The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 15, April 9, 2023, Article 21


In a recent email to clients on his fortieth year of official business, E-Sylum supporter Fred Holabird discussed how he got his start in business. Great story! -Editor

Fred Holabird with gold nugget It really was closer to fifty-five years ago. I grew up in a house full of history. By the time I was 15, I wanted to collect. So off to Humboldt State, where I'd sell rocks, bottles and silver dollars on the weekends to pay for school. During this time, on the way to and from Humboldt, I'd stop in Old Sacramento where I met Wendall Hammon, Ron Lerch, Ken Prag and a few other notables. While I was the youngest, Wendall had gotten a great start. He came from a mining family – the big gold dredges near Oroville. His friends Bob Greenwood and John Howell In San Francisco were very experienced Americana dealers, and we all became friends. Wendall had a way with words, and when he visited Virginia City where he owned property, he'd get on his marketing hat and uncovered huge Comstock collections. Then I met Ed Kalin in Verdi, who also was great at getting good material.

This group ended up with safes full of documents, and I couldn't resist. I decided to start a Comstock collection, then a Nevada and California town collection, not knowing Bob (Greenwood) had done the same thing. What fun! Once I started finding duplicates, I started selling documents, along with the usual rocks, old bottles, and silver dollars at flea markets in 1976 to supplement my whopping $800/month salary as a geologist for Cities Service Minerals Corp…The extra money allowed Robin and I to buy our first house – you remember yours, don't you? Ours cost $50,500. ($300/mo)

Fast forward. Over the next few years I delved deeply into all aspects of mining from production to finance at the advanced mining and finance seminars. Have a parallel business, we were taught, in case of metals failure. But it was a new world, because Nixon had just repealed the Gold Reserve Act, and no one knew what would happen as gold left its unsteady perch of $35/ounce.

Meanwhile, Wendall started the Sacramento Book and Paper Show. All of us attended and sold. I'd put up over a hundred notebooks of billheads, all arranged by town or category. I doubt anyone had done this before me. It was a huge success. At the Great Western Show in Pomona, they'd line up three to five deep to get to the notebooks… and the bottles… and the mining artifacts.

My mining career took off. We made an official start to the Americana business in 1983, when I hired Eva Leiker, my first employee, a very special lady. We put out two catalogs. We opened a gallery on Wells Avenue. I ran the Gold Bar mine in Bullfrog while others ran the Americana shop in Reno. It stayed that way for years. Then we landed the Mel Fisher Atocha treasure artifact deal, which I arranged to be held at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in 1987. And then… and then… and then… it became 2023.

Part of the and then… was another very fun part of my life: mountain running. I couldn't play city league basketball or baseball anymore because I was always gone. So I started running trails around the Bullfrog district at night (too da…ed hot in the day). Then I met this crazy bunch of guys that introduced me to trail running in the Sierra Nevada. See ya! I was hit by the bug for the next 2 decades. Nobody saw me at trade shows unless I could go out for an hour or two run every day. Uwe, our chief photographer, is one of the guys. He is still one of my very best friends. Running 100-110 miles/week on mountain trails is pure heaven. You see territory few ever see. It's even better when you are a geologist and naturalist. Wow!! Then I conned Robin into it, so we got to share the joy!

So now we're back to 2023. The fantastic SS Central America auctions. We (our team at HWAC) all love hearing the great comments from around the world about the auction and catalogs. We didn't realize it at first, but we sold to collectors in twelve different countries.

So thank you collectors for this wonderful ride. It's not over and will get even more exciting. Just wait…. You'll see!

For more information, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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