Coin dealers, no matter whether a one-person operation or much larger, have several ways to benefit from hiring students.
That does not mean hiring just anyone for the sake of hiring a student. Instead, look at the students you know or meet who might have an interest in earning some money while working in an area of interest to them.
What that means is if you have a coin store, keep an eye on repeat visits from students who demonstrate more than a casual interest in numismatics. One way to find out more about their interests is to actually talk with them about the focus of their collection. The more you talk, the better you can gauge their level of interest and existing knowledge. At the same time, the student can become more comfortable and gain a better appreciation for the business as a place where they are not treated as “just a kid.”
Another option that often happens is dealers get help from their own children. However, this will only really work well if the student actually has an interest in such work. It will not pay off well if a family member considers the work to be a form of punishment.
In 1972, a year after Liberty Coin Service was established, founder R.W. “Bill” Bradford hired two high school students. While they attended the same high school, were in the same grade and were both children of Michigan State University faculty, their social circles did not overlap. While there were some breaks for college and other activities, both of these one-time students now have more than 40 years of experience working at Liberty.
Students who have worked at Liberty have often been among the steadiest customers, willing to work at perhaps a slightly lower compensation rate in return for getting the opportunity to find bargains for their collections. Thus, by hiring students, dealers can develop a better customer base.
Also, when students begin working for a coin dealer, it might be seen as a more interesting job than one at a fast food restaurant or in a large chain store. This could result in the student’s friends coming around to visit the dealer, perhaps further expanding the customer base.
I’m sure many dealers know of other dealers, if not themselves, who started working in the coin industry as a teenager. It can be impressive just how knowledgeable a teenager or young adult is about numismatics compared to how well-trained someone of the same age might be in another field.
Even students who don’t stick with a numismatic career often develop better skills at customer service and attention to detail than do their peers working at other jobs. Over the past 35 years, about half the students who have worked at Liberty have gone on to entrepreneurial careers. That is an exceptionally high percentage compared to everyone else.
For instance, the first student I hired back in 1981 went on to become a certified public accountant, who now counts Liberty as one of his clients. He is the first of three student employees who went on to become CPAs. Others have become bankers, jewelers, investment advisers, engineers, attorneys, a French teacher and computer professionals. There are also several who have gone on to be competitors of Liberty.
One secret we insist upon with each student is that their grades have to stay the same or improve. If they find that their studies are slipping, we require that they cut or eliminate their hours to take care of their academics first. When we tell the parents of would-be student employees of this requirement, they always approve.
Beyond obtaining lower cost help and growing more customers, there is another potential benefit to hiring a student. Someday you might want to sell your business or just plain want to retire. If you have a long-term employee who started while a student, you just might have an excellent potential buyer right at hand.
I’m not just speaking theoretically. I brought in one student when he was 14 years old to do some casual labor. At first he mostly sorted bulk quantities of Lincoln cents. He ended up working here all the way through obtaining two college degrees. Then he left to become a certified public accountant. Three years later, he decided that he really would rather be a coin dealer and specifically be a dealer working at Liberty Coin Service. At the beginning of 2015, when he had more than 28 years of experience working at Liberty, Tom Coulson bought the company from me.
Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. He is the owner emeritus and 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 http://www.libertycoinservice.com. 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 http://www.1320wils.com).
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
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