USA Coin Album: This Can Be Yours!

Posted on 9/8/2020

The short-lived coin shop franchise.

When the coin hobby was at its peak of popularity during the first half of the 1960s, this success prompted a number of speculative ventures. A few months ago this column featured David A. Christianson's Treasure Hunt coin folders that, when filled, could be redeemed for consumer products such as radios, sewing machines, etc. This time out, I'd like to take a look at a much grander scheme pitched by another capitalist, who offered customers of his service an entirely new livelihood.

The business in traditional collector coins was booming, yet it was the more recent fads for Proof sets and BU (Brilliant Uncirculated) rolls of coins that were driving much of the market at that time. Countless people jumped into the business as self-proclaimed "professional numismatists" of dubious merit. Concurrently, coin shops sprung up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. It was in this climate that one individual decided there could be more money in creating coin shops run by others than by running one himself.

Robert L. Woodside
Soldan High School Yearbook, 1943

Robert L. Woodside of St. Louis joined the American Numismatic Association in April of 1960 as Member 36438, right about the time that the Small Date cents of that year were the focus of a speculative mania. His membership was sponsored by Lewis M. Reagan, the ANA's General Secretary, and he ultimately became Life Member 504.

Five years later, Woodside was operating out of the Siteman Building in Clayton, Missouri as the President of Midas Coin Centers of America, Inc. Believe it or not, this company wasn't advertising its own coin dealings, but rather it solicited franchisees to open a Midas Coin Center shop of their own! "More than a profitable hobby...a profitable business" was its slogan in ads that ran in The Numismatist and other hobby publications during 1965. The company's pitch continued, "The coin industry is booming as never before. A Midas Coin Center, richly furnished in carpeted elegance, represents an extraordinary opportunity: profit margins are substantial, and Midas has become the world leader in franchised coin centers."

Click image to enlarge.

As far as I've been able to determine, Midas was the only such coin shop franchise. It offered exclusive security service, low-cost insurance and bid boards and showcases. Applicants were advised that "Investment is commensurate with location and inventory." The first step was to "Write, Wire or Phone" John F. Primm, National Franchise Director, and order the company's brochure titled Your Sign of Opportunity. Applicants had to possess "excellent character and credit references, be dependable, and be able to make a sufficient cash investment."

Click image to enlarge.

Midas was affiliated with the United States Coin Exchange, one of several coin business teletype services operating at the time to keep dealers apprised of hourly changes in bids for Proof sets, rolls, etc. Writing in the August 2016 issue of The Numismatist, Q. David Bowers noted that Midas offered franchisees the exclusive right to sell "Coinew," one of the many cleaners marketed at a time when collectors disliked toned coins.

The company ran ads from March through October of 1965, during which time it twice relocated. Its press releases stated that five franchise locations were "operating or ready to open." By the end of the year, however, all advertising seems to have ceased, and nothing more was heard of Midas Coin Centers (not to be confused with Midas Coins, Inc., a later coin dealership active in the early 1980s).

Knowing something of the coin market in 1965, it's easy to speculate as to what happened. The BU roll market took a big tumble in the summer of 1964, and the suspension of Proof set sales the same year dampened enthusiasm in that area, too. In July of 1965, a bill passed removing silver from the dime and quarter and greatly reducing it in the half dollar, effective with the 1965-dated coinage. Finally, mintmarks were omitted from the coins dated 1965, with no promise as to when they would be restored. All of these things coalesced to suck the air out of the speculative coin market, which had dominated trade for the past several years. Things only got worse during 1966-67. In short, 1965 was perhaps the worst year for anyone to enter the coin business, let alone open a retail store location. If any Midas Coin Center franchises did operate at all, they wouldn't have lasted very long.

Scotchman Coins in memoriam ad

Robert Louis Woodside was born August 24, 1926 to Robert Preston Woodside and Ruby Delia Farmer. In 1940, he resided at the St. Louis Protestant Orphans Asylum with younger sisters June, Janice and Carol. As a budding collector, his mentor was coin dealer Arthur B. Kelley of St. Louis.

Robert enlisted in the US Army August 24, 1944. He then transferred to the US Army Air Force on December 12, 1945 and was discharged March 1, 1947. Before becoming a professional numismatist, he owned a floor covering business.

After the Midas venture folded, Robert remained in the coin business. He joined Scotchman Coins in 1977, which is still in business today as Scotsman Coin & Jewelry in St Louis. His death was untimely, coming just shy of age 56 on July 27, 1982. The September, 1982 issue of The Numismatist included a full-page tribute from his partner, Harold "Red" Seiler, and his employees, two of whom were Robert's children. He and wife Joan had eight altogether.

David W. Lange's column, “USA Coin Album,” appears monthly in The Numismatist, the official publication of the American Numismatic Association.

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