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Coin club about history as much as the collecting

If you’re looking for a new hobby in the new year, you may want to cash in on coin collecting.

The Pahrump Valley Coin Club is looking for members to join their informal, but informative group.

Terry “Smitty” Smith, club president, recently started hosting the meetings the first Wednesday of every month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at his business, Smitty’s Cards & Coins West, 2281 E. Postal Road, Suite 4.

Smith is hoping more members will join them on a week night. The club previously met on Saturday at another location. So far, attendance has been on the rise.

The club is hoping to attract kids and young adults. Smith thinks 20 and up is a good age group for coin collecting since these individuals usually have an income that can be put into the hobby. He said kids usually have to rely on parents and grandparents to buy them coins while mature collectors are more likely to be inquisitive about coins and interested in attending shows.

Smith began collecting coins when he was 11. He became a coin dealer starting as vest pocket collector at 19 when a vendor at a mall in Pittsburgh, Kansas gave him some space to sell his coins.

Smith described a vest pocket collector as someone who deals in coins as a hobby for a secondary income. Now, it is his full-time career.

Ron Dennis, the club’s secretary/treasurer, is one of the original members of the club, which started several years ago.

He got interested in coins when he was a kid growing up in southern New Jersey where his father was in the amusement machine business which included pinball machines and jukeboxes.

Dennis said they would find all kinds of unique coins in the collections from the machines and that “spurred” his interest.

“You pick out some of the old, you know, the old Morgan quarters and dimes and things that were kind of fading out of circulation,” Dennis said. “Today, most of the stuff you have in circulation is all the same stuff, although there are exceptions. But back then, there was a mix of the older coins and the newer ones and sometimes the old, old ones we’d pick them out.”

One of the many pieces of currency in Smith’s collection includes a $1 silver educational note dated 1896 with artwork featuring the U.S. Constitution, the Washington Monument and a woman draped in a flag instructing a young boy. George and Martha Washington appear on the reverse side.

It is unknown how many were minted. According to Smith, there were also $2 and $5 bills in this line of silver notes.

Continental currency from the Colonial era is also very collectible and states “To Counterfeit Is Death” which was the punishment for that crime back then.

“There are people who collect foreign stuff, there are people who collect only USA stuff, there are people who collect currency,” Dennis said. “There are a lot of specialized kinds of collecting in the whole realm of collecting.”

Another category is the collection of exonumia, or tokens, including subway, bus, parking, Civil War and other designated tokens resembling coins.

Throughout the years, some mines and other industries gave their workers tokens to use as money in the company store.

Smith described these tokens as “so-called dollars”.

“They’re usually commemoratives that were made up and they’re called a so-called dollar’,” Smith explained. “People collect them because they were like a dollar. In order to be a coin, it has to have a denomination and be made by the government. Other than that, it’s not a coin, it’s a token.”

James Murdock, vice president, started collecting as a kid in Arizona going on excursions with his parents whom he described as “rock hounds.” Murdock said they gathered rocks, semi-precious and precious stones, metals, and all kinds of things. His father also collected coins since he ran a gas station.

Murdock’s main focus is foreign coins and he estimates there are thousands in his stash, not necessarily valuable, but very interesting.

“I chose foreign coins as my specialty because you see more animals, people and history listed on coins from other countries than you do in our own country,” Murdock said. “Our coins have primarily been limited to either the figure of liberty or to presidents. And, let’s face it, if you’ve seen FDR on a dime for the last 50 years, there’s not much new happening with him.”

He explained that if you examine coins from England, the face of the coin will feature the queen, but the back of the coin often changes and includes bits and pieces of history.

Murdock didn’t have to travel very far to acquire many of his foreign coins. He used to work at a casino in Las Vegas and with so many international visitors, foreign money is plentiful.

“In a casino, most foreign coins go right in the trash, they don’t try to reimburse for them, they just throw them away,” Murdock said.

Smith recently acquired a mining token found in the foreign coin box at a Pahrump casino. It contains 0.10 ounce of gold and is surrounded by pure silver. He researched it and said it commemorates 125 years of mining in Nevada.

Dennis said the club meetings are an educational experience with lots of conversation among the collectors.

You hear of other people’s experiences, you sometimes see somebody’s find that they bring in and they show you what they found,” Dennis said. “It’s really an educational time and a very interesting time at the meetings.”

“We love to educate anybody over any coin they have, something their grandparents may have had or their great-grandparents,” Murdock added.

Smith mentioned a newcomer who attended one of the meetings after seeing their ad in the Pahrump Valley Times. He must have asked 100 questions about coins and that’s what members of the club encourage.

“It was one of our best meetings because we had somebody new that was inquisitive about so many things to do with coins,” Smith added.

Visitors are always welcome to stop by a meeting.

“If anybody finds an unusual item, coin, token, whatever, and would like to have identification or even knowledge about it, bring it on in to the club,” Murdock said. “We can help identify it. We have many people who believe they’re experts and some that actually are.”

For more information on the Pahrump Valley Coin Club call Ron Dennis at 702-339-9748.

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