Featured The End of the Local Coin Shop?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by robinjojo, May 27, 2020.

  1. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    With the shelter in place still in effect, at least where I live, and having a lot of time to actually use my brain, something that has been a prime activity for me since retiring at the end of 2015, I was wondering the other day, insofar as I wonder, whether this shutdown, which has been in effect for most of the country since at least March, will be the death knell for the old local bricks-and-mortar coin shop.

    There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when collectors would gather at the local coin shop to swap stories, to look at coins and generally consume time immersed in the culture of coin collecting. The shop would often be small, somewhat dingy, crowded , often located in a rundown strip mall, with stacks of magazines and catalogs strewn in piles resembling small geological formations, with old copies of Coin World in another pile, rows of Whitman coin folders on back shelves, half consumed cups of coffee, and cases covered in a decent layer of dust, mostly obscuring their contents. Apart from the local coin show, another endangered species, the local coin shop was the place for collectors and non-collectors to congregate on a daily basis.

    This was a good part of the world of coin collecting that I experienced in San Jose, when I "got serious" about collecting starting in the early 1980's. My local coin shop was on Bascom Avenue, located next door to a bar. By any measure the shop's location would not qualify it as a Forbes 500 corporation. But it was a wonderful place! It was virtually the size of an overgrown phone booth, and it had all sorts of coins, besides the usual US coins: talers from Germany, talleros and ductatos from Italy, 8 reales from Mexico and Potosi, ancient coins, in all metals, from Greece, Rome, the Byzantine Empire and beyond, sycee and cash from China, and books of all sorts. It was a place to swap knowledge, and gain enlightenment from collective experience.

    That shop closed decades ago. The owner moved to a fancier shop in a more up-scale part of San Jose. I visit from time to time, but it does not have the magic of the old shop. I don't know if that shop is still in business. The owner was approaching 80, a wonderful Sicilian, second generation, but his son has little interest in continuing with shop, so I imagine that it too will close, sooner probably than later.

    The online world of retailing has given us rapid access to information as well as the buying and selling of coins, but something has been lost in the transition, to be sure.
    Tater, Some Aussie, JeffC and 13 others like this.
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  3. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Considering that a pretty popular antique mall in a pretty popular part of town closed down a few months before virus, I can’t see anything that’s not a chain or operating on very high margins to survive that well
    robinjojo likes this.
  4. The Eidolon

    The Eidolon Well-Known Member

    I hope that local shops don't close, but it's hard to predict.
    Perhaps many of them can still make some money through internet sales, even if
    they can't buy a lot of new stuff for a while. One owner told me he could live off
    internet sales (this was pre-covid) but needed the physical space to get walk-ins
    to sell stuff to him. Nearly every coin shop I've ever known had a huge backlog
    of unsorted inventory, so hopefully they have something to do until things
    reopen, and then can make enough from sales to make up for lost time. I'll be
    rooting for them, though I and most people probably will have less money for
    discretionary spending for quite some time.
    DonnaML and robinjojo like this.
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    It seems pretty obvious that most coin show dealers and most brick and mortar shops are there mostly to buy. That does make sense since decent coins are easy to sell while only garbage is easy to buy. Running a place where unknowing heirs bring in grandpa's collection with no clue what it is worth is a frequent business model. The old style shop where you could sit and learn seems to be gone. I actually had one shop owner brag to me how he had paid a widow almost nothing for the coins. He did not know me, had never seen me before and will never again since I am unlikely ever to be in that city again.

    We each do need to tell someone what to do with our coins if we die unexpectedly or your heirs may be the next one to go into that shop.
  6. Aaron Apfel

    Aaron Apfel Active Member

    I think this is a trend in many industries these days, where many sales are moving online due to convenience for the buyer. The downside for people with physical brick and mortar stores is that they have significantly more overhead than online stores, and have to compete with their prices. This ongoing problem of increased overhead and competition over the last decade or so, combined with this pandemic, I'm sure is going to kill many small businesses including local coin shops. Really heartbreaking, I suppose all we can do is make as much as an effort as possible to support them right now.
    Tater, Nathan B., YoloBagels and 3 others like this.
  7. fretboard

    fretboard Defender of Old Coinage!

    You got that right! My kids don't care much about my coins at all. Actually all they know about my coins is when I die, they want the gold! laughhard.gif Funny that you said above tho' as my wife finally got me to list the most important coins so when I pass she will know what they're worth at least. Took me a couple of days but I'm really glad I did it as I got to see how much I paid for the gold and I didn't do too bad at all! :D I don't have much but it's good to know. :smug: Next is my Tokens and that will take awhile! :D
    Tater, paschka, PeteB and 2 others like this.
  8. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    I spent every spare moment of my teenage years in a tiny coin shop much like the shop described in the OP's original post. I would even do chores for the fellow for bargain bin coins. I learned much from my time in his shop..... These days my local dealer is also a very good friend. His shop is in a strip mall and he has weathered this pandemic well.... There is still a place in this modern world for a local dealer. Where else am I going to hang out when my wife needs chores done?
  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Still, the positive comments above are from our drop in visitors from the modern hobby. This is the ancient coin section of Coin Talk. Does anyone have a local coin store (brick and mortar) where you can sit and chat/learn about ancient or even collectible (not bullion or investment) coins?
    Most I see have huge letters in the window (WE BUY GOLD) and are not there for numismatic hobbyists of any level.
  10. Gilbert

    Gilbert Part time collector Supporter

    The town where I grew up in the early 1960s had a population of about 15,000 and the downtown area had four coin stores and several others that carried coins as a sideline. One store in particular was owned by an older gentleman who didn’t mind taking the time to explain to me coin terminology and history. He also sponsored an auction once a month at the local Howard Johnson’s and would mail a list of auction coins a week prior. Probably a hundred or so people would attend and many of my best coins were purchased through him.
    Today there are no coin stores remaining in that town. Either there are fewer collectors, rents are too high, or online sales have filled the nitche. CoinTalk has filled the information void for me.
  11. fretboard

    fretboard Defender of Old Coinage!

