Collector Driven. It’s that simple. For more than 40 years Joe O’Connor has focused on working with collectors, including the last three plus decades with collectors of the finest in American coins. Our business is based upon serving clients, and our daily activity is driven by the relationships we share with a relatively small group of passionate and committed collectors. If you are an advanced collector in search of a professional, fiduciary relationship, we look forward to the opportunity to speak with you.
OCNUMIS is built upon the simple principle that coins and their collectors are the only priority. The opportunity to buy and sell coins of incredible rarity, historical importance, or superlative quality in partnership with passionate and committed collectors drives our daily activity. And while much is written in the numismatic press, dealer marketing, and in online bulletin boards about the investment or speculative side of numismatics, we fully recognize that without collectors first, nothing else would follow.
Respect for Tradition
The field of numismatics is built upon the efforts and accomplishments of those numismatists that have gone before us. The traditions of camaraderie, scholarship and apprenticeship have linked generations of collectors, dealers, and researchers.
Oftentimes, the transactional side of numismatics, the buying, selling, and pricing side takes center stage and garners way too much attention. However, without the existence of passionate collectors there would be no demand, no coin market, and no need for the transactional side.
While it may seem a little “old school”, we support and have great respect for these traditions of numismatics. Whether it’s freely sharing numismatic information with our clients and colleagues, giving support whenever possible to the efforts of authors and researchers, or lending a hand to the waves of younger dealers and new collectors without thought of compensation, these traditions provide the glue that binds all of our collective numismatic activity and provide the basis for our work.
Understanding our Responsibilities
From our beginning over 45 years ago, O’Connor Numismatics (OCNUMIS) has been known as a retail coin dealer. Being a retail coin dealer is not about price, but rather is a conscious decision to assume a higher level of responsibility, different from that of a wholesale dealer, trader or broker.
As a retail dealer, we understand the ethical obligation to put the interests of our clients before our own, to educate them to the best of our ability, and to be open and honest with them, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Masterworks of American Numismatics
O’Connor Numismatics (OCNUMIS) is focused on the truly great American coins, coins that stand out due to their rarity, condition, or historical importance. Condition census Early American Coins, Finest Known Liberty Seated and Barber Silver, and the best Rare Date and Proof Gold, preferably in uncompromisingly original condition. These are the “Masterworks” of American Numismatics.
Our client relationships are completely discreet. We work in an advisory role with every client, together as a team, focusing on long-term collecting objectives. Many of our client relationships have lasted for over a decade, some over two, including collections that are multi-generational in duration.
OCNUMIS is built upon the simple principle that coins and their collectors are the only priority.
At OCNUMIS, the coins and their collectors come first. And every day, we strive to use all of our efforts, knowledge and experience to the benefit of our collector clients.
Joe O’Connor has personally attended and has been an active bidder in nearly every major American coin auction since the late 1980’s. He has also attended nearly every major numismatic convention over that same time period.
Joseph O’Connor – A Collector’s Beginning
In many ways, the events that led me to a career in numismatics were somewhat accidental. At seven years old, my father’s partially filled set of the ubiquitous blue Whitman coin folders and an old copy of Yeoman’s “A Guide Book of United States Coins” were passed down to me, along with a coffee can full of miscellaneous coins. Flipping through those Whitman folders the empty spaces seemed begging to be filled, while the few spaces where the cardboard plugs had been left in were Whitman’s way of saying “don’t bother with this one, kid”.
As I entered my teenage years, my interest in numismatics became much more serious. My teenage years also brought greater mobility which allowed me to venture out to a few of the local coin dealers and to a monthly coin show nearby.
While I have handled some of the most important coins in American Numismatics over these many years, I still get excited to see something new and interesting, no matter the value. That is what makes us collectors.
Mike Marx of M & R Coins in Oak Lawn, Illinois was one of my favorite local dealers. Mike introduced me to ancient coinage of the Greeks and Romans, his specialty, and he seemed to truly enjoy showing me his new purchases whenever I came to visit. I bought whatever my budget would allow, in addition to buying every book on classical numismatics that Mike had for sale. Mike lit a fire in a young collector that stills burns today, as I continue to follow classical Greek and Roman coins casually, and my library is filled with books on classical art and numismatics.
