I have previously written about the educational value that collectors can obtain by visiting their local coin shops, even if it turns out that a local dealer is not really able to serve a particular collector’s interests.
Coin dealers can also pick up numerous benefits from visiting other coin shops to find out what works and what doesn’t.
I have visited dozens if not hundreds of coins shops from New England to Florida to Texas to California. I visited one in northwest Arkansas just last week.
What can a coin dealer learn, whether or not he or she has their own physical store? Plenty.
No one coin dealer has all be best ideas on how to operate a coin shop or other form of business (office, vest pocket, online, auction house, and so forth). I have learned so much from visiting other coin shops, both in good merchandising and customer service or, alternatively, poor business practices to avoid.
I visited the store of the late Len Roosmalen near Madison, Wis., in the 1980s. He was a prominent expert in coin errors. When he told me that his previous occupation was laying out grocery stores, I understood why virtually every exposed surface had merchandise on display in showcases, on shelves, and on counters.
As a fellow coin dealer, here are some points to investigate when you visit another shop. How easy was it to find the location? Was parking convenient? What were the store hours? How did it feel just walking into the store? Was the staff friendly? What kinds of merchandise were on display and how was it shown? What were the pricing strategies? How do you think you would feel as a local collector as to whether you would want to regularly visit this store? How many customers came in while you are there? How many incoming phone calls were there?
Let me give you some examples of what I learned in the course of visiting other coin shops. In my store, we sell a large number of silver Eagles and special occasion one-ounce silver rounds and rectangles to be given as gifts. For single pieces, we post a fixed price. Years ago, I visited another coin shop in Michigan where the dealer posted a price formula for these items. In talking with the dealer, I learned that he did not sell many such products for gift purposes. I explained to the dealer that, even though his price was approximately the same as my company charged, our gift-buying customers didn’t have do extra work to find out the price by asking for a current silver spot. In that way, we make it easy for our non-numismatic customers to buy from us.
Many times, I observed merchandise on sale in other coin shops that my own store didn’t handle or didn’t display. I would always ask how well such items sold. The result is that we have successfully added several products to our displays from this kind of market research.
Beyond the merchandise, it is helpful to pay attention to the non-merchandise décor of the business, how telephone calls are handled, the kinds of security the store has (although this may be a subject that other dealers don’t want to discuss from the risk of compromising their safety).
By the way, swapping stories about what works in your own store or business is a good way to encourage other dealers to share their opinions on what works and what does not.
Beyond evaluating the running of the business, you might be able to do some immediate or future business with the coin shops you visit. You will invariably find that the workers at coin stores are themselves collectors. Make sure to pick up business cards and write notes on the back about their personal want lists. Offer them your own card with a notation of specific items where you have a special interest. In my circumstances, I encourage them to contact me if they have any Michigan paper money or exonumia.
On top of learning how you might be able to operate your own business more profitably, visiting dealers in coin shops is a way to make new friends. Camaraderie is part of the enjoyment of being a numismatist.
Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Coin Week (http://www.coinweek.com and http://www.coininfo.com). He also writes a bi-monthly column on collectibles for The Greater Lansing Business Monthly (http://www.lansingbusinessmonthly.com/articles/department-columns). His radio show “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).