Gold and silver coins hidden in suitcases attract strong bidding at Stephenson’s

Strike It Rich with Pocket Change dispels the myths of error coins and assists you in discovering, marketing, and researching rare coins that you can find in your pocket change. Learn more at

SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. – It was a story that might easily have been written for television – but in this instance, it was strictly nonfiction. While assessing her late father’s possessions prior to sending a consignment off to auction, a Philadelphia woman made a fortuitous discovery in the garage of the family home. There, amongst the garden tools and bric-a-brac, she came across several weighty suitcases that had long been stashed out of sight. Thinking they might contain old clothes or discarded household articles, the woman was taken completely by surprise when she opened the cases to find a horde of valuable old coins, many of them silver and gold.

“Nobody knew about the collection. Her father had never told anyone about it,” said Tom Wakeley, general manager of Stephenson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers, the company that auctioned the coins on Aug. 20 at their suburban Philadelphia gallery.

The collection ended up being “a tremendous success” at auction, Wakeley said, garnering $88,000 inclusive of 10 percent buyer’s premium.

“At this sale we had more live bidding than we did absentee and phone bidding because there were a number of nice pieces of gold in the collection. Buyers of gold coins like to inspect them and judge the condition for themselves,” Wakeley explained. Ninety-five percent of the 417 lots offered were purchased by in-house bidders.

Top-selling specimens included a 1907 $2.50 gold piece that realized $632.50 and an 1899 $10 gold piece that made $660.

A wealth of silver was available to bidders, as well. Seven Morgan half dollars from the early 20th century were sold as one lot for $1,430; while a book containing 27 silver commemorative half dollars from the mid-20th century finished its bidding run at $2,640 – quite an impressive result for coins whose total face value was a mere $13.50.

Wakeley commented that condition was what drove the price on the grouping. “The half dollars were in uncirculated or even brilliant uncirculated condition, and that’s what collectors are looking for,” he said. “With money being so tight, collectors won’t spend a lot for average-condition coins, but if a coin is pristine, the money will come out.” ?


Great books, CDs, price guides & more

Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles 2011 Price Guide

Interact with other antique collectors in Antique Trader’s online forum

Get up-to-date pricing for tens of thousands of antiques & collectibles on – FREE for 1 year – when you join the Collecting Insider Club!

Browse (or place your own) FREE online classified ads

Sign up for your FREE email newsletters

For more columns and features for antique dealers, restorers and collectors, get your own subscription to Antique Trader magazine