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Need help? Ask a coin dealer

Most people who hold themselves out as coin dealers – no matter whether they operate a store or office, are a vest pocket dealer, trade at coin shows, or only buy and sell by mail or the Internet – probably think of their career in terms of what it does for them.


However, if they ever stop to think in terms of how their customers perceive what they do, they would realize that coin dealers are in the business of helping people. Here are some examples of the ways we help people at the store where I work.

People want to know about what they have and if it is valuable: Every day, we get dozens of phone calls and average at least a dozen daily visitors who have received gifts or inheritance, are working with an estate, or found something laying around about which they want to know more information, especially if it is valuable.

As coin dealers, we help these people, to the extent of our knowledge, to identify and evaluate such items. We have also found it a positive business practice to be able to refer customers to other local professionals for items outside of our expertise. Even if the items are of little or no value, people appreciate knowing that so they don’t go spending money for a safe or to rent a safe deposit box. If the items do have some value, the owners may choose to sell them or, if they keep them, at least they will have some idea of how to care for what they have.

People need to raise cash: It happens to just about everyone at some point in their life that they just need some extra cash. It could be anyone that has a sudden medical bill or car repair charge. It could be a retiree who just needs a supplement beyond regular retirement benefits in order to pay daily living expenses.

As coin dealers, we help these people with their cash flow needs.

People add to their coin collections: Coin dealers help collectors fill holes in their collections, or with hobby supplies, or with experienced advice. Dealers can sell out of their stock or work on finding items on a customer’s want list.

People search for great gift ideas: Almost every item that a coin dealer handles would be considered by the public to be a unique gift of enduring value. Even though they may seem mundane by a coin dealer, gift buyers just love something that may contain the current year date or another year of personal significance, from a part of the world that is meaningful to their life or is an object of beauty. In this way, coin dealers can help gift buyers find the perfect treasure.

People want an alternative investment not tied to the U.S. dollar: With the Federal Reserve repeatedly stating that its goal is for the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar to decline by at least two percent annually, some people want to own some assets that are not tied to the dollar. Bullion-priced physical gold and silver coins and ingots have served as protection against failing fiat (paper) currencies for several centuries and will continue to do so in the future.

Since banks in the United States do not handle bullion transactions, coin dealers are perhaps that next best option for helping such people better prepare to manage this financial risk.

People need foreign cash: The company where I work (though not necessarily most coin dealers) buys and sells foreign currency. In 2010, a major supplier of foreign exchange to banks, credit unions, and other retail suppliers abruptly discontinued this service. For most of these entities, handling foreign currency is a labor-intensive service that probably is done more for customer morale rather than contributing to the bottom line. Yet if a single business in an area of reasonable size (our local metro population is about a third of a million) can work on even tighter profit margins than quoted by the banks and credit unions and have a reasonable supply of popular currencies in stock for immediate delivery, the financial institutions (we have found) are more than happy to refer their customers to the coin dealer.

While the profit margins for dealing in foreign currencies will not sustain the business, they do contribute to covering overhead. There is also the benefit of getting more customers to contact your business.

When dealing with a bank or credit union to obtain foreign currency, people generally have to order it and wait days and days for delivery.

Coin dealers, by having multiple currencies in stock for immediate delivery, help people who haven’t time to wait. These people can pick up some local coins and currency used at their destinations.

Many coin dealers also carry products or offer services outside of numismatics and precious metals. Therefore, they might be able to help people in more ways than those listed above.

By the way, if a coin dealer were to think of the purpose of their business as helping people, and keep that goal foremost in their minds, they are likely to encourage even more people to come seeking their help.

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2017 Exemplary Service and 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2017 and 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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