SMITH, HARLAN PAGE

Copyright 2011-2017 John N. Lupia, III

Harlan Page Smith (1839-1902),
was born on March 18, 1839 in Hamilton, Madison County, New York, son of Adon Smith (1804-1874) and Louisa M. Fuller (1804-1860). His great-grandfather Abijah Smith (1740-1786) of Leominster, Massachusetts, fought in the American Revolution where he died at New Ipswich, New Hampshire. His grandfather Samuel Smith (1778-) married Hope Hunt. His father Adon inherited a fortune in real estate scattered in several states together with his brother Sidney Smith from their half brother Jonathan Hunt, who died in 1847. Adon sold a portion of the land from that estate in Alabama amounting to $148,470.85, leaving no accounting to other heirs of the estate. Lawsuits ensued after the death of Adon's brother Sidney Smith, who died in 1886 at a lunatic Asylum. The lawsuits from 1888 to 1892, involved Harlan Page Smith regarding the real estate and monies of the estate for over $1,000,000. 
            In Smith's unflattering obituary in the May 1902 issue of The Numismatist his physical appearance is described as repellent. Another writer years later described him more generously as "Hale and Hardy". Though robust he was probably not attractive in visage. Probably for this reason we do not find photographic images of Smith.
            A curious tale is reported about his early career in his obituary by Lyman Haynes Low in American Journal of Numismatics, July (1902) : 31, claiming he was a mariner and fruit dealer who retired in 1876 to study and sell coins, when in actuality he was a real estate tycoon and American Aristocrat.
            In 1852 he married Corneliuett Pudney (1839- 1923), daughter of John Cornelius Pudney (1817-1875) and Mary Harrow (1818-1840). In 1870 and 1880, the U. S. census lists his profession as a Real Estate agent in New York City, New York (nothing fruity about that); and two daughters Ella Grace Smith (1860-1938), and Charlotte Adams Smith (1862-1890). Smith was an affluent landlord and held many properties and certainly helped his father manage their real estate portfolio, selling off some properties for various reasons. Hence, the occupational description of "Real Estate agent."
            It is uncertain when his interest and passion for collecting rare gem coins began, but it more likely than not predated Low's eulogy citing 1876, and probably extended back to his school days in the 1850's, which for most schoolboys consisted in collecting Ancient Greek and Roman coins from their study of ancient languages and history.
            In 1880, he formed a short-lived partnership with Henry Griswold Sampson (1840-1899), in the firm of H. P. Smith and H. G. Sampson. The firm lasted a little over a year and produced four coin auction sale catalogues.
Fig. 1. The third coin auction catalogue of the firm of Smith & Sampson held January 7, 1881. Personal copy of George W. Rode. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

 
Fig. 2. An early trading independently Harlan Page Smith correspondence with the Chapman Brothers postmarked July 17, 1882, New York, franked with a Scott #201 and canceled by a Duplex stamp. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

