By Greg Rohan
Eugene H. Gardner Sr. developed an interest in collecting U.S. coins at a young age, forming an exceptional collection before he was 30. His father thought his collecting was a folly, a waste of money. But his father reasoned it would be a good life lesson for Gene.
FROM THE PRESIDENT
Later, Gene’s collection was of such importance that when he sold it in 1965, it was a highlight of the auction season in New York – quite an accomplishment for such a young man. He sold that numismatic collection to begin his investment business. His father took notice. The assembly and sale of the collection established Gene as not only a dedicated and astute collector, but a brilliant investor.
Decades later, Gene returned to coin collecting. A prominent New York City dealer brought him to participate in a Heritage auction. It was during this auction that we first met. The dealer whispered in my ear, “Gene Gardner is the finest gentleman in numismatics. He’s royalty.”
Gene was collecting copper, nickel and silver coins dating from the late 18th through early 20th centuries. Over the years, he acquired an example of every single coin minted in the finest quality available. Duplicating it today would be impossible.
Through it all, Gene was not “just” a coin collector. He was a numismatist, but also keenly interested in and supportive of the work of others in numismatics. In October 2013, his health not at its best and with wife Anne by his side, he traveled to a coin show in Manchester, N.H., with his complete collection of 19th century Seated Liberty dimes. His purpose: simply to meet another collector. Gene did not make that trip to show off his collection, rather, the trip allowed the other man to photograph and study the collection for a numismatic website. A collector would not have incurred such an inconvenience and expense. A numismatist would.
Three years ago, Gene – citing his health – decided however much he enjoyed collecting, it was best to put his collection up for auction. Heritage Auctions was given the honor of selling the collection and I took charge of the project, working closely with Gene and Anne. Four auctions over 16 months were planned, with the first taking place in New York in June 2014. Anne confided in me that she hoped Gene would still be here for the first auction. He was here for every auction, with the last taking place in October 2015.
At each event, Gene received an outpouring of love, admiration and support. Though his health was taking a toll, he seemed to relish and enjoy every minute of it. This appreciation culminated when Gene was inaugurated into the Liberty Seated Collectors Club Numismatic Hall of Fame. He received the honor at a 2014 ceremony in Chicago, which I attended with him. Gene passed in July 2016 at 80.
Yes, Gene was a world-class numismatist, but he was also a world-class gentleman, a world-class friend and an inspiration to collectors everywhere.