The local monthly coin show gave me an opportunity to meet many more Chicago area dealers, including Don Urchel of Daru Coins in southwest Chicago. Don supplied many of the local dealers with coin supplies, and he also carried an extensive inventory of coin reference books. While it took me a few years, I eventually bought a copy of every book that Don offered, no matter how obscure. Don instilled a habit that continues to this day, as my library is peppered with books, catalogues and periodicals that I rarely use, but simply can’t do without such as Briggs Buchanan’s indispensable “Early Near Eastern Seals in the Yale Babylonian Collection” – surely a classic!
The local coin show also gave me the opportunity to meet Hillary Harrison of Kedzie Koins in Chicago. Hillary was politically vocal, and a strong advocate of hard assets, particularly gold and silver bullion. Hillary and I talked regularly and got to know each other quite well. In January 1977, I graduated high school early and had some time before college started in August, so I accepted Hillary’s offer to do some odd jobs in his store on a temporary basis.
My first assignment was to make sense of a large can full of Chinese “cash” coinage that Hillary had accumulated over many years. Armed with the latest Krause “World Coins” catalogue, the can of unknowns was sorted and identified, and that task was followed by others. A few weeks later, the temporary position became a full-time job, at least until I could finish my accounting degree at the University of Illinois – Chicago. I also began collecting Chinese coins for a while.
I left Kedzie Koins in 1979 to start my own coin business, traveling to regional and national shows, attending auctions, and servicing clients. Over four decades later, I’m still working at the temporary job I took back in 1977, and Chicago has one less CPA. In the intervening years, I have twice worked for Larry Whitlow of Larry Whitlow, Ltd., and twice for Ed Milas of RARCOA, as well as started several companies both solely and with partners.
It has often been said that as numismatists, we stand upon the shoulders of those who have come before us. From my perspective, that is absolutely the case. My successes both as a collector and as a dealer are a direct result of the mentorship of Mike Marx, Don Urchel, Hillary Harrison, Larry Whitlow, and Ed Milas, as well as the camaraderie of fellow dealers and collectors which continues today. However, of these names, one stands above the rest.
I first became acquainted with Ed Milas of RARCOA in the early 1980s while attending the Chicago International Coin Fair, which was owned by RARCOA at that time, and while participating in what were informally known as the “Apostrophe” sales. For twelve years beginning in 1979, Paramount, Stack’s, Superior and RARCOA held an annual joint auction prior to the American Numismatic Association convention. Strictly limited to 2,000 lots, 500 from each auction house, these were powerful sales yet simply named “Auction’79” through “Auction’90”, hence the “Apostrophe” sale moniker. Many of the great rarities of American Numismatics were offered through these sales, and the “who’s who” of dealers and collectors were always in attendance.
I kept in contact with Ed over the years, and in late 1994 I offered to work for RARCOA, which they accepted. I continued there until mid-1998, and returned for two more years from 2000 through 2001.
Working for RARCOA was my dream job. The company had a long and accomplished history, and Ed Milas had a presence that commanded respect. Long after he had semi-retired, Ed’s appearance at an ANA or FUN convention would still draw a large crowd. During my years working under him, I assimilated Ed’s view of numismatics, his tastes, his preferences. I also became closer to David Akers, one of Ed’s best friends. I spent a lot of time with David while I worked at RARCOA, buying coins from him, and talking coins. My “eye”, how I look at coins, my grading standards, were all locked in stone during this time. All of my numismatic activities today — the coins that I deal in, how I approach the market, my client relationships — are based upon what I learned from Ed Milas while working at RARCOA, and were fine-tuned by my discussions over the years with David Akers.
O’Connor Numismatics (OCNUMIS) was organized in 2002 as a continuation of the work that I started at RARCOA beginning in late 1994. However, while I have handled some of the most important coins in American Numismatics over these many years, I still get excited to see something new and interesting, no matter the value. That is what makes us collectors.
Top image: 1882-85 Adjusting Room at Mint in San Francisco, CA - Runnels & Stateler, Library of Congress