Butter King’s Legendary $72M Coin Collection Hits the Auction Block After a Century


One hundred years after the death of Lars Emil Bruun, a Danish magnate known as the “Butter King,” his legendary coin collection is finally stepping out of the shadows. With an estimated value of up to $72 million, Bruun’s coin collection, meticulously amassed over a lifetime, stands as one of the most significant and valuable accumulations of numismatic treasure to ever hit the auction block.

Bruun, born in 1852, developed a passion for coin collecting during his youth in the mid-19th century. His wealth, accrued from the profit amassed in the packing and wholesaling of butter, provided the funds necessary to indulge in this numismatic pursuit. His fascination drove him to auctions across Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, where he meticulously crafted a remarkable collection of 20,000 pieces. This grand assortment included coins, medals, tokens, and banknotes, all sourced from his travels in the Scandinavian region.

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However, the tumultuous days of World War I cast an ominous cloud over Bruun’s joy in collecting. Deeply disturbed by the warfare that engulfed the world, his fear that Denmark could face a similar fate led to a critical decision. In his will, Bruun stipulated that his collection should act as a reserve for Denmark for a century following his death at 71 in 1923. If the nation survived through that century without suffering devastation, the instructions stated that the collection should then be auctioned, with the proceeds going to Bruun’s direct descendants.

Now, a century has passed, and the Denmark-reserved fortune is finally ready for the auction block, courtesy of the New York-based auction house Stack’s Bowers. Scheduled for this fall, the event scintillates with the anticipation of discovering intricate details of the relatively unknown collection – one that the auction house bills as the “most valuable collection of world coins to ever come to market.”

According to Vicken Yegparian, the vice president of numismatics at Stack’s Bowers, the unveiling of Bruun’s collection stirred an emotion that extends beyond astonishment. “When I first heard about the collection, I was in disbelief,” Yegparian professed. “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.”

Before coming to auction, Bruun’s collections were stored in the Frederiksborg Castle, a former Danish royal residence, only to later find a home within the vaults of Denmark’s National Bank. During this time, Denmark’s National Museum, ever vigilant, exercised their right of first refusal, securing seven rare coins from Bruun’s treasure trove before they could make their way to the auction.

Seven pieces of history, six in gold and one in silver, were purchased by the museum. Minted between the 15th and 17th centuries by Danish or Norwegian monarchs, these coins are a testament to the caliber of Bruun’s collection. “We chose coins that were unique. They are described in literature as the only existing specimen of this kind,” revealed Helle Horsnaes, a senior researcher and coin expert at the national museum.

But as the auction draws closer, it’s not just the potential monetary gain that tantalizes prospective buyers, but the narrative trapped within the confines of these metallic relics. “The pure fact that this collection has been closed for a hundred years makes it a legend,” says Horsnaes, encapsulating the excitement that surrounds the unveiling of such a historic collection, “It’s like a fairytale.” Amid the silent whispers of history and the echoes of Bruun’s prescient will, the waiting world anticipates the revelation of a legend, a century in the making.