Often called “the king of hobbies”, coin collecting is a pastime embraced by people of all backgrounds. Sought out by individual enthusiasts across the globe, coins are the symbol of art, dedication and true passion. Today, we will discover five influential coin collections and the fascinating stories behind them.
The Eliasberg Collection
Created in 1925 by Louis E. Eliasberg, an American financer and numismatist, the Eliasberg Collection is one of the most recognised coin sets in the world. Over the course of 50 years, he assembled every circulated United States coin by date and mintmark.
In 1942, Eliasberg purchased the John H. Clapp coin collection, which is believed to have filled many of the missing gaps in his own set. Soon after, he secured the final piece missing – an 1841 $2.5 Liberty Head Quarter Eagle – making the collection the most complete U.S numismatic collection of all time.
Elisaberg’s collection was sold in 1982, six years after his death, for an impressive $44.9 million.
John J. Ford Jr. Collection
Born March 5 1924, John J. Ford Jr. was a legendary American numismatist and one of the most influential collectors of U.S coins. Aside from his impressive collection of over 11,000 rare pieces including coins, tokens and medals, Ford was also known for catalogues that brought new clarity to numismatics and provided full descriptions of coins and their grades.
Ford started his unique numismatic collection in the 1950s, which encompassed pioneer gold pieces, pattern coins and early American coppers. The main highlights of the collection included the oldest coins issued by the Continental Congress, the African medals and a set of West Indian currencies.
In 2003, Ford’s numismatics started to be auctioned over a period of three years and sold for over $56 million.
King Farouk I of Egypt Collection
Born in 1920, King Farouk of Egypt was the tenth ruler from the Muhammad Ali Dynasty and the penultimate King of Egypt and the Sudan. Known for his glamorous royal lifestyle and interest for exceptional pieces, the Egyptian King left behind one of the greatest numismatic collections of all time. The collection was made up of 8500 gold coins and medals and included a couple of notable pieces: a 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double-Eagle and a 1913 Liberty Nickel.
The astonishing history behind the 1933 Gold Double Eagle reveals that this coin was the only piece missing from a collection of gold currencies that were supposed to have be destroyed and melted into gold bars following President Roosevelts Executive Order. Eventually, King Farouk purchased the absent Double Eagle from a Texas dealer on 22 February 1944 and had it shipped to Egypt.
In 1952 the King was removed from the throne and forced to leave the country following the Egyptian revolution. Two years later, his collection was sold by the Egyptian government in Cairo.
Harry W. Bass Collection
Harry W. Bass, a Dallas-born businessmen and philanthropist, amassed one of the greatest U.S gold numismatic collections in American history. Often referred to as The King of Gold, Harry Bass gained his passion for coins in 1966 when he began acquiring gold coins that would eventually comprise a set of over 6000 currencies. His extensive collection highlighted the early era of gold series, including many one-of-a-kind varieties and patterns – the tentative pieces struck to test new designs, compositions and concepts. Particularly passionate about die varieties, Bass was known for acquiring only the finest early gold coins from 1795-1834, including the only completed $3 gold collection (containing an extremely rare 1870s piece).
The majority of The Bass Collection was sold off in 1999 and 2000, and the remaining coins were put on display at the ANA’s Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Sarah Sophia Banks
Sarah Sophia Banks was a British female antiquarian collector and the sister of botanist Sir Joseph Banks. Born in 1744 in London, Sarah Sophia amassed one of the most noteworthy numismatic collections of her time that later become a rich resource for coin historians.
Banks’ great numismatic collection features over 8,500 unique pieces, including rare coins and medals as well as historically valuable broadsheets, newspaper clippings, playbills and vising cards. The finest pieces include the Tealby pennies of Henry II as well as 963 English hammered coins, German coins and American coins. Her impressive collection was compiled thanks to members of the royal family and many individuals such as Matthew Boulton, Lord Fredick Campbell and even Mrs Harding, a cook-housekeeper.
Sarah Sophia Banks also carefully recorded information about her numismatic pieces by keeping newspaper cuttings and comprehensive notes. The catalogue of her collection spanned 7 volumes, with pieces organised in geographical order, by sovereign and according to the metals from which they were made.
After Sarah’s death in 1818, her brother, Joseph Banks divided her superb collection and donated it to the British Museum and the Royal Mint.
The Hermitage Collection
If you are looking to visit one of the most popular coin exhibits in Europe, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia is your next must-stop. Founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, the place attracts numismatic enthusiasts from around the globe thanks to its striking collection of coins, money ingots, dies, coin-shaped amulets and early currency of Asia, Africa, and neighbouring Atlantic and Pacific Islands.
The State Hermitage Museum also houses the world’s largest collection of early Greek coins, including remarkable pieces from nearly all regions of the ancient world. The error-coin collection is made up of an incredible 63,300 prehistoric Greek currencies, spanning a period from the 7th to the 5th century BC.
Feeling inspired to start your own collection? Read our guide on how to get started here.