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Michael with the “King of Morgan Silver Dollars”

Michael and Jack Lee

26 July 2006


Michael with longtime friend Jack Lee the all-time “King of Morgan Silver Dollars” at the “Baltimore Coin Convention” this past July.

UPDATE: Jack was a dear friend. He passed away in August 2008 after a brief and freak illness that I believe escalated into a pneumonia. In the coin arena we traded in millions of dollars buying, selling and trading with one another in Morgan Silver Dollars. Jack helped me assemble and then assisted in the sale of my Morgan Dollar set which at the time was the #3 ALL TIME FINEST in the PCGS SET REGISTRY .

Dan Freidus

17 October 2005

Colonial AmericanaAn extraordinary collection

Dealer and anonymous collector collaborate

Dan Freidus

Time, money, knowledge. Ah, we’d all be great collectors if we had enough of all three. A nice fantasy but most have limitations in one of the three (OK, let’s be realistic: more than one).

It’s how you cope with the limitation(s) and what tradeoffs you chose that define you as a collector.

I recently encountered a collector who’s made different choices than I have (and probably different than most numismatists) and it’s led to a very interesting collection.

I first found out about the “Stockbridge Collection” when some relatively highpriced Colonials started appearing on eBay recently. Not surprisingly, most didn’t sell.

Above a certain price point, collectors tend to want to see a Colonial in person or at least have someone they know look at it. I contacted the dealer listing these coins and then spoke with the collector.

You can see details of the collection at http://www.caspercoin.com, where the coins have been cataloged by Tom Rinaldo (a dealer specializing in Colonials who also catalogs McCawley & Grellman’s annual November Colonial auction, which you can find out about at http://www.colonialcoins.org).

Dealer Michael Casper told me that he had assembled this collection over the past year and a half for a client who had earlier collected Seated Liberty dimes by die variety and then high-grade Morgan dollars (the Amherst Collection). Casper is listing the entire collection (about 70 coins and about 120 pieces of Colonial and Continental paper money) for $600,000.

Don Kagin was also involved, inspecting and bidding on examples acquired at auction.

The coins are mostly a high-grade Colonial type collection while the paper money includes Continental currency and a full Colony set (plus Vermont), but is particularly strong in notes printed by Benjamin Franklin and engraved or printed by Paul Revere.

The collector turns out to be a physician with an entrepreneurial career in healthcare information and services. That 70-hourper-week career leaves him with more money than time for finding coins or numismatic research.

So he has collected with dealers doing much of the legwork for him. He’s enjoyed working with Casper, whom he described as a “gentlemen” with “extraordinary ethics.”

Casper had only limited previous experience with Colonials (and an interest in the New York Excelsior coppers), but had to increase his knowledge on Colonials. Casper and the collector chose an unusual period to assemble this collection. Stack’s sales of the John J. Ford Jr. Collection has made the last few years not a once-in-alifetime but a once-in-a-century opportunity, since many of Ford’s coins were acquired privately from the estate of a collector who in turn had acquired entire collections virtually intact.

Therefore, literally hundreds of Ford’s coins had not been offered or seen publicly in a century.

Interest in Ford Colonials has made some other Colonials sell for strong prices. Colonials are getting more attention than usual at the same time that some Colonials are going for bargain prices while collectors hold back, expecting to spend their money in an upcoming Ford auction. (For example, one collector who sold some coins at auction in the fall of 2004 told me that he had some coins sell for half of his estimate while others sold for three times what he thought they were worth.) I was pleasantly surprised to find that the “Stockbridge” collector had attended the same small college from which I graduated. That only highlighted the different choices collectors can make. I’m glad to say that I don’t work 70 hours per week, but that’s one of the reasons I collect on a much more limited budget. But I’d be hardpressed to argue that the Stockbridge collector enjoys his collection any more or less than I enjoy my own. Different collectors, different coins, different choices.

We both started the way most collectors do: filling a penny board as a kid. I kept with it with only a few breaks while he collected only “sparsely” until a major surgery around the age of 50 made him keenly aware of his mortality.

This midlife event resulted in his evaluating his life and making deliberate choices to include certain activities he had been setting aside.

His re-entry into numismatics has been with fervor. In our discussion, it’s clear how much he’s enjoyed this episode, even if it’s with a combination of his money and someone else’s time that makes his collecting style somewhat uncommon.

Upon seeing the entire collection, he became ambivalent about his collection.

While he does expect to sell the currency, and has set a price for selling the coins with the notes, he’s now ambivalent about parting with the coins because he finds them so intriguing.

