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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Buffalo Bill Rides Again

In 1973 I was working in a large mail order business in San Diego.  One day I had a call from Continental Coin in Van Nuys, describing a big collection of Buffalo Nickels they had just acquired and thought we could use.  Was I interested?  Of course I was!  Our inventory was always short of Buffalos.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Big One That Got Away!

In September 1994 I received a call from a long time customer and friend with an interesting numismatic opportunity.  This fellow was a well connected business owner in the Spokane area; his coin interest and expertise were common knowledge.

A local bank contacted him for advice dealing with a special coin collection and he referred them to me.  I flew to Spokane to take a look.

What I found was one of the more interesting collections I've had the opportunity to examine during my career -- approximately 50 pieces of Bust Gold before 1840.  Highlights included:

1796 Stars $2.5 Gold
1796 Stars $2.50 Gold
Heritage Auction #1173
1796 Stars - $2.5
1808 - $2.5
Also 1807, 1829, 1830 and 1831 - $2.5

1795 - $5
Several nice $5s between 1800 and 1812, a few in the 1820s, including 1823, 1826 and 1830

1795 - $10
1838 - $10
Also 1798, 1799, 1803 - $10

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

1893-CC Morgan Bag: Two Thumbs Down

Steve Markoff
Photo www.procon.org
One day in 1965 I headed to Los Angeles from San Diego to deal with a few business matters.  I needed to buy some gold for the shop and wanted to visit a couple of dealers.  One of my stops was to see Steve Markoff1 who worked out of a small downtown office at the time.

When I arrived at Steve’s office, he was in the middle of working with another coin dealer and silver dollars were spread out on the table in front of them.  They were discussing an entire bag of 1893-CC Morgan Dollars.  Perhaps this bag of dollars was acquired as part of the U.S. government dispersal program.2

Steve asked me to take a look at the bag and give him my thoughts.  In so doing, I learned a great deal about 93-CCs.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Enjoyin' the Drama at Coin-A-Rama

The coin business underwent significant transformation during the 1960s.   Coin collecting had primarily been an activity for the rich and famous, supported by a small number of numismatic professionals.

In the 1960s coin collecting began to attract regular folks, interest fueled in part by the U.S. discarding the gold standard and a limited period when coins or currency could be redeemed for silver.

The new hobby demographic was served by lots of new coin shops, coin shows, new methods of communication, and soon a major market developed.  I was excited to be part of the wave of change.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Early Mentor Favors Classic Coins

My first mentor in the coin business was a young man exactly my age.  He had a wealth of knowledge about coins thanks to a special opportunity due to birth.  He was Steve Kosoff, son of the famous dealer, Abe Kosoff.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thrill of the Chase (Part 2)

In 1987 I was running a shop in the Portland, Oregon area.  Mrs. Norweb had passed away and her collection was to be auctioned off by Bowers & Merena.

The previous post briefly describes the amazing Norweb Collection, assembled by three generations of astute and dedicated collectors.  Mrs. Norweb was one of the great coin collectors of all time - she had a great eye for beauty and detail.  Under her guiding hand beautiful and rare specimens enhanced the depth and breadth of the family holdings.

Norweb Collecton Part II
March 1988
Bowers & Merena sold the Norweb U.S. coins during auctions held in November 1987, March 1988 and November 1988.  I attended the first two of these auctions.  Other portions of the Norweb collection were auctioned separately.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Grande Dame of Coin Collecting (Part 1)

On opening day of the 1981 Michigan State Fall Convention, in Dearborn, MI, I notice a stately older woman strolling down the aisle, perusing tables and showcases as she progresses.  She stops in front of my table, and asks to see the Colonial coins in my showcase.

She examines the coins and politely returns them to me.  “They are very nice, but I have all of these.  May I see your Half Cents?”  She looks at these, and again politely returns the tray. 

“I’m so sorry, but I already have all of these examples.  But thanks so much for showing the coins to me.  They are lovely.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Norweb.” I say quietly.  She looks up at me, smiling sweetly, charmed that I knew her name.  What a nice lady.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Saved In Omaha

Surely your town has seen “road buyers.”  You know -- those folks who set up shop in a hotel, place large advertisements in the local paper and offer to buy just about anything precious.  Road buyers have ranged across the country for many years, and for a time, I was one of them.

