The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 32, August 6, 2023, Article 23


E-Sylum Feature Writer and American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on dealer Bob Higgins. Thanks! -Editor

  My Friend Bob

I attended the 2011 Central States show as a table assistant working for a local coin dealer. My boss was aware that I was at the time looking for 1792 half dismes. On April 29, He came back to the table after visiting Certified Asset Management and told me they had a mint state example in their inventory.

Robert Leroy Higgins I looked at the coin, made some notes and talked with the owner. Bob Higgins was very open and generous with information about the coin and two others he had handled.

I was aware that Higgins had been associated with Tom Noe and learned about a very complicated pedigree involving Rare Coin Alliance and the Cardinal coin. At his level, coins were commodities to be traded to make a profit and a clean pedigree was irrelevant.

In a 2004 ad, Higgins stated, (we) believe that relationships are first and foremost and are the cornerstone of our business plan. I found him to be charming but I would not have invested money with him.

My boss made some deals with him. I recall a time when my boss thought the premium on MS- 65 Saints was too high, He sold some to Higgins in trade for an equal number of uncertified coins and the cash difference. They referred to the deal as selling the air out of the certified coins.

At the major coin shows, deals are often made with no money changing hands. On the last day of the show, a dealer may send his table assistant around to deliver checks and pick up checks. That was one of my jobs.

I don't remember specifics, but I think Bob may have asked us to wait a few days after a show to deposit his check. Dealers often want to be able to deposit checks they take at a show before the checks they write can clear. At the time we were not aware that Higgins was also slow to make scheduled payments to his substantial investors.

Less that a year later, on March 22, 2012, FBI agents raided the Baltimore show and detained Higgins with another dealer and seized assets of First State Depository including the 1792 half disme. When I asked Higgins about the coin on April 20, he said it was currently with the FBI.

The complaint, in brief, was that Higgins and his companies had deposited numismatic assets to secure a $10 million loan and line of credit. Rather than keep those assets securely deposited, they brought them as inventory to trade shows in violation of the loan provisions. There were related problems with coins acquired with investor funds. In effect, Higgins did not own the coins pledged as collateral.

I always enjoyed talking with Bob. In 2014 he told me about his new venture and the services he would provide for his customers. I think that business was called Argent Asset Group. One of their services was portfolio management. This was for investors who didn't want the bother of actually looking at their coins. I don't recall talking with him after 2014.

That initial venture was not successful and Higgins filed for bankruptcy in May of 2016.

On August 12. 2022, a U.S. Attorney announced an indictment against Higgins including these charges:

  • In 2012, Higgins accepted money from an investor for the purchase of silver but had no intent to deliver on that promise and instead fraudulently used the money to operate his businesses, which were on the verge of financial collapse, and which did collapse by approximately the end of 2012;
  • Higgins refused the investor's repeated demands for the full return of his approximately $828,000 investment and;
  • Higgins ultimately met with the victim investor and lied to him about the true history of his investment;
  • Higgins evaded personal income taxes for the years 2015 through 2019 by diverting Argent Asset Group business funds to pay personal expenses, and by filing false returns with the IRS.

On October 5, 2022, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed a civil enforcement action against Robert Leroy Higgins, Argent Asset Group LLC., and First State Depository Company LLC. They alleged fraud with a multi-million dollar precious metals scheme and tax evasion.

On July 3, 2023, the CFTC announced a consent decree ordering Higgins and his companies to pay $112.7 million in restitution to victims and an additional $33 million civil monetary penalty. In addition, the order imposed a permanent trading ban.

The CFTC stated,

The orders find from approximately January 2014 through October 2022, Higgins, Argent and FSD, acting as a common enterprise, engaged in a fraudulent and deceptive scheme to solicit and misappropriate tens of millions of dollars in funds and silver from approximately 200 customers in connection with a fraudulent silver leasing operation known as the Maximus Program.

The CFTC cautions that orders requiring payment of funds to victims may not result in the recovery of any money lost because wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets.

Higgins was bankrupt in 2016. Just seven years later he had converted that into a debt of 146 million dollars. I wonder how that ranks among numismatic business failures.

The Higgins story is not unique in numismatics. It might be considered almost common for bullion repositories to engage in fraud in the management of repository accounts. There are other examples of borrowers who pledge the same assets to secure multiple loans.

I don't believe most crooks in the business set out to be crooks in the beginning. At some point, the ability to acquire money without exchange for a product can be a temptation that cannot be resisted.


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Wayne Homren, Editor

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