Numismatic Quick Hits: Clifford Mishler on Inspecting the GSA Morgan Dollar Hoard + ANS Honors Pawel Leski
by Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek …..
Mishler on Inspecting the GSA Morgan Dollar Hoard
Clifford Mishler was the editor of the Numismatic News in 1971, when he was invited to the West Point Bullion Depository as one of a group of eminent figures in the hobby to observe the government’s preparations for the historic sale of the GSA Morgan Dollar hoard.
We spoke with Mishler last summer. The following is an excerpt of that conversation, published here for the first time:
Charles: What did you make of the massive GSA Morgan Dollar Hoard?
Mishler: Back at that time I was with the Numismatic News. My focus was getting Carson City Morgan dollars into collectors’ hands as opposed to letting the hoard hang over the marketplace.
Charles: Before you arrived, were you at all concerned about the government’s ability to correctly market this material?
Mishler: Well, we were very concerned. One of the things that upset us was that the GSA was going to put all of the coins in holders and call them uncs. But we knew some of them weren’t and some were really bagged up. So, we were making noise about that- but we weren’t the only ones making noise.
Charles: So this noise making, is that why they invited you guys?
Mishler: I don’t remember how it happened, exactly. But at some point in time, Lance Swan, who was in charge of distribution planning, he invited me, John Jay Pittman, Ken Bressett, and Margot Russell to West Point, where the coins had been transferred to, to inspect the coins… if you will, to pass judgement on the process they were using.
Charles: What did you find when you got there?
Mishler: We didn’t see all of the coins. But we quickly figured out that they had selected sample sets of silver dollars for people who knew nothing about coin collecting or grading--minimum wage workers--to look at the coins and determine quality. All these people had to go by were these six to eight coin grading sets. It was evident to me that all they were doing was looking at the coins based on color; toned coins were categorized as mixed circulated and the ones that were bright and shiny became uncs.
This meant that some really desirable uncs ended up in the GSA’s Mixed Lots, and vice versa.
Charles: So did your group have any real input?
Mishler: I don’t remember looking at that many coins. My recollection is that we didn’t look at the coins they were grading, but at the coins they selected for the grading sets.
Charles: So why did they invite you then?
Mishler: I think they wanted to get it right, but it was also lip service to quiet down criticism. On the other hand, there were limits to what the government could do based on the law. But they were trying.
The GSA’s Morgan Dollar sale, despite the problems Mishler brings up, was one of the most important numismatic events of the 20th century. Its success demonstrated strong demand in the series, which has since grown to be the most popular United States collector coin on the market. The GSA hoard, long since dispersed, has entered the annals of numismatic lore; the coins themselves are as highly sought after as they ever were, even if many of the once-rare Carson City issues are now within the reach of the average collector.
The American Numismatic Society Honors Pawel Leski
On February 20th, the American Numismatic Society (ANS) held an awards ceremony to honor Polish sculptor Pawel Leski. Leski received the 2014 J. Sanford Saltus Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Art of the Medal. The award, established in 1913, is one of the most prestigious in the field of medallic art, and has been open to international sculptors since 1985.
Medalia Gallery Director Mashiko Nakashima, art historian Stephen K. Scher and the ANS' Associate Curator of Greek Coins Peter van Alfen served on a panel where they discussed the history of the Saltus Award, the development of modern medallic art, contemporary Polish medallic art and the significance of Mr. Leski’s work within that context.
The artist, who turns 60 years old this year, has put together a notable body of work known for its evocative themes and symbolism. The pictured image of his work Hunting Diana (undated) was part of a larger exhibition of Polish sculpture held at the Rack and Hamper Gallery of Art in New York City in 2013.
© 2014 Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
About the Authors: Charles Morgan is a member of the American Numismatic Association, the American Numismatic Society, the Numismatic Literary Guild, and the Richmond Coin Club. Together with his co-author Hubert Walker (ANA, NLG), he has written numerous articles for publication online and in print, including two 2013 NLG award-winning articles for CoinWeek.com.
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