Gary Carlson: In Memoriam

I was just informed that my old friend Gary Carlson passed away and I wanted to share some thoughts and memories of him.

I met Gary in 1983 when I went to work for Steve Ivy at Steve Ivy Rare Cons in Dallas. Gary had come from the “real world” of business, working, if I recall correctly, for John Deere or some such solid Midwestern Fortune 500 company. Gary was always a true Midwesterner with firm family values and a bluntness which would often put him at odds with The Man when it came to the daily coin business at SIRCO.

Gary and I hit it off immediately and formed a friendship which would last over three decades and which would see us both ultimately find our groove as West Coast residents.

Around 1984, Gary left Steve Ivy to run Numismatic Professionals of Dallas, along with Warren Mills and Jim DiGeorgia. I was more than a little bummed that my three friends left without me, but I decided to share in their new success vicariously. For much of 1984 and 1985, I would leave work early on Friday and make the drive up the Tollway to NPD’s office where the party would always be rocking. Gary, Jim, Bill Shamhart and I—plus a rotating cast of friends/floozies/fans—would have a good time while the ever-serious Warren Mills would sit in the coin room selling NPD’s material.

Gary and I had a common love outside of coins: basketball. We shared season tickets to the Dallas Mavericks during the Blackman/Harper/Aguirre/Tarpley era. The Mavs won a lot of games and were always entertaining as hell.

One Reunion Arena memory is indelible. Gary and I were on our way into the arena when a tall, good looking blond came up to us and handed us two laminated passes on neck clips. He said something to the effect of “Here, you guys look like you’ll enjoy these.”

We looked at each other and simultaneously exclaimed: “Holy S---, that was Troy Aikman!!”

Then we looked at what Troy had given us. They were all access passes which got us into any part of the arena we wanted to go. Even the locker room. I don’t remember much about the game but I can remember Gary and I spending most of the first half wandering around the recesses of Reunion, going into odd nooks and crannies that we would never enter again.

Gary and I also loved to play basketball. Back in the 1980’s, Gary was quite the athlete and he was a true “Stretch 4” before the term was invented. Although he was a good six foot five, Gary could hit jumpers from 20-22 feet out and it was not common back then to have a big guy who could nail a jumper from three point range. Gary and I would often team up to play all comers at two on two (or be joined by Warren Mills for three on three) and although my memory is a little foggy, I can’t recall us ever losing very many games.

Gary left Dallas soon afterwards and after a few stops along the way, he went to work for Sil DiGenova at Tangible Investments. Gary stayed with Sil through thick and thin, and all told put in a good 25+ years.

Gary was a world-class expert on early type and knew more about early silver dollars then just about anyone else in the coin business. Our numismatic paths didn’t cross all that often but when they did, I found Gary to be fair and honest. In my dealings with collectors, Gary’s name would come up from time to time and I never heard anything bad attached to him. When someone told me they were a “Gary Carlson customer” I knew that their coins were nice and that they were being treated fairly.

Gary, I will miss you. I will always remember you the way you were in 1984: tall, blond, cynical, jump-shooting, proud of your two kids. You left us too young, Gary, and you will be fondly remembered by those of us you touched.