1934 Silver Certificate
In 1967, my first coin shop was history and I headed out on the road.  It was the final year when the public could redeem silver certificates for silver value.   (Redemption for silver value ceased June 24, 1968.)  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Missed A GEM Opportunity

As detailed in the previous post, Dan Brown was a fine gentleman and numismatist.  I truly appreciated the time and thoughtfulness he regularly shared, increasing my numismatic education and experience.

On another trip to Denver, Dan could hardly wait to “show and tell” some truly special items. I was definitely interested to see what he had and learn why he thought these were special.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Numismatic Gentleman

Dan Brown
(Photo courtesy of American
Numismatic Association
Today I remember one of the great old time dealers -- Dan Brown, of Denver, Colorado. He was a fine numismatist and gentleman. Dan started his career as a conductor on the electric railway in downtown Denver, saving good coins he encountered along the way.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rare Coin Worth 2x Average Salary

In 1965 I was still a newbie in the coin market, working as a partner in a San Diego coin shop, learning fast.

One day a gent walked into the shop with business on his mind.  This fellow visited the shop regularly, though I had not seen him buy much of anything.

He asked if I was planning to attend the Statler Hilton coin show in Los Angeles the following week.  I was.  We talked about how all the “big guns” in the coin market attended from all over the country.

Then he stated his business:  would I be willing to sell a coin for him at the upcoming show?  Of course I would!

1796 No Pole Half Cent
1796 No Pole Half Cent
2008 Goldberg auction

He brings out a 1796 Half Cent, an issue I had not yet seen and knew very little about.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Final Coin, A Fast Car

Today’s memory concerns Fred, the undertaker.  Fred is a good customer of the big retail and mail order business where I work in San Diego.  It’s 1973.

Fred and I have been working for some time to assemble a set of $20 Liberty gold coins, and we’re down to the very last issue.  The last coin is an 1870-CC, and it’s rare. 

For the life of me, I don’t know where to go to find this coin . . . until I spy one listed in an upcoming Stacks auction in New York.  Fred and I discuss the opportunity.

Fred quickly makes a decision, “I want you to go to NY and buy this coin for me.”

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Step Right Up To See The Show!

It's 1964 and I'm a fresh young coin dealer, attending my first coin show, also the first Long Beach show.  The new show was amazing -- a huge event, with people everywhere, deals on every corner.  

In those days the Long Beach arena had a wood plank floor which squeaked often and loudly.  You could hear people coming from a great distance.  The noise from the floor accentuated the excitement of this brand new coin experience.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blinding Luster, Big Disappointment

My previous post described the single best 1921 Peace Dollar I have had the opportunity to handle over the past 50 years.  This story concerns uncirculated 1921 Peace Dollars existing elsewhere along the spectrum of possibility.

In 1966 I’m setting up at a coin show in Palo Alto, California, home of Stanford University.   My table is located next to Harry Forman, the venerable dealer from Philadelphia, PA.  Harry is a real mover and shaker in the coin business.

Harry unpacks a roll of Dollars and a velvet pad, gently fanning the coins out onto the pad’s soft surface.  The effect was virtually blinding!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Not Your Average 1921 Peace Dollar

It’s 1965, I’m 25 years old, and have been in the coin business for two years.  I’m in partnership with Dick Martin in San Diego, CA, running the retail end of our business.

A good customer comes into the shop, seeking a special 1921 Peace Dollar. 

A lovely 1921 Peace Dollar recently in stock.  The coin needed was about 25% 
better than this example.

“I want one fully struck with no marks and full luster.  I want a gem.  I know it’s really a rare coin that way.  I’m willing to pay for it.  Do you think you can find me this special coin?”

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nearly 50 Years of Coin Stories Begin Here

So, what is this blog all about?  What can you expect to see here?

Over the past few years, collectors and others have regularly suggested that Steve share stories of his experiences as a coin dealer.  He's begun gathering and documenting some of these stories; soon he will begin to slowly share them within this blog.

Did you know?  Steve's awareness of numismatics began with a sock filled with coins left by his maternal grandmother when she died in the early 1960s.  He was asked to go find out what these coins were and what they were worth.  It was just a small accumulation -- like many people possess -- except they were accumulated during the early part of the 1900s. The sock contained nothing rare or extremely valuable.

But learning that a worn Flying Eagle Cent was worth $12 definitely grabbed his attention and his focus began to shift from the brokerage business (where he was a young clerk) to numismatics.