'Best Open Secret Ever' Could Sell for $72M

Butter magnate LE Bruun had asked that coin collection be safeguarded for 100 years before sale
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 14, 2024 7:57 AM CDT
One of the World's Biggest Coin Collections Heads to Auction
Vicken Yegparian, vice president of numismatics for Stack's Bowers Galleries, holds a golden coin once belonging to the collection of Danish King Frederick VII, now part of LE Bruun's collection, in Zealand, Denmark, on May 7.   (AP Photo/James Brooks)

The vast coin collection of a Danish butter magnate is set to finally go on sale a century after his death and could fetch up to $72 million. Lars Emil Bruun, also known as LE Bruun, stipulated in his will that his 20,000-piece collection be safeguarded for 100 years before being sold. Deeply moved by the devastation of World War I, he wanted the collection to be a reserve for Denmark, fearing another war. Now, more than a century since Bruun's death at the age of 71 in 1923, New York-based Stack's Bowers, a rare-coin auction house, will begin auctioning the collection this fall, with several sales planned over the coming years, per the AP. On its website, the auction house calls it the "most valuable collection of world coins to ever come to market." The collection's existence has been known of in Denmark but not widely, and it has never been seen by the public before.

"When I first heard about the collection, I was in disbelief," said Vicken Yegparian, vice president of numismatics at Stack's Bowers Galleries. "We've had collections that have been off the market for 100 years-plus. But they're extremely well known internationally. This one has been the best open secret ever." Born in 1852, Bruun began to collect coins as a boy in the 1850s and '60s, years before he began to amass vast riches in the packing and wholesaling of butter. His wealth allowed him to pursue his hobby, attending auctions and building a large collection that came to include 20,000 coins, medals, tokens, and banknotes from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Following the devastation of World War I and fearing another war, Bruun left strict instructions in his will for the collection.

"For a period of 100 years after my death, the collection shall serve as a reserve for the Royal Coin and Medal Collection," it stipulated. "However, should the next century pass with the national collection intact, it shall be sold at public auction and the proceeds shall accrue to the persons who are my direct descendants." That stipulation didn't stop some descendants from trying to break the will and cash in, but they weren't successful. Yegparian estimates some pieces may sell for just $50, but others could go for more than $1 million. He said potential buyers were already requesting a catalog before the auction was announced. The collection first found refuge at former Danish royal residence Frederiksborg Castle, then later made its way to Denmark's National Bank. More here.

(More coins stories.)

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