Copyright © 2000-2019 John N. Lupia III

Bass, Harry Wesley, Jr. (January 6, 1927 – April 4, 1998). Tycoon, Philanthropist, Republican Party Chairman, Texas Oil baron, Banker, Collector of United States Pattern Pieces, Gold Coins, and Numismatic Literature.

On January 6, 1927 he was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, son of Harry Wesley Bass (1895-1970) and Wilma Schuessler (1902-1963) Bass. His paternal grandparents were born in Nebraska. His maternal grandparents were born in Kansas.

His father, Harry W. Bass, Sr., was a banker who became an oil driller and producer of gas and oil operating a pipeline through his first company Champlin & Bass in 1925.

In 1930, as a child, Harry Bass, Jr., lived in Holdenville, Oklahoma with his parents and younger brother, Richard D. Bass (1930-).

In 1932 the Bass family moved to Dallas, Texas and Bass, Sr., implemented a new company the Wilcox-Trend Gathering System, a 150 million cubit-feet-per-day pipeline serving southern Texas.

Harry W. Bass, Jr., attended the University of Texas and then Southern Methodist University. In 1944, his college instruction was interrupted during WWII when he served in active duty in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific. After the War he continued his education and learned the family business.

On March 21, 1947 he married Mary Alice Mathewson at Dallas, Texas. They have five children.

From 1947 to 1950 he moved to Calgary, Canada working for his family oil firm Can-Tex, founded by his father Harry Wesley Bass, Sr., in 1941.

In 1951 he was elected a junior director of Texas Bank, and full director in 1956.

From 1952-1956 he served as the Republican Party Precinct Treasurer in North Dallas, and Republican Party Chairman of the Dallas County Finance Committee.

In 1955 he organized the Dallas Ski Club. Through the late 1950’s to 1984 Bass became a heavy investor in several ski resorts.

In 1955, while a bank director an accountant friend asked if he could get him 1955-D Washington Quarters since they were fairly scarce and difficult to obtain. Being affable, Bass got him a U.S. Mint roll at face value. A decade later, in 1966, the same accountant told him a coin dealer offered to buy the roll for $100.00.This eye-opener got Bass interested in numismatics.

By 1957, at the age of 30, Harry was president of two corporations, H.W. Bass & Sons, Inc. and the Harry Bass Drilling Co., and a director of two others, the Great National Life Insurance Co. and the Texas Bank & Trust Co.

In January 1957 he served as Republican Party County Chairman,

In 1963 he was a major donor to the construction of the womens dormitory at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, containing the Wilma Bass Memorial Hall.

In 1966, he joined the ANS as an Associate Member.

In 1966, Bass “vividly recalled one of his first purchases – an 1803 Capped Bust U.S. $10 gold eagle, obtained in 1965 from a New Orleans auction on his behalf by a friend. He had obeyed the dictate of the influential numismatist Aaron Feldman to "buy the book before the coin" and had already acquired an impressive general library. Armed with magnifying lenses clipped to his regular glasses and hand-held loupes of varying strengths, he set out to examine his new possession, promptly discovering the "14 star" reverse variety. Harry was later to say that this experience was the catalyst that led him to concentrate on die varieties of U.S. Federal gold coinage and later to advance to the study of die states and die mulings, as a means to gain insights into early U.S. Mint practices.”[1]

In 1970 he served on the Assay Commission.

In 1971 he was elected a Fellow of the ANS.

In 1972, he was elected to the ANS governing Council.

On December 18, 1973 he divorced Mary Alice Mathewson.

In 1974, he was elected First Vice-President of the ANS.

From January 1978 he served his first term as the President of the ANS. He immediately implemented an electronic age at the ANS introducing computers in order to build databases of the various collections. That project would take decades and is still ongoing.

In 1979, Bass introduced the ANS Newsletter to help expedite communications between the ANS and its members.

On July 2, 1979 he married Doris L. Wampler at Dallas, Texas.

During his final year as President in 1984, chartered the course for the ANS to hold an annual Coinage of the Americas Conference (COAC). He resigned from office on July 20, 1984.

“The greatest public appreciation of Harry Bass's collecting acumen and the depth and quality of his research on U.S. Federal gold coins took place at the sixth annual Coinage of the Americas Conference at the American Numismatic Society, November 4-5, 1989. For this occasion, Harry displayed over 1,500 prize coins from his collection, accompanied by a preliminary report of his collection by die variety and die state, using a system of his own devise, based on the prior work of Walter Breen.”[2]

December 1991 he established the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Research Foundation.

In 1998 he was inducted in the ANA Numismatic Hall of Fame.

He died on April 4, 1998 at Dallas, Texas. After his death the Harry W. Bass Foundation and the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Research Foundation merged to form the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Foundation.

From 1999 to 2000, Bowers & Merena Galleries, New York, New York, published the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection in 4 Parts, comprising 1,301 pages, 6.671 lots.

In 2009 the Numismatic Bibliomania Society conducted a survey of the 100 Greatest Items of United States Numismatic Literature, and the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection in 4 Parts, ranked No. 27 on the list.