- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Bennie Strumpher developed an interest for coins as a child growing up in Taylorville.

Although Strumpher would later take his family on trips based on the trade show circuit, he didn’t find the right fit as a business owner until recently. He found an opportunity in 2007 after buying Decatur Coin and Jewelry, a store that has been at the same location, 104 N. Main St. in downtown Decatur, for more than 40 years.

“I was fascinated,” Strumpher said. “I was 11, and the fire started then. It’s a passion. We love it.”

Like other coin collectors, Strumpher wants to pass on his interest, so education has become a key part of the business.

His daughter, Samantha Strumpher, works alongside him in the shop, having shared the interest after growing up going on the family trips. They would often go to Florida as a family.

“I was at the show,” Strumpher said. “They went to Disney or wherever.”

When his daughter was old enough, Strumpher said he would be stuck behind a table at a trade show while his daughter would go around selling coins for him.

“It’s good old Americana,” said Samantha Strumpher, who started collecting coins when she was 9.

They have ensembled a team with sharp eyes for their craft: They must be able to tell what is a counterfeit.

They’re able to teach what to look for with the counterfeits they encounter, Strumpher said.

Research is important to increasing their self-taught knowledge, as Strumpher estimates they spend at least 25 percent of their time doing homework. The research, education and trading allows them to be called professional numismatists, or coin collectors, Strumpher said.

“We have a tremendous amount to learn and do,” Strumpher said. “To be a true coin dealer, you’ve got to know your stuff. You can make a living in any city because of what you know.”

Many customers who visit the business share in conversations as if the store is a coffee shop. Don Doswell of Decatur took a seat on a recent afternoon looking for something that would catch his interest to buy.

Doswell has been collecting coins 70 years. He hasn’t lost his interest, keeping it as a hobby rather than career.

Having spent time working for a coin dealer, Doswell knows what it can be like when it becomes work.

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