How I Got Started

Posted on July 27, 2010 by

I started collecting coins in 1959 at age 12. My grandmother was a coin collector. She was also a heavy smoker. At the time, cigarettes were found in vending machines all over the place, the cost was 22 cents a pack. You put a quarter in the vending machine and you got a pack of cigarettes. Inside the cellophane wrapped pack was your change…three shinny new pennies. That’s how my grandmother got started. She saved pennies, then nickels, then dimes, then quarters and halves, placing them in her Whitman blue book coin albums.

My grandfather was very old country (Poland) old school…very conservative. He would not let my grandmother ever buy a coin she needed for her collection. She could only trade…a nickel for nickel…a dime for a dime. My grandfather’s comment…”Anyone who would pay a dime for a nickel is a fool.” An interesting comment for anyone who has ever owned a 1913 Liberty nickel!

I was very close to my grandmother. For my 12th birthday, she gave me the Lincoln cents and Jefferson nickels coin albums and I then started searching my parents change every night for coins I needed for my coin collection. I was totally and completely hooked.

I soon figured out that you could go to the bank, get two rolls of pennies…50 per roll…for a buck. I’d take the 100 coins home and search them for coins I needed. I also would line the 100 coins up in order of condition, so I guess that’s how I learned to grade, comparing one coin to the other, over and over and over again. I’d return the coins, trade at the bank for nickel rolls, trade nickel rolls for penny rolls and on and on, constantly searching thru coins.

In 1961, at age 14, I discovered coin shops. A friend of mine at school (8th grade) was also a coin collector. His dad was a coin collector too. His dad collected Morgan and Peace dollars and every Friday he cashed his paycheck at the bank in silver dollars…remember, this was 1961 and silver dollars were in circulation and available at face value from the banks. My friend’s dad would check the silver dollars he got at the time for coins he needed for his collection. He put the few coins he found into his collection and then used the rest to pay his bills. One Saturday they took me to the local coin shop. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. Coins all over the place…and the bid boards…coin after coin hung on the wall and being auctioned every Saturday afternoon. I was also working in my parents business (draperies) and I was very involved in sports. But every night and every Saturday afternoon from then on it was coins, coins, coins. I stayed at the coin shop in downtown Santa Ana all day long every Saturday, looking at the coins on the bid board over and over again. The shop owner, Andy Verbance, was amazed at my enthusiasm. He gave me odd jobs, sorting pennies, sweeping up, etc. and at the end of each Saturday gave me a few Indian pennies or something like that.

I soon figured out that you could sell coins and make a profit. My first deal…I bought a BU roll (50 coins) of 1961 Philadelphia Lincoln cents for $1.50. I took them to school and sold them to my classmates for 10 cents each. They say, “Why would I want to buy a penny for a dime?” I’d say, “But this is not an ordinary penny. Look in your pocket. All your pennies have a D on them. They are from the Denver Mint. But my brand new never-been-in-circulation pennies do not have a D on them. They are from the Philadelphia Mint and they are much rarer than the Denver coins.” Amazingly, I sold all 50 pennies in one day. This is a true story! I had become a coin dealer.

As a 15 to 18 year old, I developed a bid board route. I’d buy BU rolls and proof sets and break them up and hang lots of individual coins on the local bid boards (the owner took a modest 10% cut). At the time there were four coin shops in downtown Santa Ana. Today, there are four coin shops in Orange County. I could buy a proof set for five dollars for example, do a whole bunch of work and end up making 75 cents profit. But I did it a lot and it was fun and addicting.

As I started to drive, I expanded my bid board route. I went all the way to Dick Striley’s coin shop in Compton. Dick’s son Mark is still in the coin business and comes to the Long Beach coin shows. During the Watts riots, Dick sat on the roof of his coin shop with a shot gun. I also started buying and selling between dealers at this time, buying from one guy and selling to another. A few dealers that knew me gave me coins on consignment and I drove around selling coins to dealers. I sold my first “bullion” coin in 1966, a Mexican 50 peso.

I went to my first coin show in 1966…the Long Beach Coin Show! It was really different then, almost all BU rolls and proof sets. I remember that one dealer had two cases at his table and both cases were filled up with 1957 proof sets. That’s all he had on display…1957 proof sets. He must of had over 1000 of them. I bought five or ten sets for my bid board route.

At the time (1966 or so) all the local dealers would go to Coin-A-Rama City in Hawthorne every Wednesday night for a mini-show. I think Ron Gillio would even drive down from Santa Barbara. That’s where I first saw Steve Deeds, trying to sell some rolls of 1955 P, D, & S dimes to George Pateras.

From 1967 to 1971 I wasn’t very involved with coins. I was in college and also playing in a crappy rock band at nights, trying to be a rock and roll star. In 1972 it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to be a professional musician, so I sold all my guitars and amps, took the money and started doing bid boards again, and also setting up at swap meets. The timing was good, gold and silver were taking off and the coin market was heating up. It was at this time I got into better type coins and gold. I met a few serious collectors and hustled coins to them. I was really into Gem type coins. I’d go to the shows and hang out with specialists like Hank Rodgers. I also started traveling the National coin show circuit…my first ANA was New Orleans in 1972. From then on it was up and up (OK some downs too) as I dealt in better and better coins. But after 1972 is another story altogether…we’ll save that for another blog.

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Comments (3)


  1. […] the PCGS Blog, David Hall tells the story of how he got started in coin […]

  2. Ed says:

    Great Story. One never realizes they are “working” 70 hours a week at what they enjoy. Life is good!

  3. Win Callender says:

    This is a great story, David. I’ll look forward to hearing the rest. Thanks for sharing.

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