George's Blog

Welcome to George's Blog. Arcane numismatic trivia, original research, market reports, interesting coin show observations, reflections on the numismatic and collectibles marketplace: You will find them all here. Please check back often!

Well, That Was Fun ... Or, How I Spent My Last 12 Years

September 5, 2017. After working mostly full-time for the last 12 years as a contract (read: no benefits, tons of work, long hours, good pay) cataloger for Heritage Auctions, we recently have gone back to just being a full-time coin dealer. Working for Heritage was a (mostly) marvelous experience, and I am grateful to them for that opportunity. I learned a ton from them, and I think they learned quite a bit from me as well. I, along with their team of talented numismatists-writers, got to work on two different 1913 Liberty nickels (I'll never forget interviewing Ryan Givens, George Walton's nephew, about his uncle's "long-lost" 1913 Liberty nickel, which all the while was the real deal and resting in his Mom's closet); two different 1804 silver dollars (researching and writing about Joseph J. Mickley was a real joy); and at least one 1927-D double eagle (or was it two? after a while you get rarity-numb), the rarest gold issue from the first half of the 20th century.

I single-handedly talked Steve Ivy into redoing tons of computer code, so that he could auction Cherrypickers' varieties correctly under their right PCGS numbers. That was a lot of work for a lot of people, but collectors, consignors, and the marketplace overall are all the better for it.

I got much, much better at grading. Even though they have professional graders (which the catalogers are not), I learned to spot coins that are undergraded and overgraded, as well as the occasional "how it the heck did that get through?" coin. Although most of the work was strictly U.S. coins, I got to work on many of the past Medals and Tokens sales, which was a ton of fun and really educational. Amazing what there is to collect ... And I love Canadian, and I and some of the other guys (we only had one female cataloger during my tenure) got to work on the fabulous Canadiana Collection, wow what great coins those were.

I helped some of the better numismatists become better writers, and they helped me to learn more about series I had previously had little exposure to.

The memorable collections were too many to list all of them. I started with the Jules Reiver Collection in 2005, and the last work I did was for ANA and Long Beach in 2017. So: Reiver. David Queller, wow what great patterns he had (true story: I was working on the Queller patterns, and I had all the flips and provenance notes rubber-banded together; out falls a gold 1836 pattern dollar, the Mexican Cap and Rays design, Judd-67; of course I got it back into the flow to get slabbed, but wow, David Queller had an incredible bunch of patterns). The Walt Husak large cent collection (where I was "ghost editor"; actually, there were a lot of those). All of the Gene Gardner material, Seated Liberty and otherwise. The fabulous Eric Newman Collection sales. Nothing will ever top those, and I guess they're still coming. Dr. Duckor's gold Saints and Barber halves, wow, gorgeous coins.

I think what I enjoyed most, beyond just being surrounded by gorgeous rarities, was learning how closely history, politics, technology (or lack thereof), art, and finance intertwined to influence what was produced numismatically in the United States (and around the world) and when. Books like Carothers' Fractional Money, Q. David Bowers' American Numismatics Before the Civil War, Robert Van Ryzin's Crime of 1873, Rusty Goe's works on (and coins from!) the Carson City Mint, and even Cornelius Vermeule's Numismatic Art in America, are among many seminal works in those contexts.

I did some good work. One of my better efforts was an attempt -- successful, I think (at least, the consignor thought so) -- in cataloging the Galt's Gulch Collection of 1854-S through 1866-S double eagles (including an 1861-S Paquet Reverse and an 1866-S No Motto) to show how the discovery of gold in California impacted numismatics in enormous ways, contributed to the westward expansion of the United States, and continues to this day to have profound implications for American political, social, and cultural life.

I think I left Heritage better than when I found it. And that's a legacy I can live with.

For Unto Us a Child Is Born! Merry Christmas!

December 19, 2013. I am all for respecting anyone else's beliefs. But I want mine respected, too. I am weary of the constant political correctness.

This is the time of year when Christians celebrate the birth of Christ the Savior. To all our customers, I wish you a Merry Christmas. If you are Jewish, I wish you Happy Hanukkah! The celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas (and indeed every day throughout the year) should be a time to thank God for our material bounty at the harvest time and the spiritual bounty of salvation through Christ. Give of yourself materially and spiritually at this time of year, as much as you are able.

And Merry Christmas to All!

Don't Forget What Is Important

August 30, 2013. We were all dressed up and ready to go. We had bought a ton of new, nice inventory, we had cleaned our cases, arranged for Tiger cat to be boarded at the vet, even put new signs in our cases with our Table Number and VDB Coins logo. Then our A-fib got worse in pretty short order, and we started having worsening graying-out (and even a couple of passing out) spells. The doctors call it syncope. On Tuesday Aug. 13 we were at the cardiologist, who sent us directly to the electrophysiologist, who told us that our choices were a cardiac ablation or a pacemaker to prevent the heart from misfiring. (You can look it up.) On Thursday, one week before the show, we were on the operating table. Needless to say, we missed the Dalton-BRNA show on Aug. 22-25. I was directed not to drive for a few days, not to lift 10 pounds for a week. Fortunately, I am feeling great now, and so far my heart is back in normal sinus rhythm.

Here's the deal. I really enjoy having coins, talking about coins, sharing coins, finding nice coins for my customers, doing a show once in a while to see old friends, meet nice new folks, and view other people's prizes. But early in the morning, before leaving for the procedure at the hospital, I thought to myself, "What is most important at this moment, just in case this is my last day?" It was not the coins. Not by a country mile. I said a prayer to God to keep me in His loving hands. I wrote a little note to Mrs. VDB; its contents will remain private. But it is God, your loved ones, and your health that are most important. You need to love yourself as much as you love the folks around you, and you need to love them just as much and just as fiercely as God loves you.

Coins are nice. But your loved ones and your faith are your treasures. Lose some weight and some bad habits. Kiss those you love, hug them, and tell them today, and every day, how much you love them. As for God, I believe that some of the medical professionals I have met recently are His Angels on this earth. So. Don't forget what is important. God Bless You today as you read this.

But I still think Tiger cat arranged this whole thing so he wouldn't have to go to the vet.


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