Join the Club

Posted on 8/16/2012

Coin clubs are an excellent place for beginner collectors to explore the hobby.

I was very fortunate to have grown up in the Tampa Bay area of central Florida in the early 1970s. My first interest in coin collecting began the old fashioned way–filling a Lincoln Cent album. This however, was a solitary endeavor. Eventually I made my way to the local coin shop in Dunedin, Florida. It was the classic ”hole in the wall“ operation. There was one long counter of showcases, and just enough room to move around. The proprietor was Ed French, a Florida coin dealer who is still active today. Saturday was the most active day of the week for the shop, as many of the colorful locals would stop by, some for the entire day. As my interest and knowledge in rare coins grew, I started to help in the shop on occasion. Of course, my parents insisted that school work come first, but my true passion was numismatics.

My passion in rare coins was nurtured by numerous individuals around this time, but the greatest influence was the many local coin club meetings I was able to attend. In the 1970s there were many very active coin clubs in the Tampa Bay area, all within a 30 mile drive. There were club meetings in Clearwater, Tampa, Largo, St. Petersburg, and others. Some actually met twice per month to give you an idea of how popular the meetings were.

My father traveled a great deal when I was growing up and my mother did not drive. Luckily, a few of the club regulars would come by the house and pick me up for the meetings each week. I am still very grateful for this kindness that was paid to a young and unproven numismatist. The meetings themselves were extremely active affairs. Several of the local vest pocket dealers would set up shop in the back of the room with what seemed to me at the time to be an incredible display of merchandise. One old timer by the name of Colonel Jefferies always had the best coins, and eager buyers would greet him at his car when he arrived. As an interesting side note–poor old Colonel Jefferies was killed at his home during a robbery at the age of 90–something. Happily, he shot and killed his assailant during the robbery.

One of the highlights each month was the auction held at the conclusion of each meeting. Everyone loves a bargain, and the auctions were always hotly contested affairs. Eventually I started to consign coins and this was actually my first taste of being a professional numismatist. Each meeting also had an educational presentation by one of the members. I can still remember some of these talks and how coin collecting came to life during these eloquent presentations. At one point, I gained the courage to give a talk of my own. It was a terrifying thing for me at the time, but the experience has served me well when speaking to crowds.

As you can tell from my fond memories, coin clubs have a special place in my heart. My company sponsors a club in Lexington, Kentucky each month. There are 25–35 attendees, and we try to have an educational speaker and, of course, the mandatory auction. Coin clubs are an excellent place for beginner collectors to explore the hobby. They meet others with similar levels of interest and have a chance to see coins up close and personal. Collectors can also experience the relationship part of numismatics. I still have close friends that I first met at coin clubs thirty–five years ago.

To be sure, local coin clubs around the country are struggling. The number of collectors nationally has dropped over the years and many clubs have closed up shop. I strongly urge anyone with an interest in coin collecting to join your local coin club. This support will pay dividends far beyond the minimal dues and time required for membership. If there is not a club in your area, contact the American Numismatic Association for information on how to start one. You might be able to persuade the local coin shops to sponsor the events. It’s a great way for them to promote their business.

Coin clubs are an excellent place to bring young people. Many cater to this part of the membership with free coin giveaways and educational presentations. It is also an opportunity to provide mentorship to young collectors. I am very grateful that someone took the time to mentor my budding interest in rare coins.

I probably would not be writing this today if they had not!

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Jeff Garrett bio

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