LaVere Redfield, about 1960
Everyone loves a good "rags-to-riches" story, and when it involves rare coins, it of course takes on a special interest for numismatists. Today we’ll take a quick look at one of the most prolific "accumulators" of silver dollars of all time, LeVere Redfield of Reno Nevada.
The seventh child of William and Sarah Redfield, he was born into poverty in October, 1897 in Ogden Utah. He grew up there, moving to Idaho shortly after World War I. Ten years later, around the start of the depression, he moved to Los Angeles, and used his life savings to invest in stocks. He apparently had quite a knack for choosing the right ones for by the late 1930s, he had made a fortune and decided to relocate to Reno, Nevada. There, he purchased a large stone house, and began to accumulate silver dollars. He distrusted both banks and the U.S. government, and acquired the reputation of an eccentric, driving around in overalls in an old pickup truck.
Rumors soon spread that he was not really the poor transient that he appeared to be, but a shrewd investor. Throughout the 1940s and 50s, he continued to purchase bags of silver dollars and stash them in the basement of his house. By 1960, his hassles with the IRS boiled over. Convicted of tax evasion, he served 18 months of a five-year sentence in federal prison. Upon his release, he returned to Reno, and continued to accumulate his coins.
Upon his death in 1974 at age 77, some 400 bags of dollars (approximately 400,000 pieces) were discovered behind a false wall in his basement. Roughly 85% of them were uncirculated, and in late January 1976, the entire lot was auctioned. The winning bid of $7.3 million dollars was that of Steve Markoff, of A-Mark Corporation, narrowly eclipsing the underbidder, Bowers and Ruddy Galleries. Due to the size of the hoard, an orderly liquidation was set up, enlisting several of the nation’s major retailers in slowly releasing the coins into the marketplace.
Two coins from the Redfield Hoard. At left,
in a Paramount Holder from the late 1970s, at right,
in a pedigreed PCGS holder.
Some of the more important dates from the hoard included the 1892-P, 1893-P, 1893-CC 1879-CC, 1889-CC, 1895-S, and the 1903-S. The most notable of the Peace Dollars from the hoard were the 1925-S, 1927-S and 1928-S.
Today, most of the coins from the Redfield hoard have been well disbursed throughout the market, and tracing a coin to the group now is difficult. A few however, remain in their original plastic holders as they were sold by Paramount. In addition, the two major grading services, PCGS and NGC, have included a pedigree to the collection on some of their holders when the provenance can be determined.