Steve Deeds likes to be right in the thick of things at a rare coin auction.
?I like the action,? said the Bowers and Merena president, ?and I like what Bowers and Merena is able to do for its consignors and purchasers. I like being able to bring two people together and make them both happy.?
It?s something he?s been doing for around 40 years. Deeds got his start in numismatics at age 14, when he bought his first coins.
?Then I started thinking about the other end of it,? said Deeds.
He got an early start in the business, managing a local coin shop in his hometown of Inglewood, Calif., at age 15.
?I didn?t have to work very hard in high school, so I was able to leave school around noon,? said Deeds.
After two years of working at the shop, Deeds struck out on his own, buying from and selling to local dealers.
?I?d buy something and then I?d remember that there was a dealer in Torrence, Calif., who needed it, so I?d sell it to him,? explained Deeds.
At age 19, in 1966, Deeds formed United Coin Co., a mail-order numsimatic business. As the need for more inventory grew, Deeds found himself going to more coin shows. He had no idea at the time that he would do a lot more traveling in the future.
From 1970 to 1971, Deeds partnered with Bob Hughes and Steve Markoff in a venture called Western American Numismatics. So began a long relationship with Markoff, best known for starting thefirm A-Mark, which Deeds says is still the largest single purchaser of gold, silver and platinum bullion.
Deeds and Markoff have worked together on and off for approximately 30 years. But in the early 1970s, it was Deeds and Hughes who went to New York City to, as Deeds jokingly puts it, ?conquer the world.?
Deeds said he enjoyed working in the Big Apple, but wanted to live elsewhere, namely his home of California.
In 1975, Deeds was approached by Markoff and Hugh Sconyers to move back to California and join forces. It resulted in perhaps the biggest venture of Deeds? career.
?Markoff was gravitating more toward bullion, and Sconyers and I did rare coins,? said Deeds. They worked on the $7.3 million acquisition of the LaVerne Redfield Hoard of Morgan and Peace dollars, accomplished after a court battle.
?That was by far the largest purchase at the time,? said Deeds. ?And you know who the person was we outbid? Q. David Bowers.?
The hoard included 458,000 silver dollars. Over time, the group disposed of the collection. Afterward, Deeds and Sconyers left Markoff behind and went out on their own.
It was at this time that Deeds started going overseas, becoming a key figure in the repatriation of U.S. gold coins that had migrated overseas.
?I realized a lot of gold coins had been sent over to Europe in the 1900s, and I figured it?d be profitable to go over there and bring them back,? said Deeds.
Between 1983 and 1995, Deeds built a successful coin business as a dealer. In these years, Deeds estimates he flew to Europe 25 to 30 times a year to track down gold coins.
?About every 12 days or so I was flying to Europe,? he said.
That ended in 1992, when Deeds and Markoff again joined up together. It wasn?t long though until Deeds took a two- to three-year layoff from coins.
Then Markoff, helped by Mark Goldberg, approached Deeds again. This time it was to help out with Superior Galleries, which Markoff had purchased out of bankruptcy.
?I was analyzing deals, doing piecework,? said Deeds. ?And I ran the auction side of the business.?
He?s been in auctions ever since.
Deeds started working at Superior May 31, 1998, and spent six years with the firm. ?In that time, the business increased 100-fold,? said Deeds.
After a short time off, Deeds couldn?t resist the lure of the business, and in 2004, he was asked to run Bowers & Merena?s auction department. He?s returned at the right time, considering how hot the rare coin market is.
Deeds has a theory about that.
?See, what?s happened is the whole world has realized what coins are,? said Deeds. ?They?re real collectibles, like art or paintings, and you can hold them in your hand or put them in your pocket. It?s history in your hands.?