Tuesday, April 23, 2024

"Danish Heirs to Sell $72 Million Rare Coin Collection After 100 Years" (plus the Methuselah Trust of Hartwick College)

From Bloomberg, April 23:

An unusual and iron-clad will locked one of the most important coin collections in the world away for a century. 

The descendants of the Danish butter magnate Lars Emil Bruun waited exactly 100 years to claim their now $72 million inheritance. Not by choice.

At least one grandchild reportedly tried and failed to break Bruun’s will, which specified that his 20,000-piece coin collection should remain intact and stored away, then be sold at auction after a century elapsed.

Now, finally, the time has come. The trove of coins and medals will be sold over several years via the coin auction house and dealer Stack’s Bowers. The first tranche of the collection is set to hit the block this fall. “When I first heard about the collection a couple years back,” says Vicken Yegparian, the company’s vice president for numismatics, “I was flabbergasted that something like this could exist.”

Safekeeping Cultural Patrimony
Over the course of his life, Bruun (1852-1923) created a monumental collection of coins, medals and paper currency, predominantly from countries with some connection to Scandinavia.

“You’ve got Denmark, Norway, Sweden and then places that used to be under Danish or Norwegian or Swedish rule,” says Yegparian, name-checking places as varied as the Danish West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands) and Tranquebar (now Tharangambadi), a onetime Danish outpost in India. Bruun even collected English coins from when the Danes ruled the country. “There’s a huge run of coins from King Canute of England,” Yegparian says.

Once Bruun had accumulated all these objects, though, he began to weigh their national significance.

Having lived through the devastation of World War I, Bruun was understandably skittish about Denmark’s cultural patrimony. As a consequence, he decided to frame his collection as a sort of backup to the Royal Danish Collection of Coins and Medals, “as a redundancy and a protection against something happening to the existing collection,” says Brian Kendrella, president of Stack’s Bowers. Bruun decided that after 100 years, if the national collection had remained intact, it would be safe to sell his own collection at public auction. Proceeds were willed to his direct heirs.

And so for the past 100 years his collection has sat, mostly undisturbed, available to scholars when they’ve asked and locked away to everyone else, Kendrella says.

Living With a Gold Mine

Through the auction house, his heirs declined to comment. The Danish media have been interested in this story for years, however, and from time to time, Bruun’s descendants have commented publicly on the looming inheritance, with one noting that his father was a taxi driver and that he might “buy a new golf set” if and when the collection was sold.

The irony, Yegparian says, is that by stashing away his collection for 100 years, Bruun managed to successfully safeguard his family’s intergenerational wealth.... 


These long time-horizons really can be tricky and Mr. Brunn is to be commended for his understanding of possible issues. When the Nazis invaded Denmark in April 1940 the value, if not the valuation, of having these tiny treasures dispersed and separate from the Royal collection would be made obvious.

For a slightly different long term asset see:

The Methuselah Trust of Hartwick College (Updated)