            In the Fall of 1881 Smith fancied himself a coin dealer or at least projected that image of himself and began to produce his own series of at least twenty-four to twenty-six coin auction sale catalogues from 1881 to 1887, at least twenty-two to twenty-four held in New York, and two in London, England. We do not know if they were all actually produced by him, or perhaps, more likely by a ghost writer like Edouard Frossard, Joseph Sabin or George Cogan, well-known catalogers who worked for Bangs & Company. All of Smith's coin auction sales were held at the Bangs Auction House. The possibility of Frossard being the ghost writer is strengthened by his signature sardonic witty sarcasm as that found in the coin auction catalogue of the Walter Hubbard sale, for example, held on July 12th through 13th, 1883, at Bangs & Company, New York. Frossard probably authored the catalogues from 1881 to 1884. Moreover, he held two more coin auction sales in London, England, and those catalogues were devised by the catalogers working for Sotheby. Furthermore, David Proskey alleged in Mrs. Smith's lawsuit of 1902 that he was a copartner with Smith for more than fifteen years, which would make him a silent partner in the supposedly sole proprietorship of Harlan Page Smith's coin dealership from about 1885 to 1887. We note that the catalogue of the Douglas Steward Collection, June 4-5, 1885 we find, most probably Proskey write an invective against Frossard as a coin cleaner : “None of these cents . . . have been scoured with Irvington-on-hudson brick, to make them bright red.” So we are aware that his catalogues were in part or in whole composed by other hands. The best reference to consult regarding the New York sales is that of John Weston Adams. Frossard reports on an auction in June 22, 1883 and also mentions two coin auctions in January 7-8, 1885 and another in January 13-14, 1885  just prior to the Joseph Burleigh, Jr., sale, not included in Adam's study. However, the two January auctions cited by Frossard not found in Adams might actually be the same Burleigh auction that had been twice rescheduled. Moreover, the same might be true of the earlier one on June 22, 1883 that might have been the original slated date for the Walter Hubbard sale that was rescheduled to July 12-13th. The two significant sales were those of Clement Ferguson held on January 30-31, 1883, and that of the renown Dr. Edward Maris of Philadelphia held on June 21, 1886. The latter, the longest day, indeed!
            On August 11, 1885 Smith sold English and American Dollars and Half Dollars, Proof sets of 1859-1885 and other foreign coins at his first known coin auction sale held by Sotheby, London, England. On December 17-18, 1886 Smith sold another group of coins at auction through Sotheby, London, England. 
            In 1887, he formed a partnership with David U. Proskey (1853-1928) of Wappingers Falls, New York, in the firm of New York Coin and Stamp Company. 
Fig. 3. Photo of David Proskey circa 1927 published in The Numismatist, October (1928) : 617

            Smith operated out of New York and Proskey usually from New Jersey, where he lived variously in Little Falls, and also at Patterson, and later in life at North Caldwell, New Jersey. However, they did have an office and coin shop in New York located at 853 Broadway, in the Singer Building, and after the dissolution of the partnership from about 1907 to 1926 at 11 West 30th Street, New York City, New York, and finally from 1926 to 1928, at 912 6th Avenue, which were managed by Proskey. After Proskey's death his son David V. Proskey continued the company with the same name at the Little Falls, New Jersey address running full page ads in The Numismatist in 1929 and seems to have been bought out by F.C.C. Boyd after Black Thursday, October 24, and Tuesday, October 29, 1929. Smith's role was treasurer, and predominantly the silent partner, i.e., the financier of the company leaving Proskey as the buyer, seller and manager with the corporate title, President. Smith collected by cherry picking the gems Proskey brought in. 
Fig. 3. New York Coin and Stamp Fixed Price List of 1889. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

            In 1890, Smith & Proskey published under their company name : New York Coin & Stamp Co.,  The Reliable Premium List of Coins, Stamps and Paper Money.
Fig. 4. New York Coin and Stamp Fixed Price List of 1890. Catalogue issued the same year as New York Coin and Stamp's coin auction of the Lorin Gilbert Parmelee sale on June 25-27, 1890, that sold the famed "Strawberry Leaf" 1793 Cent.

Fig. 5. Harlan Page Smith & David Proskey trading as New York Coin & Stamp Company correspondence with the Chapman Brothers postmarked  November 18, 1891, New York

Fig. 6. Harlan Page Smith & David Proskey trading as New York Coin & Stamp Company correspondence with the Chapman Brothers postmarked January 31, 1896, New York, franked with a Scott #297B Type III and canceled by a Duplex stamp. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
Fig. 7. The first coin auction catalogue of the firm of New York Coin & Stamp Company held January 27, 1888.  Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

Fig. 8. The embossed store card of New York Coin & Stamp Company circa 1891 - 1901. From Fred Reed, "Spare Change : Advertising on Embossed Cards as a Promotional Vehicle," Coin World, February 28, 2014, Courtesy Stack's Bowers Galleries. 