By the time you read this, the collector will have made a decision about whether to close the Stockbridge Collection chapter in his collecting or to make it even more spectacular by participating in Stack’s October sale of the Wurtzbach/Ford collection of Massachusetts silver coinage.

Dan Freidus is a collector and researcher specializing in early American numismatics. He can be contacted c/o Coin World, Box 150, Sidney, Ohio 45365, or by email at colonial.americana@umich.edu.

Bruce Amspacher

25 November 2003

Morgan dollar entusiasts are
”buying everything in sight.”

Gold, 20th century “modern” coins and silver dollars continue to lead the sizzling rare coin market as the final month of 2003 approaches with a rush. It’s as though no one ever heard of a “December slowdown” or a “Christmas time fallback” or any of those other terms that used to explain the relatively quiet period around the holidays.

“Morgan dollar enthusiasts, collectors and speculators are buying everything in sight,” says Michael Casper, a silver dollar specialist from Ithaca, New York. “Most sales are in the $2,000 to $30,000 range, and it doesn’t make any difference whether the coin is frosty Mint State or prooflike or DMPL. They’ll take them all!”

Are there any supply problems when you try to replenish your inventory? “I can’t find quality Morgan dollars to buy for any amount of money,” Casper said. “The last time I looked I had a total of 68 coins in inventory, and that included pieces from the Gilley collection and several other major collections plus my eBay auction and everything listed on my web site. That’s one box of coins total.

“I did buy one great coin in the last few days,” Casper said, “but I had to go to another dealer’s web site to do it. It’s the Eliasberg 1891-CC in PCGS MS68PL. The coin cost nearly $100,000 but I had a customer who wanted it.”

Bruce Amspacher has been a professional writer since the 1950s and a professional numismatist since the 1960s. He won the OIPA sportswriting award in 1958 and again in 1959, then spent eight years in college studying American Literature. This background somehow led him to become a professional numismatist in 1968. Since then he has published hundreds of articles on rare coins in dozens of publications as well as publishing his own newsletter, the “Bruce Amspacher Investment Report,” for more than a decade. His areas of expertise include Liberty Seated dollars, Morgan and Peace dollars, United States gold coins, sports trivia, Western history, modern literature and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. In 1986 he was a co-founder of the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). Today he is a full-time writer for Collectors Universe.

Bruce Amspacher

23 April 2002

Michael Casper Collection sells for over $1.7 million.

The Morgan dollar collection that is listed as #3 of all time on the PCGS Set Registry has traded hands. Michael Casper, a dealer/collector from Ithaca, New York, assembled the set over several years and sold it in recent days for over $1.7 million.

“The set was complete except for about 20 coins, most of which were sold at auction late last year. There were also about $200,000 worth of duplicates that were included in the sale,” Casper said. “The buyer was a Texas collector who appreciates fine art and significant historical artifacts. This is his first venture into numismatics.”

Casper’s set included many items that are pedigreed to the finest Morgan dollar sets ever assembled. Below are some of the highlights of the set, their pedigrees and the prices that they just traded for.

1878-8TF PCGS MS66/PCGS Tour $13,500
1879-CC PCGS MS65PL $20,000
1881-O PCGS MS65/PCGS Tour $5,850
1881-S PCGS MS69 $38,000
1883-O PCGS MS67/Bodway, Lee [Collections] $6,700
1884 PCGS MS67/Gauya, Bodway, Lee, NFL $12,000
1884-S PCGS MS63/Wayne Miller $30,000
1886-O PCGS MS65/Eliasberg $150,000
1886-S PCGS MS67/PCGS Tour/Lee $31,500
1887-O PCGS MS66PL $45,000
1892-S PCGS MS67/Eliasberg $150,000
1892-CC PCGS MS66/PCGS Tour $28,500
1893-O PCGS MS64/Wayne Miller $20,000
1893-CC PCGS MS65PL $100,000
1896-O PCGS MS64 $45,000
1897-O PCGS MS66/Eliasberg $52,000
1901-S PCGS MS66 $14,000

Bruce Amspacher has been a professional writer since the 1950s and a professional numismatist since the 1960s. He won the OIPA sportswriting award in 1958 and again in 1959, then spent eight years in college studying American Literature. This background somehow led him to become a professional numismatist in 1968. Since then he has published hundreds of articles on rare coins in dozens of publications as well as publishing his own newsletter, the “Bruce Amspacher Investment Report,” for more than a decade. His areas of expertise include Liberty Seated dollars, Morgan and Peace dollars, United States gold coins, sports trivia, Western history, modern literature and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. In 1986 he was a co-founder of the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). Today he is a full-time writer for Collectors Universe.

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