- 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.

“I got out of it while it was still enjoyable,” Doswell said. “You tend to lose it as a hobby if you’re doing it 24/7. I’ve always been more of a collector. I find it more fun to buy coins.”

For Strumpher, the excitement of collecting and trading remains. It’s an interest he thinks others can find rewarding.

“You never know when a kid’s interest is going to be sparked,” said Strumpher, who likes to provide a free packet of coins to children 14 and younger visiting with their parents to get them started.

Doswell said somebody being able to hold in their hand a coin that is thousands of years old and still in good shape can be inspirational.

“You don’t know the endless possibilities that can generate,” Doswell said. “I recommend the hobby to anybody. It can be rewarding, and you can learn a lot.”

Strumpher continues to go to trade shows such as a recent one in St. Louis. Seminars are often available during the shows, Strumpher said.

“You have to have a passion for the industry,” Strumpher said. “It’s a diverse business. You’ve got to do a lot of things and wear a lot of hats.”

In addition to coins, the business sells items such as costume jewelry.

It’s a quest that won’t necessarily make Strumpher rich despite the high amounts money he deals with, including writing a $1 million check in 2011 for a big coin collection. In 7 years, the store has done $12 million worth of business, Strumpher said.

An average purchase is worth between $300 and $400. Strumpher wants to make enough to earn a living while paying the bills and his employees.

Selling products at current market value can sometimes make turning a profit difficult, he said.

“Thankfully we make money most of the time,” Strumpher said. “You have to be picky, though. We’re traders. We don’t keep stuff.”

As they cherry pick what they buy, Strumpher said they can look at nearly a thousand coins while only keeping a few.


Source: (Decatur) Herald and Review, https://bit.ly/MFtz7I

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