A good guy passed away yesterday and I’d like to share some thoughts about him. William “Bill” Motto was the CEO of a major Midwestern company, but I knew him as an advanced collector of United States gold coins. I really got to know Bill around four or five years ago when the United States Gold Coin Club was founded. I was vaguely aware of Bill prior to this but he was such a low-key, under-the-radar guy, that it was only at the first few club meetings that we began to talk.
Bill collected great coins. He wasn’t what I’d call a super advanced numismatist and he didn’t pretend to be. As I got to know Bill better, he began to share some of his coins with me and I was blown away by the magnitude of his holdings. I always tried to share pedigree and provenance information with Bill on his key coins, and I could tell that he was genuinely interested that a coin he owned was likely from the famous Parmelee sale of 1890, or from the World’s Greatest Collection sales of 1945-1946.
Bill had a rigorous set of standards he applied to his purchases. He was especially fond of early gold, and we both shared a fondness for the rarer “Fat Head” issues from the 1820’s and early 1830’s. I remember speaking to Bill the day of a major sale and we discussed an important coin that was up for auction. Bill had decided that the coin was worth “X” amount and when I told him he wasn’t likely to purchase it at that price, he wouldn’t be dissuaded. He didn’t buy that coin, and didn’t seem to mind that he let it get away. It was worth “X” and not a penny more, in his mind.
I would see Bill a few times a year; always at the FUN and Summer ANA shows and, on rare occasions, at the Central States show. Bill would arrive at the show with his sons in tow, and visit the small coterie of dealers he was close to; I was proud to be included in this group.
Before one show a few years ago, Bill called me and told me he had a neat deal for me to purchase. I grew excited and wondered what neat coins I was going to get buy: Proof gold? Early gold? Rare Saints? When I saw him he came behind the table (he always had “behind the table” privileges) and proceeded to hand me a group of eight circulated Classic Head gold coins. Nice, yes, but not the $100,000 gems I was hoping for. But the transaction went smoothly and I always was thankful that Bill let me buy his spillage.
Bill and I had a running joke at shows. Bill was one of the most low-key rich guys I’ve ever met but he had one vice: he loved to fly on his private plane. To those of us poor schlubs who fly commercial, private flight is a luxury we can only dream about. Bill would sit down next to me at a show and I’d always tell him how awful my flight was and how I’d be happy to hitch a ride with him in case he was heading anywhere near Portland.
Bill, I will miss you. I will miss your enthusiasm, your love of great coins, and the fact that you didn’t even check your own email. Bill, I hope the time we spent together was as much fun for you as it was for me.
Rest in Peace, my friend.