Welcome to Steve's blog, sharing stories of his professional coin career, 1963 to date. Enjoy stories of Steve's numismatic journey.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dealer Toolkit Includes Radar Detector, Crystal Ball and Wizard's Wand

Let's have a little fun today and explore a fascinating human phenomenon:  Flock (verb):  to move or come together in large numbers

Seemingly without warning coin collectors flock towards a specific series of coins.  This interesting direction change often occurs suddenly, sometimes over a month or less.  It’s as if some special collector sense has become activated.

Flock (or murmuration) of birds
Let’s examine one example:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sidestepping The Bubble

In my earliest years as a coin dealer – primarily the 1960s and 1970s – early coinage and key date pieces in the Seated and Gold series were very scarce, and when they appeared, it was an occasion to remember.

For example, I attended a show in Los Angeles sometime in the 1960s where there was a serious buzz pervading the bourse floor. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mixed Grill In El Paso

San Diego 1969
Trying to figure out how to stir up a little business, I have a brainstorm:  I should make a buying trip to El Paso, Texas.   El Paso is located on a major interstate highway, intersecting east and west, north and south, so I had a hunch it might be a good place for some action. 

The Adventure Begins
I jump into my trusty 1967 Chevy and head for Texas.  My buy ad in the El Paso paper runs for three days, so I am hopeful something good shows during my stay.

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's ALWAYS Worth A Look

One day in 1984, an old gentleman walked into my Portland shop with storm clouds darkening his face.   He cuts to the chase:  he needed money, so what am I paying for junk silver dollars. 

My current buy price was $10 for coins VG and better.  He says, “fine – pay me – I have 200 junk silver dollars in this bag.”

“But wait,” I say, “we need to look at the coins. Perhaps there are coins worth more than junk price in your bag.”   The gent blusters with serious attitude; he insists the coins are junk, and wants the money RIGHT NOW!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

May I Have Your Autograph???

In 1973 I’m working in a large mail order business in San Diego.  We ran full-page weekly ads in national coin publications, needing regular infusions of new material to fill orders for collectors across the country.  One of our key sources of new material was Harlan White.
Harlan White

Harlan White, owner of San Diego’s Old Coin Shop, was a dynamic and savvy dealer, an industry leader as it transitioned from a rich man’s hobby to fun for every man.   Harlan handled all series of U.S. coins and currency, specializing in Silver Dollars, $50 gold coins, Hawaiian coins and high denomination currency.  If you needed a $500 or $1000 bill, Harlan would likely have it on hand. 

Harlan sometimes seemed a bit larger than life; he really loved to tease and play jokes on family, friends and the unsuspecting public.   He had an astute eye for coins as well as varied items of interest and value to collectors.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Searching The World For Great Coins

Those who followed my inventory in recent months recognize I've been on a long and complicated search for new coins.  Success has come from usual sources (collectors, dealers, auctions) and a bit of gentle arm twisting for access to dealer stashes long hidden away.

Recent experience models the unrelenting search by dealers and collectors to discover the next batch of great coins.  Seems like the search was somewhat easier in the early days of my coin career.   Best results come both from hard work and being in the right place at the right time.  

In early 1981 we were exhausted from the great gold and silver price rise which required months and months of extra long work hours, scrambling mightily to keep body, soul and business together.  We just needed a break, so a vacation to New Zealand and Australia seemed just right.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Unexpected Harvest in the Inland Empire

I operated a coin shop in Spokane, WA from 1974 to 1978.  The shop was located right across the street from Riverside Park where a major event was held the year I arrived:  Expo ’74.  
Stamp design by
Peter Max

The Expo ‘74 World’s Fair was noteworthy in several ways. Spokane was the smallest city to ever host a World’s Fair and this was the first environmental themed fair (“Celebrating Tomorrow’s Fresh Environment”).  The IMAX theater made its debut at Expo ’74.

Spokane is primarily a farming and light industrial area, serving as a major commercial hub for inland regions, including western Montana, Idaho and northeastern Oregon.  The area is also known as the Inland Northwest or the Inland Empire.

Spokane coin clients are extremely fond of Silver Dollars, so I was right at home there.  I bought lots of Dollars in the coin shop, as well as other interesting things.

One day in 1977 a gent walks in to the shop; he’s a farmer from an area close to Spokane.  He wonders if I’m interested in Lincoln Cents.  Sure am!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Flock of Flying Eagles

I’ve always loved U.S. Cents and today’s vignette involves America’s first small cent – the 1856 Flying Eagle.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Betting Man

In 1972 I was working at Lyle Clark in San Diego, CA, when an elderly gent came into the store asking if I buy error coins.

When I answered in the affirmative, he brought a pouch from his pocket and laid a very unusual S-mint Barber Half Dollar on the counter.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dealing Double Down

I do not currently handle a great deal of U.S. currency, but that was not always the case. Particularly during the 1970s and 1980s -- in San Diego, Spokane and Portland -- I dealt in paper money as well as U.S. and World coins, and related items.  

Currency is fascinating for many reasons.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Buffalo Bill Redux

A Michigan collector recently contacted us after reading the December 2012 blog post concerning Buffalo Bill Harper.  He had done coin business with Dr. Harper in the 1970s and had saved a couple of his ads from "Coin World."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Teamwork Triumphs With Rare Coin Collateral

Life is all about relationships. Strong relationships are built on a foundation of time, trust and commitment.  The successful coin business relies heavily on good relationships:  dealer and collector, dealer and dealer, dealer and local business community, and so on.

This post illustrates how temporary partnerships are built in this business to perform a task or solve a problem. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Seated Dollar Bags Create Chaos

I’ve experienced some amazing numismatic moments during the past 50 years.  Last post described Amon Carter Jr. casually dumping an old leather bag of $50 gold slugs into a showcase.  Here’s another numismatic vignette . . . .

One day in the late 1960s I decided to make a trip to the San Bernadino Coin show.  I didn’t have a table, but needed to buy inventory, and I’d always had pretty good luck at this venue.

As I enter the show, I encounter a dealer table completely surrounded by humanity, many people deep.  The buzz was loud.  I dove into the crowd to see what was going on.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Humble Unassuming Giant

Some of the greatest experiences involve meeting interesting people, and I have had the honor to meet some true numismatic heavyweights.

This story takes place in the late 1960s or early 1970s, at the Texas State Numismatic Show (TNA) in Dallas, Texas.  I’m setting up my table, and as I work I’m conversing with Tom McAfee, who is sitting across the table from me. 

Tom was one of my mentors, and I learned a lot from him.  Tom was a dealer in Honolulu for many years, later moving to Winter Park, FL.  He was an expert in Hawaiian and U.S. Type coinage, among other things.

As we chat, out of the corner of my eye I notice someone arrive at the next table.  I do not know this gent; at first glance looks as though he has just come from the farm.  His show setup attire was particularly rustic.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Shrewd Collector; Smart Purchase

The last post described Bob B.’s exquisite set of Buffalo Nickels.  Here we explore one of America’s most esoteric and difficult sets of coins.

Our friend Bob was a pretty quiet guy, a bit cagey even, for you never knew what he was thinking . . . or what he would bring in to show and discuss.

In the late 1980s, the coin market was moving up in price.  Bob was paying attention. About 1988 he came to my office, saying, “It’s time to sell some coins” unveiling a spectacular and complete set of 3c Silver coins.

Rare 1872 issue
This was, without a doubt, the finest set of 3c Silvers I had ever seen, perhaps the finest set in existence at the time.  The set was stored in a Wayte Raymond album and displayed perfect peripheral target tone.