Truly an interesting fellow was Lavere Redfield. Some say he was an eccentric investor. Others say he was a shrewd stock and real estate investor. Still others said he was an average guy who had a distrust of big government and bought a lot of silver dollars, an awful lot of silver dollars! Perhaps all of them are right.
Lavere Redfield was born at the turn of the century. He died in 1974 leaving behind an estate worth over 100 million dollars and one of the largest silver dollar hoards ever discovered, now called the “Redfield Hoard”.
He was said to be very thrifty and appeared so, wearing jeans and wool shirts even after he became rich. Surely influencing him was his early life as a potato farmer.
As he grew older, Redfield drove around in an old dilapidated pickup truck. If you had seen him then, you might have thought he was still a potatoe farmer.
By scrimping and saving he was able to put a little aside. He began making investments, over time bringing him much wealth.
During the depression years he moved to California. Where he began buying stocks that no one else wanted. Stock brokers used to love to see him coming, because they would unload tons of supposedly worthless stocks to him. Stocks that no one else seem to want at any price. He earned the nick name Junk Man from the local stock brokers. It seems Redfield’s shrewdness and timing paid off as some of them eventually became extremely valuable.
Buy when no one else wants it and the price will be low. They also say he gradually began acquiring other assets and real estate at tax foreclosure sales.
Once he began to amass wealth he moved to Reno Nevada. The heart of silver country. He started to acquire farm land and bought a good size stone house.
In Nevada his passion for accumulating silver dollars matured. From time to time he would go to the bank and buy some bags of one thousand silver dollars. Back then U.S. silver dollars could be acquired for a dollar and were readily available at banks all over the country. He would haul them home in his pickup truck and then stash them away. It seems word started spreading about his love for silver dollars, as he was robbed several times. Probably because of this he began acquiring his bags from as far away as Pennsylvania, picking them up in person and hauling them back in his pickup.
He also began hiding the bags in his basement. It is said, he would come home with a load of silver dollar bags and drop them down the old coal chute. Sliding down to the basement, where they remained safely hidden behind a concrete wall until his death. Most of the bags were mint condition un-circulated coins. But some were heavily marked from banging against each other as they were hauled in his pickup, or from handled at the mint or banks.
So, how many coins were there? At the time of his death over four hundred one thousand coin bags, or 400,000 silver dollars, were found in his home. That is right, four hundred thousand! He must have had a very large basement!
Some say Redfield didn’t trust banks and his distrust lead him to store the silver dollars in his home. However, when you think about the space these silver dollars would have taken and the massive weight all it of, where else could he put them? He would have needed the equivalent of several personal bank vaults to store it all! His stash of over 400,000 silver dollars would weigh 22 thousand pounds!
Redfield’s stash of Morgan and Peace type silver dollars became known as the Redfield Hoard. It was the largest silver dollar hoard discovered in a very long time. After his death, in 1976, his silver dollar hoard collection was sold at auction. The price paid by the winning dealer was a record breaking 7.3 million dollars. Before the auction, companies that were to bid on the collection were unable to look through all of the coins due to the massive number of them. They just did not have enough time or people to look at everything. Some accounts say that after the sale, when the coins were individually evaluated, the real value of the holdings was discovered to be three times what was paid.
Once the estate was settled and all the silver dollars were auctioned to the highest bidder. Then the coins were cataloged and sold throughout the world. A good number of the bags he had saved were (S) mint Morgan style silver dollars produced at the San Francisco United States Mint. He also had some (CC) Carson City United States Mint dollars and even had some bags of the Peace style silver dollars. Most coins graded various degrees of mint un-circulated condition, although about 15 percent were said to be circulated. To sell them, some coins were packaged in special holders with labels indicating they came from the Redfield Hoard. Others were put in tubes or individual holders. Then they were sold by the roll or by the lot to various investors or dealers.
Where are the Redfield silver dollars now? Although dispersed a quarter of a century ago, they might be anywhere today. Occasionally, you will find a dollar in one of the special holders with Redfield’s name on it. However, over time most have been placed in individual holders or tubes that offer more protection during storage. Unless they are in a special holder of some type, you can’t tell them apart from other old US silver dollars.
Imagine, today when you purchase a silver dollar, you might actually hold in your hand one of original silver dollars once owned by LaVere Redfield.
If you like silver dollars, in some ways you share the passion for them that LaVere Redfield had. The next time you admire a silver dollar, perhaps you will think about the Redfield Hoard and remember LaVere Redfield, the man who loved silver dollars.