Welcome to Steve's blog, sharing stories of his professional coin career, 1963 to date. Enjoy stories of Steve's numismatic journey.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Humble Unassuming Giant

Some of the greatest experiences involve meeting interesting people, and I have had the honor to meet some true numismatic heavyweights.

This story takes place in the late 1960s or early 1970s, at the Texas State Numismatic Show (TNA) in Dallas, Texas.  I’m setting up my table, and as I work I’m conversing with Tom McAfee, who is sitting across the table from me. 

Tom was one of my mentors, and I learned a lot from him.  Tom was a dealer in Honolulu for many years, later moving to Winter Park, FL.  He was an expert in Hawaiian and U.S. Type coinage, among other things.

As we chat, out of the corner of my eye I notice someone arrive at the next table.  I do not know this gent; at first glance looks as though he has just come from the farm.  His show setup attire was particularly rustic.

The unassuming fellow at the adjoining table roots around in an old worn out briefcase and brings out a ratty leather bag, about the size of a woman’s purse.  He opens the showcase on his table and unceremoniously dumps the contents of the leather bag into the showcase, making an incredible racket.

I crane my neck to see what the heck is going on . . . and discover the neighbor has just dumped a bag full of $50 gold slugs into his showcase.  I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open.

I look at Tom McAfee to say, “Who is this guy?”  Tom laughs and quietly educates me: my neighbor dealer is none other than Amon Carter Jr.

Everyone knows things are simply bigger in Texas.  At that time there was hardly a bigger political, philanthropic and numismatic name in Texas than Amon Carter, Jr.

Amon G. Carter Jr.
Amon Jr. was born in 1919 into a Ft. Worth family of wealth and power.  He began working in one of the family enterprises, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, at age 10.  During World War II, Amon Jr. served in the Army 1st Armored Division and was taken prisoner in Tunisia while serving as a forward observer.  He was a prisoner of war in Poland for 27 months until liberated by Russian units and ultimately reunited with his family.

Upon the death of his father, Amon G. Carter Sr., Amon Jr. assumed leadership of family enterprises, including the Star-Telegram and the Amon G. Carter Foundation.  The foundation was created “to help people that didn’t have the opportunities that he [Amon Carter Sr.] did, or who couldn’t help themselves.”

In time Amon Jr. became a director of American Airlines and owned the Texas Rangers baseball team.  From 1955 to his death, as president of the Amon G. Carter Foundation, he oversaw distribution of over $60 million to charitable and cultural organizations.  Former Texas Governor John Connally once described Amon Jr. in this manner:  “modest, humble and unassuming, yet always prepared to do more than his share for the city he loved or any friend.”

An avid numismatist, Amon Jr. continued to build his family’s coin collection throughout his life.  He was a significant collector of currency and created an amazing foreign coin collection.  Stories suggest he sometimes flew his own plane to Central America to buy bags of coins directly from local banks.  In 1960 Amon Jr. was named to the eighteen member U.S. Assay Commission.  

The amazing Amon Carter 1794 silver dollar, certified by PCGS as Specimen-66, and placed at auction on behalf of the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation, made international headlines when it sold for over $10 million on January 24, 2013.  This coin was originally acquired by Amon Carter Sr. and bequeathed to his son, Amon Jr., at his death.

1794 Carter-Cardinal Silver Dollar
Reuters/Stack's Bowers Galleries

Amon Carter Jr. died suddenly in 1982, age 62.

Back to the TNA coin show . . . . I didn’t have much opportunity to become intimately acquainted with my table neighbor; Carter was way out of my league.  He did, however, purchase a rare Mexican centavo from me during the show.

I have often thought about seeing this numismatic giant for the first time, and am reminded not to ever judge a proverbial book by its cover.  On that day, as he set up a table next to me at TNA, one of the great collectors of all times looked like the most ordinary person in the world.

The Carter Family circa late 1930s
(Ruth, Amon Sr., Amon Jr., Nenetta)
Note vicuna top coats and custom boots

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