By Dr. R. S. Bartanowicz
too nice a day to go through our usual Saturday
routine. Let's go to that little town with all
the antique shops." Our numismatist winced. He
wasn't up for a 120-mile round trip. His spouse
added, "I think you found some old coin books
there last year?" Suddenly his mood changed.
"Yeah, I picked up a 1933 edition of the Star
Rare Coin Encyclopedia. Give me time for a quick
shave and shower."
As he showered and the hot water beat on his
head, he realized that he had been snookered.
His spouse was clever. She could probably get
him to visit the local landfill or wastewater
facility with the mere hint that it might have
something to do with coins.
The drive was pleasant, and his pulse quickened
as they approached the small antique center. The
town had once been a thriving center for cattle,
citrus and other agricultural businesses. Time
had not been kind to the town. The businesses
were smaller, but the old downtown had been
"cultivated" into an antique center.
His timing was perfect, as it looked like a
special occasion. Tables were set up on the
sidewalks and side streets. It was obviously a
community day, and things looked busy. Our
numismatist virtually leaped out of the car.
"Honey, what say we meet at the little park at
the end of the street in about two hours? This
way we can both take our time." He got "the
look," which meant, "OK. But don't spend a lot
First stop was the bookstore where he had found
the Star Rare Coin Encyclopedia. Fortune was not
smiling. All the numismatic publications were
gone. Oh well, there were other shops to visit
and he still had nearly two hours.
Our numismatist was down to his last 30 minutes
and he still had not found anything that he
could proclaim to be a find or a real treasure.
He was visiting a side street vendor and was
sorting through old boxes of miscellaneous
items. Finally, he found a shoebox with assorted
fraternal pins, coins, tokens, tie tacks, cuff
links and other small items. The real treasure
was 30 or so Mexican and South American coins,
along with some dateless Buffalo nickels.
The vendor eyed our numismatist like a Florida
turkey vulture circling a prospective meal. "I
can always do a little better on the price. I
think some of the coins are silver." Our
numismatist nodded as the vendor explained, "I
picked most of this up from different estate
sales. I put the men's items in one box and the
women's in others. As you can see, I got all
sorts of stuff in other boxes that I haven't
even sorted out yet."
"So I see," our numismatist responded. "Do you
have any more coins?" he asked.
The vendor shook his head no.
Our numismatist was being cagey. "What do you
want for the whole box? My wife's waiting for
me, and I need to be moving on." The vendor
looked over the box and its contents and made an
offer. Our numismatist countered with an offer
and the goods were quickly his. (Note: Our
numismatist's spouse reads this column and we
don't want to get him trouble, so we won't
mention the amount.)
Strolling up to his spouse with a smile on his
face and the box under his arm, he excitedly
blurted out, "I've got coins, pins, tokens and
all sorts of little treasures - I bought the
whole box at a great price." He quickly got the
look followed by a smile as his spouse said, "I
did OK too."
At home the contents of the box were separated
into two groups, the "keepers" and items
destined for a nearby antique store. The box had
a bit of silver and a few interesting coins
along with the dateless Buffalo nickels. He
appropriately holdered and mounted everything.
The keepers, such as some of the coins and a few
pins, were placed in a collection box of
He took the remaining items to the antique
store. His sorting and labeling of the items
made them more sellable and resulted in almost
paying for the cost of the entire box. Doing his
calculations for gas, meals and his small sale,
our numismatist had only lost about $100. But a
day in the sunshine having fun was priceless, or
so says the commercial.
Now for the cautionary note. Buying coins and
other items at unfamiliar venues can be risky
since you're dealing with strangers. Conversely,
you can find lots of diverse material including
coins. The fun is sorting through the stuff and
finding things that interest you.
Besides coins, I am fond of old watch fobs and
fraternal order pins. As to finding silver
coins, be wary of counterfeits, plus some folks
have been known to "salt" a box with a few small
silver coins to attract interest.
So have fun, but do be careful.