Monday March 9, 2009
Collectors know what makes coins special
Mistakes add great value, dealer says

by Ashley B. Craig Daily Mail staff


Dig into your pockets and examine your change. That may not be just any old quarter there.

Coin collectors and dealers from across the state gathered over the weekend at the Kanawha Coin Club expo at the Charleston Civic Center.

A few of them just started collecting. Some have been doing it for more than 50 years.

They all see big things in a loose pile of change.

Collector Darrell Crotty of Princeton visited the coin show Sunday to see what his collection is worth. Crotty said he plans to leave the coins to his grandchildren.      Photographer, Tom Hindman

David Hill, 80, owner of David Hill Limited in Barboursville, specializes in coins and stamps. Hill started collecting things in 1938 when he worked selling magazines door-to-door. "Everybody else was collecting things," Hill said. "It was the thing to do then."

Hill opened his shop in the 1970s when he found that he could make money and friends by peddling his vast collection. He had a great deal of his collectibles on display at Sunday's coin show. Some of the items, such as the coin sets and gold doubloons, are worth thousands of dollars.

In a display case next to some paper money from the 1920s was a brand new $50 bill that, to the untrained eye, looked like nothing special.

But Hill motioned to a tiny star printed right next to the serial number.

That little star means the bill was printed to replace another bill that was damaged during the printing process.

Such "star notes" are extremely rare, Hill said.

"Mistakes are usually valuable," he said.

Hill, at one time, had acquired a rare 1943 copper one-cent coin, special only because of a stamping error at the mint.

Thirteen-year-old Theron Linville, a young collector who was helping Hill at his booth Sunday, knew immediately what the problem had been: one-cent coins in 1943 were made of steel.

Only nine copper coins were made in 1943, making them scarce and very pricey.

The one-cent coin could be worth anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 today, Hill said.

Collectors of all ages walked from table to table Sunday, examining the shiny, and not-so-shiny, coins. A father and his son pored over a coin book they purchased from one of the dealers.

Cecil Starcher of Charleston stood at his booth in the corner of the room with a friend, Joe Ceravone.

Ceravone, of Charleston, got hooked on coin collecting after he bought his first coin set in 1986. He said he focuses today more on modern coins, such as the state quarters released in the past few years.

The West Virginia state quarter, featuring the New River Gorge Bridge, was released in 2005. The quarter has been cast in many different metals, Ceravone said.

Some sets released by the U.S. Mint were cast using 90 percent silver. Other less valuable sets were cast using silver-plating over nickel or other less precious metals.

Starcher, who primarily does business over the Internet, displayed many commemorative coins, from silver West Virginia University coins to silver Barbie 40th anniversary coins.

The price for such commemorative coins is typically dictated by the coin's weight in silver or gold and the closing price of the metal.

These prices are included in the weekly Coin Dealer newsletter, which circulates the going rate for coins nationwide.

The coin-dealing business is much like other businesses, Starcher said. There are things buyers should be wary of, such as false coins.

To the inexperienced collector, they are often difficult to discern from authentic coins.

"Before you start collecting anything, buy the book," Starcher advised. "If you don't know what you're getting, don't get it."