David Akers: An Appreciation

My interest in United States gold coins began early and, as a result, Dave Akers was one of my first numismatic heroes. I somehow managed to scam my way onto the Paramount mailing list back in the early-to-mid 1970's and I can remember being enthralled with Akers' style of cataloging. He clearly knew his coins inside and out and the information that he was willing to share was inspiring for an aspiring gold coin specialist like myself. In later years, as I began to catalog and write myself, I freely "borrowed" from Dave. The first time I saw Dave in action was at the Stack's 1976 ANA sale. I had a few thousand dollars to spend and this was my first big-time auction to attend in person. I remember Dave buying some of the high end, esoteric 18th and 19th century gold pieces and thinking, "Someday, I want to be a big shot dealer who walks into an ANA auction, buys the four or five ultra-cool coins he really wants, and then gets up and leaves."

I opened my own coin business in 1985 after working for another firm for my first three years in the business. Around a month before the beginning of Auction '85 (the four-firm sale he did every year with RARCOA, Stack's and Superior) I called all four firms trying to get credit established so I could bid in the sale. Two of the firms never bothered to call me back and one offered me something like $5,000 credit if I left a kidney on deposit. But Dave called me back personally, talked to me for about ten minutes (telling me about some of the more interesting lots in the sale) and gave me a credit line at the sale that was around triple what I had hoped for.

Then, in 1986, I started working on my first coin book: The Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint, 1838-1861. I asked Dave if he would look at the manuscript, which he did, and he gave me a tremendous amount of input. This made the book better and it inspired me to write other books. As always, I "borrowed" freely from Dave, especially in the format that I adapted.

Dave's books on United States gold coins were a tremendous inspiration to me and they actually served as a template for the way I built my company. Dave understood "branding" before this term even existed in the sense that we know it today and his books helped him create one of the best rare coin businesses ever established. To many collectors and dealers, Dave Akers WAS rare date U.S. gold.

As I became more successful, I got to know Dave better. We never really did that much business but he would come to make table at nearly every show and either hand me an incredibly cool coin or pull a piece or two from my case and proceed to tell me its pedigree and give me some insight into the significance of the issue.

Dave Akers knew more about United States gold coins than anyone I have ever met. I would have loved for him to have written more books or to have recorded what he knew onto video or audio. Dave was one of the last of the great scholar-dealers from the 1960's and 1970's, and with his passing we lose a lot of very valuable information about coins and the history of the market.

Dave's greatest success in the coin business and what he is likely to be remembered for was the cataloging and sale of the Pittman collection in the 1990's. This was a staggering amount of work and the catalogs that he produced rank as some of the greatest work in the history of numismatics; if not in any collectibles field. I was able to actively participate in both of the Pittman sales of U.S. coins and these are some of the most memorable moments for me in my entire numismatic career.

During the last few years, I became friendlier with Dave through our mutual friendship with Steve Duckor. I think Dave gave Steve--and all the collectors he worked with--the sort of training that no amount of time or money could replicate today. He shared his knowledge and his passion and helped Steve--and other collectors--build some of the finest sets of U.S. coins ever assembled.

I will miss Dave. I will miss seeing his displays of outrageous coins, I will miss his stories of the "old days" in the coin business and I will miss the kindness he had shown me for close to three decades. Dave, you were one of the all-time greats.

David Akers, image courtesy of PCGS