Posted on September 29, 2017 by

James A. Stack, Sr. was a collector of substantial means and discrimination who was active in numismatics from the late 1930s until his death in 1951. He acquired many rarities and “finest known” coins by taking full advantage of the opportunities presented to him as great collections came onto the market. He owned an 1894-S Dime, a 1798 Small Eagle $5, an 1870-S Silver Dollar, an 1838-O Half Dollar, and hundreds of other U.S. coins including condition-rarities, pattern coins, early Proof coins, and Pioneer gold. Portions of his collection were sold over a 20 year period beginning in 1975. Had his collection been sold as a single unit, it would have been one of the landmark auctions of the 20th century. Nonetheless, the James A. Stack pedigree signifies importance, rarity, and quality.

The following auctions contained important portions of the James A. Stack Collection (note: Stack’s, the New York auction house, was no relation to James A. Stack…they just shared the same name).

The James A. Stack 1838-O Half Dollar – PCGS PR64BM

Stack’s 3/1975
This auction was the first introduction to the treasures that awaited in the James A. Stack Collection. This was a stand-alone sale (no outside consignments) of Mr. Stack’s Quarter Dollars and Half Dollars. Highlights in the Quarter section included a Mint State 1804, a Proof 1827 Original, and a Proof 1842 Small Date. Standouts among the Half Dollars included an 1838-O, a Branch Mint Proof. 1861-O, and a Gem 1892-O Micro O.

112196smallA nice 1796 Large Cent from the James A. Stack Collection – PCGS MS63BN

Bowers & Ruddy 4/1979
The second installment of the James A. Stack Collection included his U.S. Large Cents. This was the only time that a firm other than Stack’s was chosen to present Mr. Stack’s coins.

The Finest Known 1801 Half Dime – from the James A. Stack Collection – PCGS MS66+

Stack’s 11/1989
This sale offered Mr. Stack’s Colonial Coins followed by his Half Cents through Half Dimes. Highlights included a 1792 “Roman Head” Washington Cent with a blundered edge, an 1811 Restrike Half Cent, Proof-only Half Cents of 1831, 1836, and 1840-1849, an AU 1792 Half Disme, several Mint State Half Dimes of the 1794-1795 period, and an 1802 Half Dime.

The James A. Stack 1894-S Dime – PCGS SP66BM

Stack’s 1/1990
The 1894-S Dime from the James A. Stack Collection headlined this sale. Also included were his collection of U.S. Dimes and his Private and Territorial gold coins. Dimes must have been one of Mr. Stack’s favorite coins because the quality and depth of his collection was exceptional. He had a Mint State 1809 Dime, Proofs of 1820, 1822, 1824, and 1825, as well as numerous later dates. His selection of Pioneer gold was small, but included two $50 “Slugs”, an 1849 Mormon $20, a Gem Clark, Gruber & Co. Half Eagle, and numerous California Fractional gold coins.

Stack’s 3/1990
Nearly 2,000 lots were offered from the James A. Stack Collection of U.S. Paper Money, many of which hailed from the celebrated Albert Grinnell Collection of more than forty years earlier. From Demand Notes, Legal Tender Notes, Silver Certificates, Treasury Notes, Gold Certificates, to National Bank Notes, and even Colonial Currency, this collection included highlight after highlight.

2956small1820 $5 – PCGS MS66
A “taste” of the quality of the James A. Stack gold coins

Stack’s 10/1994
This sale included a nice run of gold coins from the James A. Stack collection. Highlights included a nearly complete set of Gold Dollars, a Proof 1821 Quarter Eagle, an 1841 Quarter Eagle, 20 early Half Eagles dated from 1795 to 1807, an 1819 Half Eagle, and hundreds of other high-quality Mint State and Proof gold coins.

The James A. Stack 1870-S Silver Dollar – PCGS MS62

Stack’s 3/1995
Other consignments to this sale make it difficult to know exactly which coins were part of the James A. Stack collection, but those that can be identified are a complete set of 20 Cent pieces (including the rare 1876-CC), a large selection of Proof and Mint State Seated Liberty Silver Dollars (including an 1870-S Silver Dollar that later went on to sell for more than a million dollars), a set of Trade Dollars (minus the 1884 and 1885), a wonderful selection of high-grade Morgan Dollars, various gold coins (including the ultra-rare 1815 Half Eagle), and a complete set of Proof 1872 gold coins

Coin Galleries (a subsidiary of Stack’s) 4/1995
I haven’t been able to locate a copy of this catalog, but I am almost certain that this sale would have included world coins from Mr. Stack’s collection. I’ll update the post as more information is uncovered.

