US Coins

Lincoln cent collector Stewart Blay dies at age 71

CoinTelevision interviewed Stewart Blay about his journey assembling collections of small cents. Blay passed away Nov. 25 at the age of 71.

Image courtesy of Newman Numismatic Portal.

New York City sculptor and numismatist Stewart Blay — whose premier Red Copper Collection of Lincoln Cents certified by Professional Coin Grading Service is being offered at auction online by GreatCollections — died unexpectedly Nov. 25 from an undisclosed illness.

Mr. Blay was 71.

Coin World spoke with Mr. Blay by telephone Nov. 22 to interview him about his five decades of collecting, but he requested to delay the interview a week or two.

Mr. Blay was a fixture at coin shows and conventions across the country in his relentless search to locate and acquire the finest preserved examples of Lincoln cents.

The core 150-coin set, according to GreatCollections president Ian Russell, “includes all coins issued from 1909 to 1958 with different Mint marks and all of the major varieties.”

The set also includes all of the major Lincoln cent doubled dies.

The coins are being offered without reserve with bidding on the three sales ending in consecutive weeks on Jan. 15, Jan. 22 and Jan. 29.

At some time in the future, GreatCollections is scheduled to offer Blay’s premier collection of Canadian small cents.

Artistic pursuits

Mr. Blay pursued his artistic talents at his Carving Studio and Sculpture Center.

Mr. Blay started collecting coins at the age of 8.

According to a 2008 interview with Mr. Blay by BJ Searls, who was then Set Registry and Special Projects Director for PCGS, Blay started filling a Whitman coin folder with coins a neighbor’s uncle would bring home from his employment with the New York City transit system.

Mr. Blay expanded his collection  to encompass Jefferson 5-cent coins, Winged Liberty Head dimes and Washington quarter dollars. Mr. Blay would travel to work with his Brooklyn lawyer father who would secure for him rolls of different denomination coins, from which he pulled the best coins in the highest level of preservation.

By the time he reached high school, however, Mr. Blay’s interests changed.

Searls noted that after high school, Mr. Blay pursued his artistic talents by attending the Parsons School of Design in New York City. “Spending the summers in Italy and working at the Art Students League in the fall in New York, he began to develop his career as an artist specializing in contemporary sculpture,” according to Searls. At the time, Mr. Blay was pursuing artworks in Italy, Colorado and Indiana, as well as his home city of New York.

Blay’s sculptures are in private collections across the country.

Mr. Blay also studied acting with renowned American theatre director, actor and acting teacher Lee Strasberg and performed stunt work for television, appearing in commercials and soap operas.

In 1988, two years after the founding of PCGS, Mr. Blay returned to the numismatic fold, concentrating on collecting Lincoln cents. Mr. Blay was meticulous in his searches for just the right coins.

“For me, the hunt is as important as the coin. If the hunt turns out to be sour, then the coin loses appeal for me,” he was quoted by Searls as saying.

Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City was in charge of final arrangements.

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