family business in their adolescence in the
early 1950s, cleaning floors, soaking stamps off covers and making
stamp packets, while developing their interest in coins.
Larry recalls he appreciated the attention he could give to his
interest in coins while sorting, grading and organizing the inventory.
He said he enjoyed selling to clients and acquiring coins needed if
they were not in Superior’s inventory. This was especially important
in building type sets of U.S. coins, he said.
Larry Goldberg said he recalls beginning in 1957 assisting Edwards Huntington Metcalf in assembling
collections of U.S. and world coins. Metcalf was the grandson of
railroad tycoon Henry G. Huntington.
Buying for Metcalf in the 1960s meant spending millions of dollars
to acquire pieces from the holdings of collector A.J. Ostheimer. The
purchases included Ostheimer’s Bust dollar collection, which held a
Mint State 1794 Flowing Hair dollar. Another significant purchase on
Metcalf’s behalf was an 1870-S Seated Liberty dollar.
During the 1960s when the government was emptying its vaults of
silver dollars, Superior handled numerous 1893-S and Carson City Mint
Larry Goldberg said that during this period he was being paid
roughly $5 a day.
Read the rest of our profiles:
Larry Goldberg said he first met Harvey Stack in the early 1960s,
during a buying trip to New York to acquire gold $20 double eagles.
“This was the first time I ever met him, and I said who I was, and
he started telling stories to me about my Aunt Rose who used to run
our coin department,” Larry Goldberg said. “I remember telling this
story to Ira and Dad and said we need to get well known in this
industry. Again, we had a lot of great clients, but no one knew our
firm outside the Los Angeles area. We thought that being in the
auction business would put us on the map.”
The first Superior auction was conducted on Sept. 24 to 26, 1970,
and featured the Dr. A.F. Pradeau Collection of Spanish Colonial,
Mexican and U.S. coins.
Auction attendance was high. Bids were all entered into the auction
ledger by hand. Invoices were written out, Goldberg said.
Auction competition during the 1970s was fierce, according to Larry
Goldberg, as auction houses sought the contract for the annual
American Numismatic Association anniversary convention sale.
This led to Superior, Stack’s Rare Coins, Rare Coin Company of
America (RARCOA), and David W. Akers Inc. collaborating from the
late 1970s into the early 1990s in a series of auctions known as the
Apostrophe Sales (i.e., Auction ‘85). The four firms formed the joint
auction because they had not been selected to conduct the official ANA
auction for the summer convention in those years.
Superior continued separately with great auctions through the 1980s
and 1990s that included the Robinson S. Brown Jr. Collection of U.S.
Large Cents, Goldberg said. Collectors wanted auction catalogs with
“superior” photographs. The auction company focused on the desires of
a potential bidder.
However, printing the catalogs took a lot of time and effort,
particularly for photographing and cataloging items. New technology
eliminated the costly and time-consuming use of photographic film,
replacing it with high-quality digital images. Current auctions
conducted by Ira & Larry Goldberg, Auctioneers, often have about
50 floor bidders with the rest participating online or by phone. Larry
Goldberg said quality digital photographs have revolutionized the
auction world, making it possible for potential bidders to view the
lots online or in a print catalog rather than having to make a trip to
examine the coins in person.
Larry Goldberg said there will come a time when the print catalog
will be a thing of the past.
Since 1970 when Superior conducted its first public coin auction,
the Goldbergs have handled countless numismatic rarities, including
the collections of famous personalities, such as actor Buddy Ebsen,
violinist Jascha Heifitz and Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss. And
there’s also the Proof U.S. gold coin collection of businessman Ed
Trompeter, which went to auction by Superior in the early 1990s.
The 1894-S Barber dime, 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin and Class I
1804 Draped Bust dollar sold by Superior in 1985 as part of the Buss
Collection had been acquired for Buss earlier by Ira Goldberg with
Buss’ authorization, written on a hot dog napkin while both attended a
Lakers home game.
In its June 1, 1999, sale, the Goldbergs set a record with the first
gold coin to break the $1 million barrier, when they sold a 1907
Saint-Gaudens, Ultra High Relief, Roman Numerals gold $20 double eagle
for $1.21 million.
On May 28, 2009, the Goldbergs auctioned The Millennia Collection,
which realized more than $24 million, the most an auction of world
coins had brought in a single day.
The Goldbergs have handled the sale of the King of Siam set three
different times — once privately and twice at auction. In 2008 at
auction, the set brought a record-breaking $8.5 million.
On Sept. 6, 2009, in the first of four sales involving the
collection of large cent collector Dan Holmes, the Goldbergs auctioned
a 1795 Liberty Cap, Reeded Edge cent for $1,265,000, the highest price
ever paid at auction for a copper coin.
Both cousins have been members of the Professional
Numismatists Guild since 1969 and are lifetime members of the American Numismatic
Association. Ira served 10 years on the PNG Board and as its
president from 1993 to 1995.
Both received Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2011 from the American
Numismatic Society for their contributions to numismatics.
The Goldbergs have both served as consultants for the
Columbus-America Discovery Group for the treasure salvaged from 1988
to 1991 from the
SS Central America. The Goldbergs are also
among the partners with Dwight Manley in the California Gold Marketing
Group for the promotion and sale of treasure from that ship.
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