The Great Silver Dollar Hoards
— Danny Freeman
Perhaps no other United States coin ever made stirs the human imagination more than the silver dollar. Images of the old west, poker tables, saloons, and bank robbers all come to mind when the silver dollar is the subject of discussion. This will be parts 5, 6, and 7; the last of the series which consists of lesser known hoards and hoards of which little information is known.
The Fitzgerald Hoard
Lincoln Fitzgerald was a “go-getter” for the Detroit mafia’s “Purple Gang” during prohibition and later ran the “Chesterfield Club” during the early 1940s. After World War II, Nevada legalized gambling, and Fitzgerald and a friend named Danny Sullivan moved to Reno and started the “Nevada Club” along with opening the “Nevada Lodge” at Lake Tahoe. After several years, Fitzgerald was the target of an assassination where he was attacked with a shotgun outside of his home in the driveway. He spent six long months in the hospital; upon his release he moved into the club in Reno where he rarely ventured out and was always under heavy guard. His gambling operations were very successful, and he expanded them several times. Fitzgerald would remain a recluse until his death in 1981.
In 2003, coin dealer Ron Gillio bid on the remains of poker chips, poker machines, and all kinds of leftover casino supplies in a warehouse outside Reno. While all of this was fascinating to him, what he really wanted were the mint bags of silver dollars in several large safes. More than 100,000 would eventually be counted. He contracted with NGC to grade and label the coins “Fitzgerald Hoard.”
The Hoard You Never Knew
Curly Stansbury was an astute collector from the Long Beach, California area. He was a successful oil man, and when the treasury started disposing of the silver dollar reserves in the early 1960s, he started accumulating them. Unlike Lavere Redfield, who purchased quantity rather than quality, Curly paid dealers a premium for better date dollars. He would pay up to $2,000 for a bag, while “common” bags were selling for $1,050. Dealer Harry J. Forman claims he sold Curly “hundreds” of bags in the $1,100-$1,200 range. In his recollections with Dave Bowers, Ira Goldberg said Curly was well known to the dealer community and was a quality conscious buyer. Although there was never any recording or inventory of his holdings, it is estimated that he had over 750,000 uncirculated dollars; the vast majority of them being Morgan Dollars. From 1966 until 1985, Superior Stamp & Coin Company quietly disposed of this immense holding.
Only Time Will Tell
While there are many other hoards that can be mentioned, such as the “Olathe Hoard,” 25,000 Morgan Dollars in original treasury bags discovered outside of Kansas City in a small community in 2009, or the “Lincoln Highway Hoard” found in a rural Pennsylvania farmhouse containing over 8,000 scarce dates and mintmarks from the 1960’s treasury releases, only time will tell if there is another monster hoard in hiding.
The Las Vegas Sun
The Reno Times
Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of The United States/Bowers
Nevada State Journal