Kris Oyster Interviewed, on Coins for Collectors
The future of Superior Galleries, Generic Gold,
Paper Money, and more!
By Greg Reynolds
is Mr. Kris Oyster?
For around thirty-five years, Mr. Kris Oyster
has been a coin dealer and he is currently well
known on the nationwide show circuit. As the
managing director of numismatics for DGSE,
Oyster rose to fame when DGSE acquired Superior
Galleries in 2007, as Superior has been a
fixture in the coin business for many decades.
Now, for the first time, he has agreed to be
interviewed for a nationwide audience.
Greg Reynolds: Are you Managing Director of
Numismatics for both DGSE and Superior
Galleries? What does this job entail?
Kris Oyster: Yes, for both, and, as managing
director, I am responsible for all aspects of
the numismatic division of DGSE Companies
GR: How long has DGSE been in business?
KO: DGSE has been a big name in rare coins since
the firm was [organized] in 1977. I have been a
coin dealer since the mid 1970’s. I became
involved with DGSE in 1997. DGSE is a publicly
GR: Is DGSE well known to people in Texas?
KO: Dallas Gold and Silver is a household name
in the Southwest. DGSE began in a local mall and
has expanded into a hundred million dollar
business. We are a major wholesaler and
retailers of fine jewelry and diamonds as well
as sports memorabilia,bullion products, rare
coins and currency. Our revenue in 2008 was in
excess of $105 million dollars. Rare coins and
currency accounted for $17 million dollars of
these sales in 2008. We are at almost all major
coin shows as well as most regional venues. We
have showrooms in Dallas and Euless, Texas, also
near Charleston, South Carolina, and of course
our Superior Galleries and Superior Gold and
Diamond operations in Woodland Hills [in Los
Angeles County]. My office is at the
headquarters in Dallas. Gary Shepherd is our
coin man in Euless and Brian Cohn handles our
Charleston area operation.
GR: Do you serve collectors at all locations?
Yes, we even have a large cent expert on staff,
Mike McKee. When I met Mike, he was 12 years
old. He come into the DGSE headquarters store
with his dad to buy [better-date] Lincoln
pennies for his collection. We even buy and sell
ancient coins. Ronnie Deschane is our on-hand
consultant for ancients. Our coin expert in
Euless, Gary Shepard, specializes in circulated
U.S. coins that thousands of collectors want to
buy, like Indian cents, Shield nickels, Barber
coins, Morgan dollars, Liberty Seated series,
and Extremely Fine to MS-63 19th century gold
coins. We do a large business in not so
expensive collector coins. We sell a big mix of
collector coins, from colonial times to 2009
Proof sets. When I say that all collectors are
welcome, I really mean it.
GR: What are your specialties?
KO: U.S. gold coins, U.S. paper money, and
II. Oyster’s Background and Perspective
GR: How did you get started in coins?
KO: I started as a kid collecting coins with the
[standard] blue folders. I collected Mercury
Dimes, Washington Quarters, Walking Liberty Half
Dollars, and of course Lincoln Pennies. I would
to the bank and buy rolls of pennies, nickels,
dimes, quarters and half dollars. I would return
the rolls and ask for more. Back then, you could
open a savings account for five bucks. So, I did
business with more than one bank. I had friends
who collected too. I think I started when I was
around ten or eleven years old. I never did put
together a good set of Indians. There were not
that many in the rolls. I only got a few dates
of Indian Head pennies.
GR: What were your favorite coins as a kid?
KO: I really liked Mercury Head dimes. I was
fascinated by the design.
GR: Did you find a 1916-D in a roll?
KO: I found a lot of 1916s but never a 16-D. I
found 1921s. I found every other date in the
Merc set. In the blue folder, there was a blue
tab over the 1916-D hole that said “Rare” so I
did not really expect to find it.
GR: Did you every buy a 1916-D dime later in
life to complete the set?
KO: I never did. Now, I handle a lot of 1916-D
dimes every year. As a dealer, I get to handle,
and see a lot more, famous coins than I [ever
did as a collector].
GR: Did you keep collecting when you were in
KO: Yes, when I was in high school, I never went
to a coin show or coin store. I found plenty of
neat coins in change, including Standing Liberty
Quarters and War Nickels [1942 to ’45 Jefferson
nickels of a special alloy]. I was fascinated by
War Nickels, by their different color and their
big mintmarks. Also, I had an empty Tang jar
that was full of 1943 steel pennies that I found
in change or in rolls.
