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Contracts Keyed to Barnett
Oswald v. Allen
Citation:United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 417 F.2d 43 (1969)
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Oswald was interested in Allen’s collection of Swiss coins. In April 1964 Oswald was in the U.S. and arranged to see Allen’s coins. Allen showed Oswald two of her collection housed at a bank in New York: the Swiss Coin Collection and the Rarity Coin Collection. These collections were housed in separate containers in labeled cigar boxes. Oswald took notes on the condition of the coins. Oswald couldn’t speak English so he relied on his brother to translate to conduct the transaction. After some negotiation a price of $50,000 was agreed upon. The parties didn’t realize that the references to “Swiss coins” and “Swiss Coin Collection” were ambiguous. Oswald thought the offer he had authorized his brother to make was for all of the Swiss coins, while Allen thought she was selling only the Swiss Coin Collection and not the Swiss coins in the Rarity collection. On April 8, 1964, Oswald wrote to Allen to “confirm my purchase of all you Swiss coins… at the price of $50,000.” Allen wrote in response that she would be in Newburgh on Friday, April 24; no mention of the contract of sale or the quantity of coins sold was mentioned. On April 20, Allen realized her original estimation of the coins in the Swiss Coin Collection was erroneous; she offered to permit a re-examination and to not sell to anyone else. Oswald cabled from Switzerland to his agent at Chase Bank giving instruction to proceed with the transaction. After receiving the cable, Oswald’s agent wrote a letter to Allen stating Oswald’s understanding of the agreement and requesting her signature as a “mere formality.” Allen did not sign and return the letter; on April 24 her husband told Oswald’s agent that Allen did not want to proceed with the sale. Oswald sued.
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