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

Thursday, August 15, 2013

May I Have Your Autograph???

In 1973 I’m working in a large mail order business in San Diego.  We ran full-page weekly ads in national coin publications, needing regular infusions of new material to fill orders for collectors across the country.  One of our key sources of new material was Harlan White.
Harlan White

Harlan White, owner of San Diego’s Old Coin Shop, was a dynamic and savvy dealer, an industry leader as it transitioned from a rich man’s hobby to fun for every man.   Harlan handled all series of U.S. coins and currency, specializing in Silver Dollars, $50 gold coins, Hawaiian coins and high denomination currency.  If you needed a $500 or $1000 bill, Harlan would likely have it on hand. 

Harlan sometimes seemed a bit larger than life; he really loved to tease and play jokes on family, friends and the unsuspecting public.   He had an astute eye for coins as well as varied items of interest and value to collectors.

One day Harlan arrives at our office with a big grin on his face.  “Have I got a deal for you!” he announces at full volume.  He grabs our big flatbed cart and returned to his vehicle.  He had our attention . . . and I knew we were in trouble!

A few minutes later Harlan returns to dump four large crates on the floor.  A total of 10 crates later, we are gaping at an enormous collection of autographs.  Harlan, keeping details close to his chest as usual, indicated this material came from a large Midwest estate.

It took hours of eye blurring work to go through this huge mass of paper.  We find a full set of presidential autographs on various documents and letters – signatures from George Washington to Richard Nixon. There were seven extra John F. Kennedy documents, but sadly three of those were signed by autopen.

We found five Marilyn Monroe autographs - great stuff!
Marilyn Monroe - 1956
The collection contained a treasure trove of famous names: Pulitzer and Nobel prize winners, inventors (including Thomas Edison), and loads of movie stars.

After we had cursorily reviewed the material, negotiation began.  Harlan quoted a price that took my breath away, but I finally agreed. 

Clearly the most valuable component of the collection was the presidential material.  I ran a great story about the lot in a “Coin World” ad and – bingo – we had an immediate call from an interested buyer. 

Our buyer – the vice president of a national department store chain – asked us to please hold the presidential material until the next morning, so he had time to fly from New York City to San Diego to take a look.  He came, he saw, he bought quickly, with great delight.

We had priced the presidential autographs at $6,500, which represented a substantial portion of what we had paid for the entire lot.  In other words, we got most of our money back and still had over 10,000 autographs to sell.

It took almost two years to sell off that amazing lot of autographs, but in the end it was a great deal and a truly educational experience. 

1 comment:

  1. Today I visited your website for the first time at the strong suggestion of one of your customers who is a lifelong friend. I was blown away by the two stories on your home page and this blog. Thanks for posting them, I had great fun with the reading of them.

    ALincoln Collector