            One wonders if the American Stamp & Coin Company on Chestnut Street, Philadelphia was owned and operated by Harlan Page Smith in 1895 and cited by Augustus Goodyear Heaton in the January 1895 issue of The Numismatist.
Fig. 9. Postal Card of Harlan Page Smith? doing business as American Stamp and Coin Company? Curiously Proskey still trading as New York Coin & Stamp Company issued a Fixed Price List under the name American Coin and Stamp Premium Catalogue. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

Fig. 10. Proskey's New York Coin and Stamp advertisement in The Numismatist, July 1915, page 264. Proskey had been running similar ads in The Numismatist for several years previous.

Fig. 11. Proskey's New York Coin and Stamp Fixed Price List circa 1916. Note the change of address at 11 West 30th Street, New York City, New York.

Fig. 12. Harlan Page Smith correspondence with the Chapman Brothers postmarked February 20, 1896, New York, on postal stationery Thorp-Bartel No. 1393, and canceled by a Duplex stamp. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

Fig. 13. Public notice of the corporate dissolution of partnership. Smith promised to pay the debts and liquidate the assets and gave Proskey the lease rights to the office and that he could carry on the business with the name of New York Coin and Stamp Company or any other name, i.e., as the sole owner of New York Coin and Stamp Company operating as a sole proprietorship and acting on his own accord rather than a copartnership. It has been erroneously reported in Proskey's obituary in The Numismatist, October (1928), page 616 and repeated later on by Pete Smith that Proskey bought out Harlan Page Smith in the firm of the New York Coin and Stamp Company. The New York Tribune, Saturday, November 30, 1901, page 15

Fig. 15. Business Card of David Proskey, President of New York Coin & Stamp Company circa 1926, years after the dissolution of his partnership with Harlan Page Smith. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. For sale in NumismaticMall.Com/Coin Shop.


Figs. 16 & 17. Business Envelope of David Proskey, President of New York Coin & Stamp Company, postmarked August 1, 1906, nearly five years years after the dissolution of his partnership with Harlan Page Smith. Note Proskey virtually cloning Burdette G. Johnson's logo for St. Louis Stamp & Coin. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. 

            He died on Sunday, March 2, 1902, just sixteen days short of his sixty-third birthday and ninety-five days after the dissolution of his partnership with David Proskey; at his home, 256 West 52nd Street, Manhattan, New York. Undoubtedly, the dissolution was due to Smith's failing health; wishing to eliminate a loose end in his estate, knowing his end was immanent. He is buried in the family gravesite at Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, together with his parents and daughters. 
Fig. 18. Smith Family Tomb, Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.

            He was survived by his wife Corneliuett and his eldest daughter Ella Grace Starkey, and two grandchildren, Marguerite Adams Starkey (1891-1982), the daughter of Ella Grace Smith Starkey, and Edith Harlan Reed (1890-), the daughter of Charlotte Adams Smith Reed. His wife sold one of their investment properties, a five-story apartment building with stores on the ground floor on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 43rd Street, just one month after her husband's demise in April 1902, by the real estate firm of James Kyle & Sons. 

Figs. 19, 20 & 21. Corneliuett Smith lawsuit against David Proskey for losses as administratrix of the estate in 1902. Apparently Proskey kept the four safes filled with coins, medals, accounting ledgers, etc. formerly belonging to the New York Coin and Stamp Company, which were supposed to be given to Smith or his estate. The safes and their contents were estimated to be valued at $15,000. Mrs. Smith sued for that amount plus an additional $1,000 in legal fees. Mrs. Smith won the case. David Proskey appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals. This lawsuit went back and forth filing motion after motion in a long protracted hearing, which always seemed to skirt the real issue of Mrs. Smith is that she had neither any inventory of the safes, nor way of knowing who owed her husband's company money nor how much,  which Proskey had access to the four safes knowing the combinations; and consequently no objective authoritative accounting existed for her peace of mind and was forced to merely take Proskey at his word. Mrs. Smith was keenly aware of the value of rare coins, gold coins, etc., which she knew filled the safes, besides outstanding invoices of buyers who owed the firm money.

