US Coins

This is not a typical piece from Louis Eliasberg's collection

Among the more unusual items to cross the auction block at recent major numismatics auctions was a simple wooden tobacco pipe.

The pipe itself wasn’t extraordinary, described as 6.75-inch American-made Kaywoodie Super Grain Silhouette briar pipe with the internal synchro stem filter and a flat bottom, stamped with the model number 5439. More interesting was that it was personalized, with the inscription LOUIS ELIASBERG / BALTIMORE neatly engraved on the sterling silver band encircling the mortise. 

Stack’s Bowers offered the humble pipe in its May 29 Whitman Baltimore Expo auction, observing, “This particular pipe appears entirely functional with all components complete and in working condition. The bowl, with its attractive wood grain finish, is cracked a bit on the side nearest the stem, which is not at all unusual on a well-used pipe.” 

Research on the model shows that the pipe was produced before 1936 and contemporary pictures of the well-heeled Baltimore collector show him as an enthusiastic smoker. It realized $5,040, many multiples of the $50, or so, that a typical personalized pipe might bring at a venue like an antique store.

Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. was born in 1896 and is legendary as the only person in modern history to assemble a collection of every single circulating American coin by date and Mint mark. The great collector died in 1976 and Bowers and Ruddy, later Bowers and Merena, sold his collection in several magnificent auctions between 1982 and 1997.

Eliasberg acquired the final coin needed to complete his collection on Nov. 7, 1950, the unique 1873-CC Seated Liberty, No Arrows dime. It most recently sold at auction at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ August 2012 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money auction where — now graded Mint State 65 by Professional Coin Grading Service — it brought $1.88 million.

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