CHEYENNE – Every coin has a story. And so does every coin dealer.
Amy Bates, a novice coin dealer who participated in the Cheyenne Coin Expo last weekend, is no exception.
Several years ago, Bates discovered boxes of old coins in the basement of the home she shared with her husband, Frank Jones.
“He asked if I had any interest in looking at them,” recalled Bates, who “wishes coins could talk so I could hear their story.”
Jones had owned a coin shop in Laramie for a few years in the 1960s while he was attending the University of Wyoming. He sold the business after graduation, but kept some of his 25,000-piece collection in his basement. When Bates found them “she wanted to know what they were,” Jones said. “One thing led to another, and here we are.”
The couple doesn’t own a brick-and-mortar store, but instead does business at three or four coin shows a year. On February 14, they drove 70 miles from their home in Wheatland, and joined 17 other dealers at the Red Lion Hotel and Conference Center for the three-day show in Cheyenne.
“It took me about three hours to set up,” said Bates, who wears white gloves when she handles some of the rarer pieces.
“It’s all about appearance. If there are dings or scratches in it – all of that brings down the value,” she said, pointing to one of her personal favorite pieces, a Carson City Morgan Dollar, which was created in the 1880s at the now-closed Carson City Mint.
“I think about all of the history, especially in the older coins,” said Bates, who was wearing a necklace with an early 1900s $20 St. Gaudens gold piece attached to it.
Giving people the chance to collect a piece of history is one of the reasons why Bill Arnold, who organized the weekend event, started putting on coin shows in Cheyenne 14 years ago.
“You can tell how a country’s doing – or was doing – on if they used gold or silver to make (a coin),” said Arnold, whose grandfather first exposed him to coin collecting when he was a kid.
It came full circle about two years ago, when Arnold’s 9-year-old grandson, Brennan, caught the coin-collecting bug. On Saturday, he was helping his grandfather sell some of the inventory – and taking stock of a few he might want to add to his growing 200-piece personal collection.
Although Brennan said he’s interested in coins “from all different dates and different countries,” his favorite piece to collect is the Morgan Dollar, a silver-dollar piece of U.S. currency that was in circulation from 1878-1921.
Bates, the coin dealer who came to the show with her husband, had already sold dozens of Morgan Silver Dollars, which can range in price from $10 to $100, by Saturday afternoon. When she packs up to go home today, she’ll carefully stack the leftovers into red cardboard boxes, until next time.
Despite turning some profits, Bates considers working the coin show circuit with her husband “more of a hobby” that’s enriched their relationship.
“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Bates said. “It’s been a good thing for us to do together. It’s brought us closer.”