Prior to any coin auction sale in America the Ancient Greek and Roman part of his coin collection was sold posthumously by Sotheby, London, England, on June 5, 1905. 

Fig. 22. Report of the first Harlan Page Smith posthumous coin sale held at London, England. The 49 page coin auction catalogue had 4 photographic plates. This was the third British coin auction of five in all for Smith's coin collections. The [New York] Sun, Friday, June 9, 1905, page 3. This notice was reprinted in The Numismatist, September (1905) : 276.

            On January 26, 1906 and February 6, 1906, the remaining  two British held coin auctions took place in London which comprised smaller lots as supplements to those auctions. The January supplement comprised of British war medals. That of February were some remaining Ancient and foreign pieces.

            Other portions of his coin collection were sold by the Chapman Brothers on May 8-11, and another on June 29, 1906, at Davis & Harvey. In the first Chapman sale of May 8-11th, the 2,416 lots realized $22,615.10.  Among the lots, lot 836 a Gem Proof 1856 Quarter Dollar purchased by John H. Clapp, and  lot 951, an 1844 Proof Liberty Seated Dime, and also in another lot, number 210, an 1822 Capped Head Facing Left Half Eagle sold to William Forrester Dunham of Chicago, Illinois for $2,165. At that time it was the highest price ever paid for a U. S. coin.  

Bibliography :

1870 U. S. Census
1880 U. S. Census
Numisma, Vol. 7, No. 3, May (1883) auction held June 22, 1883 not cited in Adams.
Numisma, Vol. 8, No. 6, November (1884) auction held January 7-8, 1885 not cited in Adams.
Numisma, Vol. 9, No. 1, January (1885) auction held January 13-14, 1885 not cited in Adams.
The New York Tribune, Thursday, April 26, 1888, page 5 marriage of his daughter Ella to Edward Alonzo Starkey (1858-1916).
The New York Times, Monday, October 22, 1888, page 6 Lawsuits begin
The New York Times, Friday, May 30, 1890, page 5
Poughkeepsie Eagle, Tuesday, July 28, 1891, page 2
Democrat and Chronicle, Friday, January 8, 1892, page 2
Democrat and Chronicle, Friday, November 3, 1899, page 4
1900 U. S. Census
The New York Tribune, Saturday, November 30, 1901, page 15
The Numismatist,  May (1902) : 149-150 Obituary
American Journal of Numismatics, July (1902) : 31 Obituary
The [New York] Sun, Friday, June 9, 1905, page 3
The Numismatist, May (1906) : 156
Lorraine S. Durst, United States Numismatic Auction Catalogs : A Bibliography (1981) : Nos. 75, 92, 109, 114, 129, 138, 144, 154, 155, 159, 166, 170, 176, 181, 186, 201, 218, 238, 251, 263, 268, 272, 277, 296, 301, 673, 675
John Weston Adams, United States Numismatic Literature, Volume 1 (1982 & 2001 reprint) : 119-121, 124-125, and 143-146
Harrington Manville and Terence J. Robinson, British Numismatic Auction Catalogues (Baldwin, 1986) : 154, No. 30; 156, No. 35; 207, No. 17
Charles Davis, American Numismatic Literature, (1992) : 165, Nos. 939-944
Pete Smith, "New York : Center of Numismatic Activity,"  The Numismatist, Vol. 110, No. 8, August (1997) : 898
The Asylum, Winter (2002) : 16, a trivial citation
Fred Reed, "Spare Change : Advertising on Embossed Cards as a Promotional Vehicle," Coin World, February 28, 2014


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