- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - Royce Isom said every time he picks up a coin, he wonders about its history.

“You just never know who may have owned that coin at one time or another,” said Isom, who started collecting in the 1960s. “At one time, I would buy $20 in change and go through it just to see what was in there.

“There’s that intrigue about what you might find.”

David Massey began collecting coins when he was 8, and he still is looking for that rare find.

“I’ve been looking for a few certain pennies for my collection since 1963 and still haven’t found them,” said Massey, who turned his hobby into a business and is the owner of North Florence Coins and Jewelry. “It is a great hobby, and it’s really a good history lesson about our country.”

Max Spiegel is a numismatic researcher for NGC Collectors Society in New York, where coins are graded. Grading coins is a way to appraise coins to help dealers put a price on them.

“We have been in business since 1987, and we are about to grade our 30 millionth coin, so that tells me there is still a lot of interest in coins,” Spiegel said.

He said many people start collections by buying modern coins.

“Usually people will eventually get into the vintage coins,” he said. “And we are seeing a large market for world coins, which is a new outlet for collectors.”

Spiegel said collecting began when the U.S. stopped minting the half cent in 1857.

“People started saving them and collecting them, and it has grown from there,” he said.

Massey said collectors usually start with pennies because those coins are cheap. “They’ll put together a collection set of pennies and then move to old Buffalo-head nickels and then dimes.”

He said coin minting began in 1793. The oldest coin he has owned was a 1793 chain cent, which was one of the first coins minted.

“It had 13 links on it for the 13 colonies. It was so old it was just worn out,” Massey said.

Isom said he has had one coin that dated back to 1798.

“I’ve had coins that were around when George Washington was still around,” Isom said. “I often wondered if (Washington) could have ever owned the coin at one time, since there weren’t many made back then.

“That’s one thing I really love about the collecting is thinking about the history that goes with the coin, where it came from, where it had been. You just never know.”

Spiegel said coin collecting appeals to a diverse population.

“There are a lot of older collectors and some younger ones,” Spiegel said.

“And every collector has the same goal - they want that rare coin.”

Massey said a 1794 silver dollar, which could have been the first dollar made, sold for $10 million, the highest payout generated by a coin.

“The previous biggest sale was of a 1923 gold piece that sold for $7 million,” he said.

So what is the one coin that every collector wants to find?

“No question, it’s the 1943 copper penny,” Isom said.

Massey said what makes that penny so rare is that in 1943, the U.S. made pennies out of steel, not the traditional copper, which was in short supply because of World War II.

“There were a billion steel pennies made that year and only 19 copper pennies,” he said. “That’s the one that everyone wants.”

Isom said there is an intrigue to collecting.

“You never know what you will find, and the thrill of knowing that (the 1943 penny) is still out there somewhere drives you to keep collecting,” Isom said. “You never know when you might just pick up a penny and that be the one.”


Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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