by BETH ALTENA
Rockford resident George Mayhak understands the allure of that perfect coin, the pull to look through just one more coin collection to see what might be there, and the surprise and excitement of realizing what you have is rare and valuable.
All that will be arriving in Rockford at the Rockford Sportsmans Club, 11115 Northland Drive, Sunday, March 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mayhak, a veteran coin collector, was bitten by the bug long ago and has attended many coin shows. He has his favorites and looks for more and new treasures at every show. Like fishing, there are no guarantees, but the fun of the hunt itself. However, enough Cinderella stories are out there to keep the curious coming back for more. Followers of the hobby hear about folks who inherit an estate and find a cache of coins tucked away with a rare find included in the mix worth thousands.
Mayhak said coins are most often passed between dealers and the public, as well as being passed down through generations. He too has heard stories of someone remodeling a house and, taking down a wall, found a hoard of old coins. Anyone following metal detecting sites online will be tantalized by the uncovering of old coins, war relics, other treasures that come from times long past.
“Every couple of months you read about it,” Mayhak said. “old hidden caches in a house that was torn down.” He said just recently here in Michigan a standing liberty quarter turned up when someone was digging a foundation for a house.
And any of these may turn up at a coin show. Mayhak said he hopes for a good mix of dealers and visitors to the upcoming coin show. People can bring in their own coins to learn more about them, or just browse through the collections of others. Over time, people can tend to settle on favorites that they are happy to come across.
“I like Morgan silver dollars. They aren’t around anymore,” Mayhak stated. Those coins were made from 1878 to 1904 and then again in 1921.
Mayhak said the hobby can be absorbing and he has educated himself through reading and studying, especially on grading the condition of coins, which can make a great difference in the value. Mint state coins rate an M70 grade. An almost uncirculated coin may fall into a grade of between 60 up to 70.
Most commonly collected are pre-1964 silver coins, but at coin shows people will see world coins, ancient coins and modern coins. American silver eagles are an investment in silver coin bullion. They are beautiful coins with a silver content of 99.99-percent. Silver eagles sell for $16.50 an ounce. Gold sells for $1,225 an ounce. In each case if you are going to buy these there is a two-percent markup from the mint.
People can just buy the metal as an investment. These are known as “stackers.” People who believe precious metal will be rising in value may be interested in buying either gold or silver.
There are also collectible non-coin tokens, either old or new. It used to be common to bring back a coin from a vacation resort, historic site or other significant places. That practice is far from dead. The City of Rockford and the Rockford Department of Public Safety each have commemorative coins available for purchase.
Anyone can be a coin collector, Mayhak believes. He said many dealers will give children a wheat penny to get them interested in the hobby. The last wheat pennies were minted in 1958 and are a rare find in change these days, but still turn up often enough to cause excitement.
Ebay has had an effect on the hobby, but not a bad one. Mayhak said coin sales on ebay actually have enhanced the sport of collecting. “It is such a huge market, a million people see it.” He said eBay is a good place to buy and sell coins. Knowlegable buyers can tell from a photo that a coin is selling below its actual value and purchase a coin for $50 that is worth $200.
Online the Michigan State Numismatic Society offers tips on coin collecting and there are many, many forums and websites online. At the coin show there will be coin collecting supplies, such as books, folders and albums for storing coins. There will even be displays of jewelry and other items.
As for that one, perfect coin Mayhak couldn’t walk away from? “I haven’t run across that yet,” he said. Maybe he will come across it at the upcoming coin show. “You never know what’s going to be there. That’s why you go.”