In 1964, Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. opened its doors. Over the years Harlan has sold everything from beautiful sea shells to autographs, but the one constant has been ancient coins. Harlan’s passion for coins has been the cornerstone of the success for the now 50 year old business. In 1974, Harlan put out his first list, which ultimately resulted in the Buy or Bid sale as you have come to know them by the 11th catalog. Since then, the format has changed from a broadside catalog to the current format but sales continue to showcase some of the world’s most beautiful and historical ancient coins.
Many of our customers know that Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. is a family business. Over 20 years ago Aaron Berk joined the ranks of Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. as an antiquities specialist and gradually worked his way into a “jack of all trades” for all aspects of the business. He, along with the help of our IT specialist and childhood friend, Pablo Saban, married the internet to the world of ancient coins and antiquities. They were pioneers in the coin business and today the success of our business has much to do with their early work. While Aaron continues to work with Pablo on our IT needs and keeping us current, he also has taken on the task of heading our World Coin department with our longtime employee Laura Wakeland.
Shanna Schmidt (previously Berk) spent her early working years in the advertising business working both domestically and internationally. Nine years ago, Shanna joined Harlan J. Berk Ltd. and partnered with her father as an ancient coins specialist with an emphasis on Greek coins. Shanna’s interest in history led her to complete her master’s degree through the University of Chicago this past June. She studies ancient Greek in her spare time and continues to help grow the business and prides herself on making every one of her customers feel special.
Sammy Berk, the youngest of the Berk children, came on board in 2009. What was thought to be a temporary job has turned into an amazing story. Sammy, who headed up paper money department with expert and longtime employee, Dennis Forgue, helped to create Harlan J. Berk Ltd.’s map department. Sammy’s interest in cartography and geography led to a new synergism between antique maps and the world of coins. Sammy ran the first Chicago International Map Fair in October of 2013 and it was a smashing success. Next year the fair will take place at the LUMA (Loyala University Museum Art) on Michigan Avenue.
The strength of Harlan J. Berk Ltd. comes from all of our employees who have collectively made it what it is today. Bob Greenstein, along with his son, David and Mike Printz have collectively transformed our rare U.S. coin department into a force to be reckoned with. The strength of our U.S. department in the last few years is 100% due to their hard work and dedication. Bob and David also head up our successful bullion department.
Every single one of our employees has made this place great and in our 50th year of business we are proud to compliment them all that have not already been mentioned: Curtis Clay (ancient Roman coins), Phillip Davis (Roman Republic and Imperial), Clare Meyer (prints/painting and assistant to the ancient department), Jay Crawford (photographer), Andrew Steiner (photographer), Jim Choy (U.S. coins), and Jennifer Saban (antiquities).
So, for our first Buy or Bid Sale celebrating 50th years in business, we bring you the 189th Buy or Bid Sale. This sale is comprised of 349 ancient coins, 40 world coins, antiquities and antique maps. A few highlights from our ancient coin section are:
- Lot 1: A fascinating piece of early electrum, the dawn of coinage, from c. 625-600 BC. This piece is one of the first that begin to show imagery on the surfaces of coins with a lovely horse on the obverse and a decorative three-part incuse on the reverse
- Lot(s) 10-16: A stunning selection of Macedonian gold. Sharply struck and beautifully centered pieces
- Lot 17: While in recent auctions the Pergamum coinage has come down in price, this is an artificial signal of its rarity. The absolutely lovely Pergamum gold stater with Herakles on the obverse (most definitely based on Alexander the Great) and Athena Palladion on the reverse is a piece of amazement. This coin was owned by Dr. Patrick Tan and was part of the Gemini VII auction (lot 477). While we have lowered the price significantly to complement the market, this piece is no less valuable than it was before in our opinion. It would be a hallmark to any serious collector’s collection
- Lot 24: A lovely, well-struck example of Nero in an aureus
- Lot 67: Alexander I Octodrachm, a stunning example that was one of the plate coins in Harlan J. Berk’s 100 Greatest Ancient Coins
- Lot 89: A high relief, iridescent drachm from Larissa, Thessaly. This coin came from the NFA XXX Auction in 1990 (lot 96)
- Lot 98: The beautiful Eretria stater with the bull on reverse. How fitting that this coin would be featured in our 50 year catalog. This coin was the first coin ever to grace the cover of Harlan J. Berk Ltd’s 1974 List 1!!!
- Lot 142: The lovely coin of Demeter from Arcadia, Pheneus. While pedigree is getting more important to ancient coin collectors, this coin can brag over a 100 year pedigree going back to the 1906 Egger Auction. It was also part of the Prowe collection, as well as the Garrett collection
- Lot 156: The ultra-high relief Satraps of Caria, Hidrieus tetradrachm
- Lot 158: The stunning, signed Rhodian tetradrachm that was also a plate coin in Harlan’s 100 Greatest Ancient Coins (p. 48 and 123)
- Lot 214: A sharp Otho denarius with beautifully sculpted hair
- Lot 230: A heavily pedigreed Manlia Scantilla denarius
- Lot 332: A beautifully patinated Gordian I Africanus sestertius
There are many other coins to be seen in this celebratory 50th year anniversary Buy or Bid Sale. We hope you find what you are looking for. If ever you desire a coin that you don’t see, please call our offices and ask to speak to any of our experts. We hope to serve you for another 50 years!