In the end, being overly obvious can leave the buyer vulnerable to competitors who can inflate the price by outbidding them. In some cases, bidders agreed with the auctioneer for special cues prior to selling, including subtle movements such as flicking a pen or raising an eyebrow. Applicants usually used little tricks to get important coins as cheaply as possible.
But there are exceptions to every rule.
In the case of a very special coin, the violator of the rules was John J. Pittman, who in a very big trick got a very small coin – the gold dollar of 1854 type 2 as a Proof.
John Jay Pittman (or “JJP” as family and friends called him) loved coins that were both rare and high quality, especially the early 1800s Proof coins. JJP began collecting coins in 1943, and over the next three decades, he bought coins from virtually every major dealership and most of the major numismatic auction houses.
JJP was described as a financially handicapped person (in fact, he mortgaged his house a second time in order to acquire King Farouk’s coin in Egypt in 1954), but considering that his coin collection brought in over $ 30 million in auction. it seems difficult to empathize with his hard life. Rather, Pittman was a very discerning buyer who focused on early American Proof coins when they were grossly undervalued. In the years that followed, as the value of US coins exceeded his budget, he began to focus on world coins, amassing an equally impressive collection.
One can only imagine what JJP could achieve with an unlimited budget.
That he was loved by family and friends is undeniable. David Akers, who sold the collection to John Pittman in three sales in 1997 and 1998, spoke very brightly and vividly about this man. According to Polly, Pittman’s daughter, JJP had a photographic memory for coins and faces, and more than one person was impressed that the collector remembered their names years after a chance encounter. Ron Guth had the pleasure of meeting and communicating with JJP in the 1970s.
He was one of those personalities that are so rare: radiant, affable, outgoing, storyteller and sincere supporter of numismatics and its propagandist. In 1998, Ron Guth was one of two auctioneers (along with Tom Mulvaney) who worked on the JJP World Coins collection that Polly attended.
It was a unique experience.
As mentioned above, Pittman’s big trick came in 1956 when he participated in Abe Kosoff’s auction to sell the Thomas Melish collection. The small 1854 Proof gold dollar that pursued the JJP was a tiny 14.3 millimeters in diameter, but it was extremely rare and one of the few known examples. The unusual trick used by Pittman to obtain the 1854 gold dollar was legendary and was the complete opposite of the secret trading tactics used by other participants at the time.
Dave Akers told the story of Lot 864 in his Pittman Collection Part I October 1997 Sales Catalog:
When the lot was announced, [JJP] walked to the front of the Florentine room at the Claypool Hotel where the auction was taking place, turned his back to the auctioneer and raised his hand to place a bid, and held it up until the coin was sold to him at a price of $ 525. During the trades, he gazed intently at anyone who “dared” to bet against him. He stayed on the podium and repeated the procedure for the next lot … and several subsequent lots … He never hesitated and did not give up until he was declared the winner of the auction in every case. For his actions, he received the nickname “The Statue of Liberty”.
Dave Akers once asked Pittman why he did it:
[Он] told me that he did so because he was particularly aware of the importance and rarity of the 1854 and 1855 gold coins and felt that he might never have a chance to get them again. As a result, he was ready to buy them at almost any price. However, since he always had a tight budget, he didn’t want prices to get out of hand and therefore felt that he would have a better chance of success if he could convince other potential bidders to withdraw from the bidding. as soon as they noticed his determination.
John Jay Pittman’s shock and awe technique has worked well. He was able to add the 1854 Proof gold dollar of the second type to his collection, as well as the 1855, 1856 and 1857 Proof gold dollars and other coins. It takes a strong determination to do what JJP did – the few traders who tried to replicate the JJP technique in the following years found their hands getting heavier as the price went higher and higher. Today, the anonymity of online trading has made secret trading and JJP’s “Statue of Liberty” technique obsolete.
What happened to the 1854 Proof Gold Dollar Type II? In 1997, it sold for $ 176,000, 335 times Pittman’s original purchase price. The coin sold for $ 218,500 in 2009 and is now in the Hansen Collection (a mega collector who is trying to replicate Louis Eliasberg Sr.’s feat of creating a set of all United States coins).
JJP will always be remembered for the incredible collection he put together and the big and daring steps he took to get the pieces he wanted. Pittman is no longer with us, but his “Statue of Liberty” stunt has become legendary.