KO continues: When I was probably around
nineteen years old, my brother and I had a booth
at a local flea market. We put my coins out for
folks to see. People eagerly bought them. So, my
brother and I started aggressively buying and
selling coins. We ran ads in a newspaper. Our
business grew and grew. A long time later, our
business became part of DGSE.
GR: Do you continue to collect coins?
KO: Even after I became a dealer, I kept
collecting. I have always had the collector
mentality. I admit that I do not spend much of
my income on rarities. Today, I am pleased just
to be able to handle many rare coins. I do not
have to own them all.
GR: Do DGSE and Superior handle a wide variety
of rare coins?
KO: We handle certified and non-certified,
primarily U.S. coins. We dabble in foreign also.
GR: How do you feel about the grading services?
KO: I am fond of NGC and PCGS. They have
certainly been the industry standard. They
continue to maintain quality and integrity for
our industry. ANACS is a decent service. ANACS
does an excellent job of authenticating key date
coins. Also, PCGS currency and PMG are doing a
good job with paper money. They are dependable.
GR: Do you think that grade-inflation is a big
KO: It is a problem, not that big. Over the last
three years, NGC and PCGS have done a good job
of controlling grade-inflation. I have
confidence in these two services.
GR: Are you concerned about the dealers who
continually remove coins from holders and
resubmit them in hopes of receiving higher
KO: The rule is probably that they will get the
same or lower grades. I do not think that the
crackout game is all that it is cracked up to
be. You hear about the home runs, but you will
never hear about the ten or twenty times when
the crackout dealer gets the same or lower
grades. There are a lot more strike-outs than
GR: Do you think that coin doctoring a problem?
KO: It is a problem, but I think that, over the
last two or three years, the grading services
have done a good job of refusing to grade
doctored coins. The grading services employ
sophisticated methods to [detect] doctored
coins. It is not easy and grading is a human
process. I do not think it will ever make sense
to grade coins with a computer. A lot of things
go into a coin’s grade. Some of the things
[relate to] eye appeal. Nobody’s perfect. The
two leading services are trying hard and I think
that they do a good job, even better than the
job they were doing a few years ago.
GR: What do you think of the CAC?
KO: CAC is a good service. It is always helpful
to get another opinion from top experts.
GR: Do you pay a premium for CAC stickered
KO: I do because when I sell them I can get a
premium for them.
GR: Do you think that the CAC provides a service
that is really needed?
KO: It gives an extra piece of mind to the
skeptical collector. Besides, a 64 grade coin
can be a 64.1 or a 64.7; the coin that grades
64.7 is worthy of a CAC sticker. Graders are
just human. A CAC sticker enhances the value of
some coins more than others.
GR: As for inexpensive coins, which ones do you
think are appealing, logical choices for
collectors who have relatively low budgets?
KO: The greatest coins for collectors on
relatively low budgets would be Indian Head
pennies, Buffalo Nickels, Mercury Dimes, and
Walking Liberty Halves. I really like the design
of the Standing Liberty Quarter. It has great
representations of Miss Liberty, a flying eagle,
a shield, and neat stars. All these series could
be collected by those collectors who spend less
than $10 a coin. For those who can spend up to
$100 for each coin, they can buy many of them in
relatively high-grade condition.
GR: Suppose, in an imaginary setting, you were
given $10 million to spend on coins, subject to
the condition that you agree to never profit
from the sale of the coins that you acquire. You
would thus be a pure collector. You would not be
permitted to ever sell the coins that you
acquire with these funds, and, after you die,
the coins would be donated to a charity that you
would not be permitted to choose.
KO: I would buy many, higher grade, rare date
U.S. gold coins. I really enjoy handling Pan Pac
fifties in 65 or higher grades, which are
stunning. I would buy a pair in 66 grade.
Mostly, I would collect $20 Liberties by date,
in MS-63 or higher. When I cannot find one that
grades at least 63, I would try for a nice AU. I
would try to buy the NGC certified AU-55 1870-CC
that I saw last year. It is a real showstopper.
It is probably the finest known 1870-CC. I would
also buy Type 1 and Type 2 Double Eagles in
MS-65 grade. These are rare and cool.
