Editor’s Note: This is one of three esteemed collectors whose collecting prowess is profiled in this series.
By Mike Fuljenz
Various renowned collectors taken different paths to reach their goals, but in the end they all achieved the same ultimate goal: the formation of collections that earned great admiration and rewarded them or their heirs with handsome profits. It’s instructive to see how some of these great names of collecting did it.
New York City lawyer Harold Bareford had flawless instincts similar to that of other revered collectors, and left his own distinct legacy.
Bareford bought most of his coins in the decade just after World War II. During that time, he formed one of the most stunning collections of U.S. gold coins ever seen.
Bareford wrote a note in 1947 summing up his coin-buying philosophy: “I collect only the best specimens, and am not interested in any coin which is not perfect.” Many coin buyers are quality-conscious today, but few of Bareford’s contemporaries were nearly as demanding at the time.
He was equally meticulous regarding the records he kept, making it easy to track the performance of his coins. His records show, for instance, that in 1947 he paid just $310 for a 1933 eagle ($10 gold piece). When his heirs sold it in 1978, it brought an astounding $92,500, nearly 300 times what he had paid. And coin prices then were well below present-day levels.
In all, Bareford’s gold coins fetched about $1.2 million, 87 times his original outlay of $13,832. By one expert’s estimate, they would bring ten times more than that if offered for sale today. Some might wonder whether such profits will ever be possible again. With coin prices today so much higher than 60 years ago, it’s hard to imagine comparable gains in the future.
But Harold Bareford’s story offers yet another lesson in historical perspective: Bareford all but stopped buying U.S. coins in 1955 because, in his opinion, they had gotten too expensive.
Even then, of course, they were still tremendous bargains when viewed with the benefit of hindsight.
Harold Bareford along with Eliasberg and Pittman are regarded today as great collectors. But none of them were born with silver spoons in their mouths. Rather, all three developed a golden touch through reading reliable award-winning research material, showing close attention to quality and rarity, with a focused emphasis on set-building and detail, while understanding that those who invest