Old Coins, New Friends
September 4, 2012
by Tom Hyland (Tom Hyland Collector Coins), written for NJ Numismatic Journal
About five years ago, I was set up to buy and sell coins at the Hackettstown Coin Club Show. This is usually a very busy show with lots of opportunities to purchase some interesting collectables. Over the years, I have purchased everything from bullion silver to a collection of about six pattern Flying Eagle and Indian Cents, as well as a handful of Proof Indians, including an 1877. Quite a buy for a local club show! You never know what’s going to come through the door.
On this particular day a very nicely dressed couple approached me and took my business card. They asked if I would be interested in purchasing a large quantity of collectable coins. The woman told me that her father had been a coin, post card, and stamp dealer in Pennsylvania and that he had passed away quite a few years ago. She was now ready to start liquidating the contents of his store. I expressed an interest in seeing the coins and she just laughed in a way I have come to know very well. It sounded like there were a lot of coins.
Several years passed. It’s not uncommon for someone to take a business card and never contact you. After all, they had been interviewing other dealers that day. I was disappointed at first, but that’s the nature of the business, and I forgot all about them.
Then one day I came home and my wife told me that someone had called. A woman called and said her father had been a coin dealer, she had talked to me at Hackettstown, and would I call her back? Yes, I would! This was the beginning of a wonderful experience as a coin dealer.
I’m going to call her Mary and her husband Bill. I made an appointment to meet them at their home. What a delightful couple! Mary told me that they knew they would contact me about the coins, but over the previous two years they were taking care of selling off the stamps and post cards. Now they were ready to do the coins. It turned out to very fortuitous that they saved the coins for last. By now silver was hot and getting stronger every week.
Mary is very organized. The first thing she showed me was a cardboard box full of Lincoln Cents in individual envelopes. She has an accompanying typed list about five pages long. Almost all the coins were circulated and not of great value. I felt badly that she had done so much work and explained that it wasn’t necessary. However, this was her connection to her dad and she did not change her ways. Every container of coins had a list. Every jar of coins was counted and listed by date and mint mark. I was working at the kitchen table, right by a window, in what eventually became known as “Tom’s chair”. As I worked on a container of coins, Mary would go off to the living room and come back with more coins of all denominations, all dated before 1970. After a few hours and a massive pile of containers of coins in the kitchen, I asked if there were many more coins. That’s when she let out that now familiar laugh. She took me into the living room and showed me stacks of boxes of coins that covered about a third of the floor, the piano, and other furniture. Too many to count! I said, “So this is all of it?” There goes that laugh again. She said, “Nooooo, this is just what I’ve gotten ready for you so far.” I spent some more time going through random boxes of coins and loaded my car, nearly filling my trunk and part of the back seat. Little did I know then that over the next year and a half, I would make a total of eighteen trips to their home.
Buying this accumulation reminded of the way people collected back in the 50’s and 60’s. There were little envelopes with a customer’s name and a price, sometimes marked “lay-away”. There were literally hundreds of rolls of uncirculated coins. There was a large box of rolls of Wheat Cents in the living room that I could barely move. I had been there several times and kept procrastinating on the rolls of Wheaties. Then one day I said to myself that I had agreed to buy everything, so I might as well tackle the Wheaties. Turns out they were all BU rolls from 1930 to 1958. I’m still selling the roll of 1930’s, one at a time, in PCGS 65 and 66 RED. Collectors used to put coins like this away by the roll! One day I bought over 100 two cent pieces. Another time there were about 200 Large Cents, mostly well worn. There were several rolls of 1950-D nickels, late date Walkers, and beautifully toned War Nickels. The most exciting roll, to me, was an original roll of 1936-SBuffaloNickels. They too now reside in PCGS holders. How times have changed in the way we collect and the way we market coins!
But, wait! I didn’t tell you about Bill. He’s a model railroad buff, which is also a very strong interest of mine. Once Bill found out about my interest in trains, he was anxious to show me to the basement. The entire basement of their rather large home was an HO scale model railroad depicting a well known area of NJ and PA. His modeling skill was outstanding. I could look at a model of a particular town and immediately recognize the town. The businesses, landmarks, signs, and factories were modeled as they were around 1950, and many of the scenes aren’t much different today. A few months later, I would bring my son and grandson to meet this wonderful couple and enjoy the trains. By the fall, my wife also got to visit. We went out to dinner with Mary and Bill and had a delightful evening with trains, post cards, doll houses and many other historic collectables they had about their home.
Mary and Bill still visit me when I’m at the Hackettstown show. We have met each other’s children and grandchildren. Occasionally, we talk for a bit on the phone and catch up with each other’s family news. Not too long ago Mary called me and asked if I’m ready to come to her house again. I was surprised because it has been about six months since I was last there and I thought I had completed the purchase of the coins. When I said, “Do you mean there’s still more coins?”, you guessed it. There’s that laugh again. Looks like I’ll have another visit with some good friends.
One of CAC’s collector members, Tom Hyland is an active buyer and seller of U.S. coins, collections, and key dates. He runs his business, Tom Hyland Collector Coins, in his spare time since retiring from teaching high school math. He attends local and Baltimore shows, as well as ANA and FUN events.