KO continues: Long ago, the $20 Liberties were
often discounted, dismissed, or not collected,
because people thought they were not real pretty
coins. From the 1850s to the early 1900s, [when
they circulated,] these coins got less respect
than they should have gotten. Almost all of them
got spent often, tossed around, and generally
beat-up. It is nice to see ones that escaped
excessive handling and have not too many marks.
[Moreover,] I think $20 Liberties are an
important part of history. In the 19th century,
a lot of people did not trust checks or even
paper money. [Consider] the way of life in the
West. There was not a banking system that served
everybody. People used $20 Liberties to buy
equipment, [luxury] goods, houses, acreage,
horses, and cows. They were a big part of
American life in the second half of the 19th
century. Saint Gaudens twenties did not
circulate as much. By [the second decade of the
20th Century], the Federal Reserve System was
set up and all the large denom gold
certificates, $20 up to $1000, really
circulated; coins were kept as a backup to the
currency at the time. To me, $20 Liberties have
more historical meaning than $20 Saints. Though
I like all twenties, I would [prefer] a complete
set of $20 Liberties. [Additionally,] I would
try for a really nice set of Bust $10 gold
coins; these are cool, historical, and hard to
find without too many marks and problems. They
were big money items in their time. Humbert
octagonal $50 slugs were also the big money
items of their time and place. They are neat,
really big coins and they are part of California
Gold Rush history. I would collect all the
III. Superior Galleries
Greg Reynolds: Why did DGSE move Superior
Galleries From Beverly Hills to Woodland Hills?
Kris Oyster: There are more collectors in the
Woodland Hills area. There are five million
people in the San Fernando valley. There, we buy
and sell a lot of coins and jewelry, more than
we were doing in Beverly Hills. We have more
space and more customers in Woodland Hills and
there is plenty of free parking. Parking is
painful in Beverly Hills.
GR: Are there any current plans for Superior
KO: Not at the current time, but we are a
flexible corporation. The auction business has
been slow over the past couple years for
[almost] everyone. We will consider auctions in
the future. For most coins, not ultra rarities
or really special items, many buyers in auctions
are dealers who will not pay more for coins than
we will. For now, we think that we can now
better serve our customers by buying and selling
GR: What are the plans for the future of
KO: We are building new websites for Superior
and other branches of Dallas Gold & Silver
Exchange. Superior is a great name; it has been
around since 1929. Superior has always been a
respected and trusted dealer of rare coins. We
are going to carry that tradition forward. We
are serving people who have been Superior
customers for years. Our goal is to be a full
service coin dealer for people of all income
levels, from basic collector coins to high-end
rarities. We have something for everyone. We
also pride ourselves in being a leading dealer
of rare currency. Soon, there will be a lot of
scarce coins and notes available on the Superior
GR: How is Superior now different from it was in
KO: We are more aggressive buyers. In the past,
Superior was a leading auction company. Now,
Superior and DGSE spend tens of millions buying
and selling most everything, rare coins, generic
coins, bullion, high end watches, jewelry of all
sorts, and sports memorabilia. We always have
millions available to buy from people who want
money right away.
GR: There have been changes in personnel at
Superior. Do you wish to put forth an
KO: I wish to announce the addition of Aaron
Ware as numismatic manager of Superior
Galleries. He is from Nevada and is [a
specialist] in Carson City coins. He has years
of experience in dealing in all types of U.S.
IV. Generic Gold
GR: Are you a very active dealer in generic
KO: Yes, [in terms of certified generics], we
deal in PCGS and NGC Liberty, Indian Head and
Saint Gaudens gold coins, common dates in AU-50
to MS-65 [grade]. When there is a shortage of
bullion on the market, then many more investors
turn to generic gold and are willing to pay
premiums to insure immediate delivery.
GR; Which generic gold issue is the most
KO: PCGS or NGC certified MS-64 Saint Gaudens
$20 gold coins of common Philadelphia dates,
1908, 1924 to 1928. They are currently trading
for $500 over the price of gold.
GR: Do PCGS certified Saints bring the same
prices as NGC certified Saints?
GR: How about PCGS or NGC certified gold coins
with CAC stickers of approval?
KO: For most generic gold coins, CAC stickers
add some extra value.
GR: For PCGS or NGC certified MS-66 grade,
common-date Saints, would a a CAC sticker be
worth much of a premium?
