The Brick and Mortar Coin Shop
by, 05-09-2010 at 06:06 PM (1231 Views)
I have a fondness for coin shops, the good old fashioned brick and mortar shops, to tell the truth tho, there are only two coin shops that I have visited that are actually Brick and Mortar, there are also some located in conventional framed buildings, in shopping malls, and at flea markets. But I lump in those other shops at malls and stalls in the brick and mortar genre, which is basically a shop that has a physical presence, a store front, a counter, with a dealer or employees manning those counters.
Now I will admit to buying from on line vendors, but those that I have bought from I have only bought from them because I have gotten to get a feel for them from postings here on coin talk. Maybe it is not as good as seeing the person in person, do they meet your eyes when you talk to them, when they do, do you get the feeling that they are seeing you or seeing cash?
But I still like the factual actual going in to a shop, seeing the coins in person, maybe standing back and eavesdropping as other customers deal or the coin shop employees banter back and forth.
There are billions of people in this world, but it seems to me that despite that, or maybe even because of it, people tend not to connect. I was in one shop one day and was looking around, a customer came in, and the whole time he was in the shop he was talking, but not to me, not to the employee who was working that day, but to himself. I know that sometimes saying something you are thinking can sometimes reveal the thought to be deficient, but to just constantly run an ee cummings type of internal dialogue constantly?
Now that sort of experience makes my day, there are all types of people in this world, but on line how could you tell what a rara avis you have run into?
There are all sorts of different people that enter coin shops, sometimes teenagers that are selling gold jewelery, are they getting rid of the remnants of an old flame?
Old time collectors who are disposing of a part of a collection that they have lost interest in, sometimes that can be hard to see, since they had in mind that those coins they purchased would be like a retirement account, but they end up being more like just a hobby you can feel the disappointment.
My Dads second wife sold his large cent collection, something I would have liked to see, I have been told he had a complete set, but I am pretty sure that the person who told me that would not know if they had all the large cents, or just a type of large cents, or even what sort of shape or condition those coins were in.
One thing I have resisted, and the temptation has been strong, when some person is selling something, I almost feel like saying, let me see what you have, I may want to buy something from you, or knowing what the various dealers pay for bullion I have to resist the temptation to tell the person, hey go over to this guys shop, he pays almost twice as much as these guys.
I do not think I will ever give into that temptation, and anyway people deserve to eat and live and my interfering in their jobs is something I would hate to have happen to me.
I have been involved in this hobby for about a year now, I have absorbed a little bit from the people I have met at shops, but I will admit that I have learned more from the community of collectors on this site than I have from redbooks, or any other book. I have visited ten stores so far.
My favorite store is one where the owner is a young man who has reccomended books to me, who has opened other stores in the area, he runs on a tight margin, he is frank and personable, he is learning every day, and I know with his integrity and fairness that he will do very well.
But there are other stores, and those stores also have some elements of fun in them, a few just to be flabbergasted at what they pay and what they sell for, it makes me wonder how they could have ever stayed in business for so long.
One place I know why the guy is in the business, he won a huge settlement, he buys items at ridiculously low prices and sells them for ridiculously high prices, think of selling raw problem coins at pcgs slabbed prices, when you sell your ef indian head cent he will offer no more than a quarter of its value, when you buy something from him he typically sells it for the highest prices of all that I have seen.
I feel for the poor guy, I have heard from others that he was robbed of quite a bit some time back, as far as I know he has no family, it reminds me of the guy talking to himself at the shop, tho I just happened to be in front of him. I thought he was talking to me and when I answered he shot me a look as if I had rudely intruded on a private conversation.
Another shop I have visited is a real nice one, it is actually made of brick, it sits on the main street of a small town, that just happened to have been where my family had lived up until the early late thirties. The dealer is also a collector, he is also the current president of the local coin club, his shop is well laid out, many coins under glass, his prices are very reasonable, nothing where I can find humor in them anyway, unlike some others where part of the fun is trying to find the absolute worst deal you can find and keeping a straight face while you ask after prices.
He shows up at the local coin shows, and tho I have not seen him set up a table of his own, I have seen him spell some of the dealers and watch after their tables. When I first started looking into augmenting the collection from my father, we had a great conversation, it probably helped cement my interest in the hobby. One of the things I find enjoyable in visiting his shop tho is as we deal and he writes down prices, the paper he writes on has a habit of misplacing itself, and then we have to return to renegotiating, then the original paper turns up and then we renegotiate again.
On my way home from work there is another coin shop, this one is right on the way, I do not have to go out of the way at all, it is probably the biggest, it has three employees, they sell on ebay, it can be crowded at times, the owner is smart, he sells at a profit, he buys at a profit, his prices are not out of line. If I have any criticism of it, it would be the jumble, the prices marked on the coins are a plus, but the remarking of already marked prices are amusing to me.
I like to try to use creative interpretations of the markings sometimes. frinstance, the other day I saw a used world coins book, it was one of those huge thick ones that you could use to prop open a door or knock someone out with if they attacked you while you were reading it. But I did not find any price marked so I asked, the owner tells me the price is marked inside, inside it says, 20 then under it, it says 2/10, so I say it says two for ten dollars, so I will take it and this one, he says, no the 2/10 means the date they marked the price. So I mention I wonderred why they would sell a book for 20 dollars or 2 for ten dollars, I just thought they were trying to clear space.
Alright, it was not haw haw funny but it was amusing to me.
If anyone was to ask me to advise them in setting up a store to sell coins, I would give my advice as follows, set up the store in a safe part of town, have the store clean, well lighted. Do not encourage people to loiter at the store, (one place I visit usually has three people or more or who watch while business is being transacted) and it is a small store to begin with. Decide that you are in the business to make money, do not let coins sit for too long, be fair in your buy and sell prices. Do not be like the little kid with the lemonade stand who has a sign that says one glass for 20 dollars, when told that with those kind of prices he would not sell much, the kid answered, yeah but I will only have to sell one.
More unasked for advice would be to try to limit sarcasm and rudeness, time is money, but a person can be pleasant and brisk at the same time. I really do not get too much of this, but I have heard about it on cointalk.
Have the prices well marked, this does not mean you have to sticker or write on everything. Remember that while to you it may be a business, to others it is a hobby, so let them enjoy themselves, not everyone has to get hit with the investment strategies.
Have regular hours, this is not an issue with my local shops, but I have heard many talk of irregular hours, inconvenient hours, traveling to a shop and finding that it is only open tuesdays thru thursdays from 10 am to 3 pm.
I like brick and mortar shops, and I enjoy visiting them, part of the fun to me is to just find the different types of people, I gave some advice, but I would probably not like it if every shop was the same. I hope that this little blog will spark some collectors to cherish their local coin shops, sure you may not be able to get quite as good as deal as what you find on ebay, but you will be able to see it in hand, ask questions, and maybe even make a few friends.