Chapter 8

King Farouk

 

 

 

In the "Crystal Ball" feature in the January 1954 issue of the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, Abe Kosoff noted:

"Optimism is the keynote for 1954. Pros and cons fade into insignificance in view of the steady increase in numismatic interest as evidenced by the new collectors coming into the fold. Despite apparent economic reverses and the trend toward conservative buying in many fields, the demand for coins is greater than ever, and prices in many series are at new high levels.

"Overdue (perhaps it will come in 1954) is a renewed interest in United States gold coins. When the collector realizes that these gold coins are below 1946 levels as compared to new high levels for minor coins, the advisability of expanding his gold collection becomes apparent. Dollar for dollar, gold coins represent the best buy today."

The same issue also advised:

"The Farouk Sale in Cairo, Egypt is the magnet that will draw at least two Americans overseas next month: Hans M.F. Schulman and A. Kosoff-the latter will start early and visit Chicago and other points en route. Both gentlemen had advertised in last month's issue that they would examine lots and make bids for other collectors."

One of the thinly-veiled secrets in the rare coin trade in the 1940s was the numismatic proclivity of King Farouk of Egypt. Backed by the treasury of his country, the playboy king indulged in all sorts of collecting fancies-including stamps, jewelry, art, pornography, and, yes, coins.

As drafts in the amount of $10,000 or more on the Egyptian treasury would have required consultations with others, Farouk carefully limited the amount of each payment to less than that figure, typically $9,900 or something similar. Thus, if, say, $45,000 worth of coins was acquired, five checks, none of which touched the $10,000 mark, would be tendered in payment.

Among the American suppliers to King Farouk, who primarily specialized in world coins and pat-terns of the 19th and 20th centuries, were B. Max Mehl, Hans M.F. Schulman, and Abe Kosoff. Curiously, although Abe Kosoff chronicled his activities and printed many anecdotes about his collector and dealer friends all over the world, during the 1940s Farouk's name was shielded from print. Perhaps it was because Abe Kosoff never met the king in person. Perhaps it was to preserve a competitive advantage. Perhaps it was the king's own wishes. In any event, in later years Farouk became the subject of widespread publicity, but until B. Max Mehl featured his "Royal Sale" in 1950 (which offered certain Farouk duplicates), the king's activities were a loosely kept secret.

In 1977, in Coin World, Abe Kosoff devoted several columns to his relationship with King Farouk and, in particular, to the disposition of Farouk's coins at auction in 1954, following the king's ouster in 1953. Much of the following text is taken from Abe Kosoff's own words and reminiscences.

Although Farouk's remittances were appreciated by the dealers with whom he did business, he failed to earn their personal respect. The king's excesses and dissipations were widely criticized. Abe Kosoff gave a brief biographical sketch:

"He was named Farouk, which means 'one who knows right from wrong.' What irony! Perhaps the most accurate, concise description of the man can be summed up in one word: 'inadequate.' Despite the immense wealth commanded by his family, Farouk was not well-educated, lacked maturity, and was completely unprepared for his role as king of Egypt.

(The January 1954 issue of "The Numismatist" invited collectors to contact Abe Kosoff to represent them at the forthcoming King Farouk Sale in Cairo, Egypt.)