Harvey G. Stack passed away on 3 January 2022 at the age of 93. He was a real coin enthusiast who devoted his life to his deep-rooted passion for numismatics. He was one of those people who simply couldn’t have done it any other way: he had to pass on his enthusiasm to others, including younger people, with whom he generously shared his great wealth of experience. Whenever we published an article that he liked and wanted to express an opinion about, we would receive an incredibly long email that could easily have passed for an article itself. What fun he had when he got to provide the text for his own ‘Who’s who’ entry!
Harvey actually sent us an email as recently as 22 December last year, written in his usual style: full of enthusiasm, in capital letters, with everything he considered especially important highlighted in bold. I still can’t believe we will never get those emails again.
Growing Up in a Promising New Coin Dealership
Harvey G. Stack was born on 3 June 1928. Just five years later, his father Morton and uncle Joseph Stack opened their coin dealership, which held its first auction as early as 1935. If you know what things are like for a newly established business, you can imagine how often young Harvey would have had to help out in the coin dealership, even as a schoolboy. He learned the trade from scratch: from the tiresome routine tasks that arise in any coin dealership, to more challenging activities such as coin grading. Harvey greatly enjoyed this work, so there was never any doubt that he, just like his two cousins, would join the business after graduating from New York University. This was in 1947, during the heyday of the American coin trade. Many prominent Jewish coin dealers had fled Europe and built a new home in New York. Some of them found work at Stack’s. This meant that the young Harvey was not only educated in American numismatics by his father and uncle, but also able to learn about European numismatics from some of the most eminent German numismatists of the time. For now, we’ll just mention Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli, who was involved in the ‘Griechischen Münzwerk’ research enterprise at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin, and Henry Grunthal, who was born in Cologne and had emigrated to the United States in 1938.
A Friend To and Advocate For Collectors Everywhere
Harvey Stack was soon entrusted with greater responsibility. He became a popular contact for clients who frequented the ‘clubhouse’, as the Stack’s offices – then located at 123 West 57th Street – were affectionately called. Harvey was always very proud of the fact that he was entrusted with building the Josiah K. Lilly collection at the age of just 23. This certainly is remarkable, because the prominent philanthropist and businessman Lilly was almost 60 years old and belonged to a different generation. Together, they created one of the largest collections of gold coins in the world, perhaps even the largest. It mainly contained coins of the United States, but also some from antiquity and Europe. This collection was so important that the Smithsonian Institute, where Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli was now director of the National Numismatic Collection, decided to purchase it after Lilly’s death.
In 1955, Harvey Stack obtained his official auctioneer’s licence and became a co-owner of Stack’s. Alongside his many duties, he found the time to fight in court against stricter import regulations on gold coins. The lawsuit lasted until 1967 and Harvey actually got justice, an enormously important outcome for all American coin collectors and dealers.
From that point onwards, he was regarded as a key figure in the coin trade, which is why, during the debates on the Hobby Protection Act of 1973, he testified before a congressional subcommittee as an industry representative. He also played an instrumental role in adapting the 1949 Sheldon coin grading scale for use on all coins during the 1970s.
He was really interested in the modern coins minted by the US Mint, too. Even shortly before his death, he would get terribly worked up if he thought the Mint’s latest decisions were a mistake. He felt partly responsible ever since he had been appointed a member of the United States Assey Commission in 1976. In this role, he was among the advocates for the 50 State Quarters Program, which proved to be a huge success. It drew countless new collectors to the hobby and inspired similar programmes in many other countries around the world.
Responsibility and Vision
As the owner of a successful coin dealership, Harvey Stack always felt a sense of responsibility for the coin market as a whole. He took on numerous voluntary roles and provided both moral and financial support to numismatic associations and societies of all sizes.
When we published his ‘Who’s who’ entry in 2021, he wrote us a proud email to tell us that he had been working in the coin trade for over 70 years and was still involved in all major decisions. And his experience has certainly been appreciated. Harvey Stack was a realist with a vision. That’s why he supported the merger of Stack’s with Bowers & Merena. Today, Stack’s Bowers Galleries is one of the top players in the international coin market.
In my opinion, Harvey Stack should be at least as proud of the fact that he successfully inspired his son Larry and his daughter Susan to take over the company, which is now in its third generation.
The Man Who Documented the History of the Coin Trade
Harvey, the great chronicler, has left us an inexhaustible legacy. On his 85th birthday in 2013, he began to write down his memories. Just last year, we had the privilege of publishing his brilliant account of his experiences during 9/11. You can find all of his articles on the Stack’s Bowers website under the designated menu item. Don’t miss a chance to read the memories of a great numismatist and witness to contemporary history.
We will all miss Harvey G. Stack. Our thoughts are with his family: his wife Harriet, his children Larry and Susan, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life!