    Maybe in Mayberry! :D I haven't been to a coin shop like that since the late 1960's or early 70's! :D
    DonnaML likes this.
  12. Fugio1

    Fugio1 Supporter! Supporter

    I think only in very large cities can one find shops that primarily deal in ancients, and then, most of the time they are auction houses that are willing to sell retail at a retail price.

    In my travels for business or holiday, I used to search for the shops and had some lovely experiences. It was an important part of my trip. No longer.
  13. Two Dogs

    Two Dogs Active Member

    Good points! For me, what's as important as a list is telling a family member who they should talk with (name a trusted coin dealer or friend with coin knowledge) about disposing of my coins when that day comes.
    benhur767 and DonnaML like this.
  14. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Khnum-Hotep

    The only nearby coin shop does have a sign that says "we buy gold". When you come to the doorway you have to push a button which activates a buzzer and lets you in to the shop, otherwise it's locked to the public. Once inside you face layers of bulletproof glass which separates you from the proprietors. They have some Morgan dollars behind the glass but that's it. They mainly deal in gold coins and bullion, which are not visible. I went down to the store to buy some plastic flips, which they did have, surprisingly. Anyway, kind of a a depressing place. The most interesting thing about it is the cat wandering around on the counters behind the glass.
    TIF, Nathan B., Charles Riley and 5 others like this.
  15. YoloBagels

    YoloBagels Well-Known Member

    I visited my LCS yesterday and it was actually quite busy. Several people came in to buy and others came in to get stuff appraised while I was there.

    So many small shops are going to close in the near future due to many of the issues listed above as well as the pandemic. If small LCS stores are truly a thing we want to preserve then we should do our job as patrons and help out however we can.
    DonnaML and PlanoSteve like this.
  16. abc123

    abc123 Member

    Well, I’m happy to report that the local brick and mortar coin shop that includes more than just modern US coins and bullion is not limited to myth or legend. They still stand, though probably not in the numbers they once did. We have one in the St. Louis area (St. Charles, MO to be specific) called Star Coins and More. It is a spacious retail space with benches and chairs where one can converse about coins. The bulk of inventory is US coinage and bullion but there is an entire case devoted to ancient coins where each weekend you will find Chip Vaughn is more than happy to educate and help grow your collection. Once a month the St. Louis Ancient Coin Study Group meets there. The club recently celebrated our 40th anniversary. We reliably have 15-20 members attend. Upcoming coin shows are announced, there is a show and tell period for new acquisitions, and a 30-45 min educational presentation that often includes coins to pass around. There are generally one or two dealers that will sell ancient coins before and after each meeting. Since COVID-19 hit the group has moved to holding meetings via Zoom to keep in touch and give presentations. Our first one a couple weeks ago was a success and we plan to have another soon. Having lived in a few different parts of the country I have to say it is something special to have such a concentration of ancient coin collectors in one place and to be able to gather and share our interest for numismatics and history each month. If you find yourself in the St. Louis area please reach out for info to join us!

    Below are photos from some past ACSG meetings.


    Attached Files:

    TIF, Charles Riley, Gilbert and 19 others like this.
  17. wxcoin

    wxcoin Getting no respect for 64 years

    I think the LCSs that have survived in today's world will survive the pandemic. Sure a few will not make it but many that do have already expanded their business to the internet which seems more popular now when sheltering at home. People selling collections can still make appointments to have their collections appraised.
  18. John Skelton

    John Skelton Morgan man!

    That is what is needed too keep the hobby growing: a coin shop owner willing to promote and make available the shop for events. The next time my wife and I are in the area to visit her sister I will make an effort to stop in.

    My LCS is a very nice place, and he advertises it on a billboard as a coin shop, but he also sells jewelry (probably to help his wife and her sideline business) and, of all things, fossils and polished rocks. I have bought several coins from him and he's always been very friendly unlike another shop where you were treated with suspicious looks and the people were unapproachable.

    And I did walk into one of those shops that simply had the word Gold on it's sign, and was told they didn't have their coins on display, but if I was interested they would bring them out of the vault. I declined their offer.
  19. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    In Norway, there’s only one coin shop where they know something about ancient coins, and that’s a mid-high end coin shop in Oslo, the capital. I visit when I’m there. It seems the owner appreciates someone wanting to talk about ancients.
    Other than that, most coin shops here were out of business years ago. It’s sad. Perhaps I’ll start one myself when I retire.
  20. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    Living in London can be tricky in the middle of a global pandemic, but when things are normal it is a heaven for collectors of all kinds. Old fashioned shops and societies are abundant. Coin wise there is no shortage of brick and mortar shops, across the British museum for example there are two. Some people think they are pricey, but there is a big variety of coins and bargains can still be found. They get a lot of tourists of course, which means that when collectors turn up they are happy to engage with someone that is knowledgeable. There are at least another two I haven't visited yet and of course Roma Numismatics is also based here. I was planning to attend my very first auction, but due to the pandemic I think they held it electronically instead. And of course you have Baldwin & Sons which is a historic shop that is known for some of the most impressive coin sales recently (the Pantikapaion gold stater comes to mind). Plenty of pricey coins, but again a good variety in their physical shop to find coins that are good value for money. Their numismatist that specialises in ancients is a young chap that is active in a facebook group I belong too and was quite helpful last time I visited their shop. Thankfully in big cities we don't have to worry about coin shops closing..
  21. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    And the smoke. Don't forget the smoke. And ashtrays. :yack:
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