CEO of World Bank: A. W. Clausen
Most of the leads on coin collections come via Heritage's annual collector survey. I always put really interesting coins on there for my current "holdings", all fictitious of course. A 1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific Octagonal in MS66, a 1916 Standing Quarter in MS67 Full Head, an 1879 $4 Flowing Hair Stella in PR67 Deep Cameo; Let's face it, they say their survey is "totally random" but they're not going to give it to the guy who has an UNC set of Lincoln Memorial Cents and all 3 souvenir sets of the 1979, 1980, and 1981 Susan B. Anthony dollars. The annual prize is always a 1907 $20 High Relief in MS64. For those of you who think that 1907 High Relief Twenties are rare coins, you are mistaken. They're not rare; they are simply expensive. I recall one HA.com FUN Auction several years ago that had 25 of them in the Signature Sale. HA.com also has a cool feature on their website called "Ask an Expert".
When I was first hired in Dallas in 2005, one of the things Doug Baliko asked me was "can you type really well?" and "how good are you at answering emails?". No one had been servicing the Coin Expert emails for some time, and there were about 60,000 of them in the electronic mailbox waiting for an answer. After an exhaustive knowledge exam administered by Jim Stoutjesdyk, and a grading test administered by David Lindvall, I became "the expert" for coins at Heritage Auction Galleries.
Now, for every 50 questions, about 49 of them are fairly mundane, so I built a database of standard answers to frequently asked questions like "What is my super rare 1943 silver penny worth?" and "I have a whole bunch of wheat cents. What are the better dates to look out for?". The 50th question, however, was productive and led me to purchase about $5 million in rare coins, and convince a few dozen more folks to consign their coins to auction in just that first year alone of answering emails.
That's when I started to come to the attention of the Auction Consignment Department, which eventually led me to become a full-time consignment director and senior numismatist. I digress, sorry. So anyway, one day a question comes in that really intrigued me. The person asked "How much would an 1848 $2 1/2 with the CAL. reverse in Mint State 68 Star NGC be worth if it currently came to auction?" At first I smiled and thought "that coin probably doesn't exist at that high of a grade level." So I logged into ngccoin's webpage and sure enough, the finest known 1848 $2 1/2 CAL is indeed an MS68 (*). There weren't any at the 68 level at PCGS, but I suspect the one on their POP report now is that same coin that I'm talking about.
There was no name on the question, just an email address. That's when I knocked on one of the scariest doors in the big, blue glass tower: Jim Halperin's office. Now, Jim Halperin is super smart.
He knows coins.
Jim knows currency.
Jim knows sports memorabilia.
Jim knows all there is to know about comic books.
Jim knows Tiffany.
One day, Jim's people will return from Jim's planet and pick him up: The guy is a super genius. He was on his stationary bike and waved me in. I asked him what he thought one might bring, and he turned on a dime and said "I want to know what YOU think" and so I told him "Four Hundred Thousand Dollars". Jim cocked his head at a 45-degree angle, up and to the right. "Yep. Yep. That's a great number. Let me know if you get it."
I sent a response to the questioner. A few days later, another email comes in, which prompts me to believe that some guy is sitting at home building a dream collection, on paper, just like folks do when they are playing fantasy football. The question was, "How much would an 1891 $20 in Proof 68 Star Ultra Cameo be worth if it came to auction right now?" I seriously doubted such a coin existed, but there it was, in the NGC Pop report. The SINGLE finest Proof $20 Lib at either service for ANY date is a lone 1891 $20 in PR68* UCAM. Again, I knocked on Jim's door, and he was as amicable as can be. I knew what he was going to ask me, too. "What do you think, Dave?" I told him that right now, such a coin would probably fetch $300,000 at our 2006 January FUN sale. He cocked his head, smiled and said "That's an excellent number. Keep me apprised."
I emailed the client, who still wouldn't tell me his name. The following week, a similar question came in with dreamy coins: "What is a complete 1911 Gold Proof Set worth in Proof 67?" GOTCHA! He included his name and his telephone number, so I refilled my coffee, popped in a piece of nicotine gum, and gave him a call. "Hello, Eric, this is David Lewis at Heritage Auction Galleries, how are you today....blah blah blah" I asked Eric what he did for a living, and he revealed that he was a dentist, so I started thinking "well, a dentist to the stars or a dentist to major league sports could have some big bucks......hmmmm".
A bit later, I asked him "how did you get started collecting coins?" He responded "My dad got me started. My dad is A.W. Clausen. He used to be the CEO of the World Bank. Then he ran the Bank of America." I typed in A.W. Clausen on google, and about a quarter of a million hits came up, and in a few seconds I found the man's biography. "A.W. Clausen has two sons, Eric and Mark." So NOW I'm sitting at the position of ATTENTION in my chair. I made a list of Dr. Clausen's holdings---this was a Tuesday---and yes, he was interested in selling. I spent all day Wednesday making a sample catalog containing A.W. Clausen's bio, a write-up of the coolest, aforementioned 1848 $2 1/2 and the Proof 1891 $20, and on Thursday, Dave Mayfield took my mock Clausen catalog on a jet to Atlanta and picked up the consignment.
I was humbled when the Heritage catalogers used my write-ups, virtually verbatim, in the 2006 FUN Platinum catalog.
Reference: Heritage Auctions