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Paul J. Bosco submitted this nuanced remembrance of Swiss dealer Bernth Ahlstrom. Thanks! -Editor

Longtime dealer and auctioneer Bernth Ahlstrom, a giant in the world of coins, and a pariah as well, died on Christmas Day.

He began in business about 1954, but early on left the Swedish coin market to his brother Bjarn, often referred to as the "good Ahlstrom." Bernth established himself in Switzerland and also (in the early 1970's) in Manhattan. A major force in the industry, he once paid a world record price for a coin, a Constantine Rouble (Russia, 1825). This was in a MAIL BID (!!) Hans Schulman auction, right after James Kelly sold a 1913 nickel for $45,000. Ahlstrom told me the record price was real, and that the legendary American collector Irving Goodman was the underbidder.

In New York, Ahlstrom continued to conduct strong auctions, notably the Sawicki collection of Polish Coins & Medals --a sale also notable for its colonial Spanish-American offering.

Later Ahlstrom partnered with Alcedo Almanzar, operating an auction house in the 1980s, El Dorado. Significantly, it was sometimes called "El Diablo". It is believed Almanzar cheated his partner, likely making him the only person ever to get the drop on Ahlstrom

Ahlstrom was very smart and a very good numismatist, knowledgeable about all manner of numismatica, and the main players --collectors and dealers-- in multiple markets. In time, his dodgy record of paying debts eliminated him as a force in coin auctions, but he remained able to do business widely. Industry leaders, with whom he had done business for 50 years, often chose not to shun him. He also did business with persons best described as "soon-to-be-victims". A hard worker and constant traveler, he used his knowledge and his contacts to make money, and then would make more by stiffing people, including this writer.

Ahlstrom was more than just a devious hustler, having tremendous respect for Numismatics. He would buy and sell newly-published reference books on subjects that were not the most popular. After becoming a leading dealer in Olympics medals, he was a major contributor to an ANS exhibit.

Some anecdotes:

His Madison Avenue gallery, in the ultra-tony upper 70s, was having difficulty getting an inspector to approve some electrical work. He told his employee, Arthur Blumenthal, to give the inspector a few inexpensive proof sets ("for his children"). It worked.

Bernth was sitting near me at a Stack's auction, at which a 1792 Danish West Indies anti-slavery medal in white metal brought $10,000+. Bernth told me it was his medal, bought for $100 or so, maybe in Sweden.

Bill Christensen (Henry Christensen, Inc) told me, very roughly ca.1980, that "Bernth's checks are always good the second time."

H-J Schramm, whose career path somewhat mimic'd Ahlstrom's, told me in the 1990s, "After 35 years, I can no longer do business with Ahlstrom." I think the comment demonstrates what a long leash the coin business gave Bernth. Kind of like the way Hans Schulman was tolerated.

Ahlstrom himself once told me it didn't matter much, when bad things were said about him. "At this point, I've heard it all."

All in all, his was a remarkable, 65-years-plus career in the rare coin field. If I had to characterize it in a sentence, I would say his #1 talent was knowing how much, in every situation, he could get away with.

Regarding his name spelling, Paul adds:

"I believe Bernth is correct, but Berndt could be another form of the same name.

People used to ask if Hans Schulman was Jewish or Dutch. The answer was always, "whatever's selling." Bernth was, business-wise, as much German and French as Swedish.

"Ahlstrom" omits the "e" that is often used for the two dots over the "o"."

To read a CoinsWeekly article, see:
Berndt Ahlstroem (1936-2019) (

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