Collecting has always been in
Tom Slater’s blood. At the age of six he began with sea shells, and soon
graduated to coins, the “gateway drug” to so many other fields of collecting.
By the age of ten, Tom’s Dad would drop him off at coin shows within driving
range, picking him up at the end of the day. All the dealers knew Tom, and they
would give him coins to shop around the floor with the hope of making a small
commission. Usually he was able to make $50 to $100, no small sum in the early
1960s, which of course was promptly invested in his collection.
When Tom was 12 he rented space
in his barber’s shop and set up a display case, selling coins on weekends.
A year later he formed a partnership with one of his customers, and the
pair opened their own coin shop. When Tom eventually left for college his
partner continued to operate the shop for some 20 years.
But the turning point in Tom’s
collecting journey came when as a high school student he by chance discovered
the then-infant hobby of political campaign collectibles. An avid reader of
anything to do with U.S. history, especially that of the presidents, he was
instantly hooked! Tom published his first political memorabilia sales
list at age 19, and founded a major mail order auction at 25.
Somehow he managed to find time
to graduate from Yale with honors, and brief experiments with law school and a
corporate sales position were but minor detours. In 1976 he became a full-time
dealer and auctioneer, and maintained a robust business in political and other
collectors’ items until his company, Slater’s Americana, was absorbed by
Heritage in 2004. Since that time Tom has served as Director of Americana
auctions and Senior Historical Specialist for Heritage Auctions.