The December 2009 issue of the John Reich Journal has an article by
W. David Perkins illustrating the use of correspondence to provide interesting background information on numismatic items. Titled
Sometimes we buy the Coin, Sometimes the Story
And Sometimes the Story comes after the Coin is Purchased, the article sheds a little light on the history of a 1795 Flowing Hair dollar.
For the record, the printed article has a couple of typos, both fixed here: the coin's date was incorrectly listed as "1796" and Dave's name incorrectly ordered as "David W. Perkins". Many thanks to Dave for permission to reprint excerpts from the article, and for providing the images and corrected text.
In this case someone bought the coin, in 1986. Likely all they knew of the story was from the catalog description. In this case the coin was Lot 1326 in Heritage Numismatic Auctions 1986 A.N.A. Mid-Winter Auction sale, February 20-22, 1986 held in Salt Lake City. This coin was plated in black and white on page 42 of the sale catalog, with an obverse photo in color included on page 41.
The catalog noted at the top of page 42:
These 25 early American dollars [Lots 1321-1345] constitute the major portion of the collection of a famous American Numismatist from Louisiana. Although HNAI was unable to use this gentleman's name, advanced Bolender collectors will decipher the owner's name due to the uniqueness of these properties. We trust that you will derive as much pleasure from viewing these as we did in cataloguing them; and for those of you fortunate to acquire one of these treasures, rest assured that you will have found a heritage of numismatists that undoubtably [sic] will be difficult to duplicate.
These silver dollars were from the collection of Frank M. Stirling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Frank Stirling died in Baton Rouge on September 18, 1984 at the age of 78. Stirling was a true and knowledgeable Numismatist. And as a side note, this was not the major portion of his collection; none-the-less this was an exceptional offering of 25 early silver dollars.
Now for the fun part. In April 2005 I acquired copies of Frank Stirling's correspondence and notes from the Stirling family. In looking through these files the other day I came across a number of letters between Stirling and B. Max Mehl, the famous Fort Worth coin dealer, a couple of which shed some additional light on this coin.
The correspondence documents the source of the coin, its price and date of purchase. Also illustrated in the article is an invoice from Mehl and Stirling's canceled check. Great raw material for anyone researching the history of a particular coin.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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