Stack’s 5/1995
Some of Mr. Stack’s world coins were included in this sale, but, unfortunately, very few (if any) were identified as having originated with his collection.

No additional sales of James A. Stack coins have occurred since 1995 with the exception of reappearances of individual coins, and it is doubtful if any more coins are held by his estate or descendants.

1653smallThe James A. Stack 1797 $2.50 – PCGS MS62 (Finest Known) – his name was recently reattached to this coin’s pedigree

As desirable as the James A. Stack pedigree remains today, there are many instances where his name has been stripped, intentionally or otherwise, from the ownership chains. Reattaching his name, which occurs fairly frequently, is a pleasant by-product of my work on the PCGS CoinFacts Condition Census. In fact, discovering one of those connections is what brought my attention to this remarkable collector.

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Comments (10)


  1. Richard M says:

    Ron, neat article. You mentioned you could not find a copy of the Coin Galleries 4/1995 catalog. Contact Bryce Brown via email at [email protected] — I believe he has a copy and it should not be too expensive.

  2. Ron Guth says:

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the feedback and recommendation. Bryce is an excellent source for old, numismatic auction catalogs (I’m guilty of being one of his frequent customers).

  3. David Q says:

    Great article. His dimes in particular were standouts. Lots 1 and 2 of the Jan 1990 sale are both beautiful 1796 (JR-4) dimes. Lot 1, described as “Choice Brilliant Uncirculated” in the catalog is now in an NGC 66 PL holder ( and was sold as part of the Gardner collection.

    Lot 2 was also described as a Ch BU 1796 dime but sold for almost twice as much at auction (52K vs 28.6K). This coin was sold as part of the Price collection where it resided in an NGC 67 Star holder, and now is in a PCGS 66 CAC holder (, cert 06701996. Stack put together a very high quality dime collection and these two are no exception.

  4. John W says:

    Great article Ron.

    I loved the note on reattaching the Stack pedigree with the 1797 quarter eagle which can be seen here:

    I was wondering if the same could be done with the MS66+ finest known 1801 half dime mentioned above here:

    I haven’t checked the rest of the coins in the article but it would be cool to reattach more of them.

    Also, what do you think of having PCGS create a legacy Registry Set for Stack?

  5. Dan says:

    Hi Ron, great article! I own a Stack coin that had “lost” its pedigree and like you I enjoyed making the connection. I have a question – how do I get PCGS to add the pedigree back to the cert page for this coin? Could you also add the pedigree in Coinfacts? The coin in question is a beautiful 1876 proof trade dollar, lot 229 in the 3/95 sale. There’s a color plate to match the coin in the Stacks auction catalog. The coin is now PCGS cert number 30039284. Thank you for your help, feel free to email me for more information.

  6. Ron Guth says:

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for commenting on the article. With your input (and a check of the 3/1995 Stack’s catalog), I have reconnected the coin with its former pedigree. You can see it in the Census we list at the bottom of the page. Congratulations on purchasing a great coin.

    I have a question for you. When and/or how did you discover that your coin came from the Stack collection?

  7. Ron Guth says:

    Hi John,

    I like the idea of creating a legacy Registry Set of James A. Stack’s collection. I’m going to examine his coins a little further to see if such a move is warranted. He certainly owned some fabulous items.

  8. Ron Guth says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the heads-up on the 1796 Dimes. I added the Stack’s pedigree to Lot 1 and will scroll through the rest of the Dimes to see if any more connections can be made.

  9. David Q says:

    This beautiful 1821 dime was in the Pogue collection and is now in the Easton Collection (originally Lot 26 in the JAS 1990 sale).

    And this 1822 Proof dime, Lot 28 in that sale, recently sold in the Gardner sale.

  10. Dan says:

    Thanks for updating the pedigree in coinfacts. Very cool! To answer your question, the dealer I purchased the coin from had told me that it came from a “famous sale” in the mid-90’s, but he couldn’t remember the name. With a little searching it wasn’t too terribly difficult to track down. I identified a few potential auctions and used the PCGS forum to get help since these auctions are mostly not online (at least at the time). I think it was just a couple years ago that I made the discovery, and I’ve since purchased the auction catalog to go along with the coin.

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