KO: MS-66 Saints with CAC stickers bring 10 to
GR: Let us talk more about the premium that PCGS
or NGC certified, common date Saints realize
over the price of gold. Has this premium
fluctuated much over the past couple of years?
KO: Two years ago, a MS-64 Saint would trade at
about $75 over the price of gold, and a MS-63
for just $40 to $50 over the gold price. In
early December 2009, MS-64 Saints got to $2040
when gold was around $1150. So, the premium
peaked at about $900!
GR: I wonder if you truly intended to answer my
last question in the way that you did. In two
years, did the premium, over the bullion price
of gold, for MS-64 grade Saints really increase
from $75 to $900?
KO: Yes, it has proven to be fascinating. The
investors [who] bought them for a $75 premium,
when gold was in the $600 to $800 per ounce
range, look like geniuses now.
GR: Do you think that the premiums will settle
at a certain level?
KO: The premiums will always remain higher than
they were before all this started in 2008. I
think that economic uncertainty, government
bailouts and government budget deficits, and the
declining value of dollar, have affected the
prices for generic gold, and will for a long
period of time.
GR: Did premiums also greatly increase for PCGS
or NGC certified MS-63 grade Saints?
KO: In May 2008, at the TNA show in Fort Worth,
Texas, I was selling MS 63 [certified] Saints at
$45 over spot. During much of 2009, I was
selling the same coins as fast as I could buy
them at $500 over spot.
GR: Was the price of gold in the same range in
early 2009 as it was in early 2008? If so, why
would there be such a shift in demand for
KO: Yes, the same range. Maybe economic problems
and government budget deficits have sparked more
interest in gold as a safe haven for cash?
GR: What about the premiums for not certified
common-date Saints or Liberty Head gold coins?
KO: Raw $20 gold pieces that were being melted
in 2008 were bringing $275 over spot in 2009!
GR: In 2008, were people really melting many
Liberty Head Double Eagles ($20 gold coins)?
KO: Yes, in 2008, there was no demand for
generic low grade US gold coins and many
low-grade coins, with problems, were simply
melted for the value of the gold.
GR: In 2009, were buyers of generic gold looking
primarily for Double Eagles?
KO: Double Eagles are the most popular, but all
gold coins were in strong demand across the
board, and still are in 2010 but not as much.
GR: Do you think that collectors should sell
their MS-60 to -64 grade common date, 20th
century gold coins?
KO: I sold mine, but who knows? Either the price
of gold [bullion] or the premiums could
skyrocket. No one can predict the future.
V. Paper Money
GR: What are your favorite notes?
KO: Large Size 1918 series, $500 and $1000
bills; I think they are wonderful looking notes.
I love the small size $5000 and $10000 bills.
They are fantastic representations of the
strength of U.S. currency. I am fascinated by
obsolete banknotes; some are really beautiful,
with gorgeous vignettes. Some of these are
fascinating, historical notes; Many look great,
are artistic, are important pieces of history,
and are readily available to collectors.
GR: Which is the rarest National Banknote that
you have ever handled?
KO: I handled a Barnwell, South Carolina $5
National. It is one of only three of the bank
[of any denomination]. All are $5 notes like
this one. This was part of an estate [holding]
that was purchased by our people at our store in
South Carolina. There are lots of currency
collectors in South Carolina and very few banks
[in that state] issued Nationals.
GR: Have you bought and sold many rare notes?
KO: I really enjoyed handling some important
rarities, including one of the finest known
$10,000 notes from the Binion Display, as well
as many extremely rare Texas National Banknotes.
I have bought and sold three of the thirteen
existing 1918 $500 Federal Reserve Notes (FRN)
of the Kansas City district. Also, last year, I
had a 1928 Boston District $1000 FRN, one of
less than fourteen known. It resides in a PMG
GR: Are many of your customers enthusiastic
about rare notes?
KO: Yes, for example, last year, I sold a 1918
$1000 FRN of the San Francisco District PMG
AU55. We also sold the same customer a coffee
table book on paper money,“100 greatest American
Currency Notes,” and the actual note we sold him
was the note used in the illustration in the
book. He was very happy to take his treasure
home, #74 in the book. [Next,] he purchased a
1918 $500, [which is listed as] #89 in this
book, although not the illustration note; his
far outshines [the illustrated] example. His is
a rare Kansas City District, PCGS [graded] AU 55
note. He is very satisfied.