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

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.

Steven & Abe Kosoff
Photo by Coin World
Steven Kosoff was born in NY, and his family moved to California in the late 1940s.  Steve attended his first national coin convention at age 10.  At that ANA convention, in 1950, Steve helped his father with the convention auction.  Steve apprenticed with his father as he grew to adulthood and worked alongside his father as a professional for more than a decade.

Being of the same age and proximity, Steve and I developed a casual friendship.  Outside of work, we both loved horses and occasionally attended races at Del Mar.  At coin shows he would often invite me over to their table, sharing knowledge and providing an opportunity to see new and interesting coin specimens.

Steve helped me learn about Proof Three Cent Nickels, Uncirculated Half Dimes, Seated Dimes and Bust Halves.  We examined Large Cents and lots of other old type coins.

During this period I was dealing in modern coins.  In the 1960s BU rolls and other modern issues were the rage and ran the coin market.  Abe Kosoff spoke out strongly against the driven market for modern coins.  He noted this was not numismatics, but pure and simple speculation.  He was correct.  The market was working its way towards a bubble which ultimately burst and deflated, as over-hyped markets always do.

Steve Kosoff was trying to teach me that these overlooked and under-appreciated old coins had beauty, value and immense potential for the future.  

Let’s look at a couple of examples of how modern items considered “hot” in the 1960s fared over the past 46 years, compared to type coins:

             1966              2012
1949-S BU Roll Nickels  $         90.00  $       115.00
1951-S BU Roll Dimes
 $       375.00  $       550.00
1854 Choice BU Large Cent
 $         21.00  $       400.00
1867 3c Nickel, Gem Proof
 $         20.00  $       550.00

I listened carefully to everything Steve was trying to tell me about coins.  I became terribly disillusioned by the the rise and fall of the BU Roll market, losing plenty of my limited capital in the crash, along with lots of other dealers and collectors.  From that time on, I turned my focus to good collector coins.

Steve Kosoff died suddenly on March 3, 1969; he was 28 years old.


  1. Great story with useful lessons. But today it is so hard to find really nice classic coins unlike decades ago when they were a lot more plentiful. For those with the means there are good values still in classic coins like MS65 Barber quarters for $1,000, but it's hard for people of average means to buy those coins, which are the kind that are likely to go up when the market picks up again.

  2. Yes, Louis, you are correct that many high grade type coins are priced outside the reach of the average collector. XF to AU can be an interesting and affordable grade range within which to collect classic coins. Care should be taken to select pieces with superb eye appeal. I think these have potential for price appreciation over the long term.

    1. Let me clarify . . . Select coins with superb eye appeal for their grade!

  3. I remember Abe Kosoff at the meetings of the West Valley Coin Club in the 60's until about 1973. We had the best of the best there including a young Q. David Bowers, Abe Kosoff and son Steve. Walter Breen was a speaker at many monthly meetings along with club president Virginia Culver. Abe taught me so much about coin collecting and the desire to learn the history behind these coins. Why are there only several thousand
    Quarters & Half Dollars struck each year from 1879 until 1890? Morgan Dollars is the reason many give. All the silver was committed to Dollars plus th Civil War hoarding came back to circulation of coins dated in the 1850's thru 1877 or so.

    Richard Chas. Moore

  4. Richard. You are so right about Morgan Dollar production consuming silver. However, the reason for the mass printing of dollars 1880-1904 was the silver users association which lobbied heavily for their benefit to create an outlet for all the newly minted silver.

    I remember Virginia Culver, a very nice lady, very involved in collecting tokens. I seem to remember she was editor of the Token Society magazine.