By Steve Carr
When my sabbatical at the Smithsonian ended in May 2004 I knew the coins on display were being returned to the vault that fall.. As I said two weeks ago, the National Museum of American History (Bering Center) was closing for repairs and a new Star Spangled Banner exhibit. Taking down the displays was a task shared by about 20 invited collectors and dealers, including me!
There was some competition among us volunteers as to who would take down which displays. These displays included the 1804 silver dollar, the 1933 Double Eagle, the Lillie gold coin collection, and more than 1000 other coins, both U.S. and foreign. Competition to remove the 1804 dollars was intense – you know how a bunch of kids act in a candy shop! and Jim Hughes finally decided on one volunteer (I do not remember who). The following picture shows one of the displays. Unfortunately, it is not very distinct.
The displays filled three rooms and each display case needed to be opened by Smithsonian security. We volunteers were charged with removing the coins from the display, carrying them to the vault, and then putting them back in their proper storage location, all under the constant watch of these security personnel. The picture below shows some of the volunteers putting the coins in their storage cabinets.
The following picture shows one of the volunteers placing coins back in the storage shelf.
This move went smoothly, without misplacing a single coin. The operation took several days, starting at 9 am and going until 5 pm. At the conclusion of the move, the volunteers present stood together for a picture that appeared in Coin World. That picture is below.
On the far right is Jim Hughes, who was the Smithsonian curator who helped make my sabbatical a success. He also coordinated the moving of the collection. I am the first person on his right. Jim retired from the Smithsonian several years ago, got married, and moved to Colorado. Within a couple of years, he died. Jim, you were a source of numismatic adventure for many collectors. Rest in peace.