Thursday, April 28, 2016

Honest Brick and Mortar Coin Sources Drying Up

[This is a contribution from collector ]

I started collecting coins in 1981 when I was in the U.S. Navy. We would pull into ports all over the world and I was fascinated with the designs on all the different foreign coins. Instead of dead presidents, I found flowers, birds, fish, and historical figures, as well as variations of the original French version which the U.S. Liberty coin designs were based on. I saved all the coins that interested me and kept them in a coffee can. It was more of a hoard than a collection.

Jump ahead to 1998.
I just came from a three year tour of duty in Sigonella, Sicily and precious metals were near a 20-year low. This is when I became interested in classic American coinage, more specifically Morgan dollars and Mercury dimes. I was living in Southern Maryland at the time. There were no actual local coin shops in the area, but there were booths at local indoor flea markets and pawn shops, which were just looking for the quick flip. I started building a nice collection of classic American silver coinage by buying from the local pawn shops for next to nothing compared to today’s prices. Moran’s and Peace dollars could be had for $5 each, although they were tough to come by in the area at that time. I managed to put together a nice little collection of around 12 Morgan and Peace dollars along with a few Mercury dimes, Walking Liberty and Franklin halves. I was hooked on U.S. coinage.
Silver Mercury Dimes

Walking Liberty Halfs

In 2000 I moved my family to my Home state of North Carolina. I still had my foreign coins in a coffee can, only it had grown to over 3 full cans and I had no idea what I had. My U.S. collection, which had grown to nearly 100 examples, was organized and in 2x2’s. I started looking for coin shops and other sources only to find that there were no shops within a 90 mile radius of where I lived. I then focused on the pawn shops. Found seven in the small city near where we had settled. They all would offer to buy coins for just over face value, and then price even heavily circulated coins at Red Books MS70 prices. That is all but one. Jolly’s Pawn Shop was owned and operated by two brothers, Todd and Stacey, and had a friendly staff. They paid the highest prices for gold and silver coin, around 60% of melt, and usually charged about $1 over melt for face value. I was in coin heaven. These guys knew nothing about coins, and I saw the opportunity to build a good rapport with them by educating and helping them get the best price for the higher end coins they sometimes had. This worked heavily in my favor over time.
American Silver Eagles and other Silver Coins

I stopped by about every two weeks to see what they had taken in. In 2004, I caught up with the rest of the world and got a cell phone. They took my number and would call me when coins came into the shop so I could cherry pick them.  Around this time, I found that a small coin shop had opened about thirty miles away, but the prices were about what one would expect from a brick and mortar shop. I got to be good friends with the owner of that shop and bought coins as well as collecting supplies from him on occasion.  Berry, the owner, introduced me to one of his longtime friends who happened to be none other than Mr. J. T. Stanton, co-author of “The Cherry Pickers Guide.”

Between these two establishments, I managed to grow my U.S. coin collection by leaps and bounds at very economical prices. I purchased solid rolls of BU silver Roosevelt dimes for as little as $50 a roll. Even when silver was at $30 an ounce, I was able to buy large lots of circulated to BU Morgans and Peace dollars for $25 each, or a $1.80 over melt.
Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars

When silver was at its $30+ range, it was the hay days of my coin acquisitions, especially at the pawn shop. Everything imaginable, except gold coin for some reason, was coming through the doors and I was snatching it up. I bought so much in fact that I am still trying to get them all into 2x2’s, or 2.5”x 2.5” mylars to be sent in for grading, organized, and catalogued. It wasn’t just silver, but Indian Head cents, large cents, paper money, and even more foreign items.

Unfortunately, those days are over now, with Berry closing up shop and moving down to Georgia last fall so that he and J.T. Stanton can do the coin show circuit together. And I just found out, Todd and Stacey decided to retire and sold out to one of the other pawn shops in town. I decided to see what the new owners were doing with coins. They were charging $35 each for 2015 & 2016 business strike ASE’s, not to mention the $20 they wanted for average circulated Franklin and Kennedy halves. It was the last time I will go there.

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