When you’re a coin collector, habits last a lifetime.
Max Mader, 67, still looks through his change, keeping an eye out for a wheat penny.
These days, the wheat penny, discontinued in 1958, is worth only 3 cents. But checking out the coins in his pocket is just a habit for Mader.
Besides, coin collectors remain forever hopeful. As Justin Timberlake knows, there’s always a chance of finding sunshine in my pocket.
The annual coin show, presented by the Grand Island Coin Club, is underway in Grand Island, as it has been every January for 62 years. Mader has organized the event for the last 25 or 30 years.
Like many activities, coin collecting isn’t as big as it used to be. But the two-day event will still draw about 100 people to Boarders Inn this weekend. The crowd is always bigger on Saturday than it is on Sunday, Mader said.
Twenty dealers from five states are on hand for the show, which has been held at the same hotel, through several different names, for two decades.
As it has for so many things, the Internet has changed the world of coin collecting.
“It used to be you had to go to a coin show to buy coins,” Mader said.
You could buy coins via mail order, but delivery might take three or four weeks. A lot of times, the return policies weren’t very good, Mader said.
Now with online purchases, you can get a coin in a day or two. And probably 90% of Internet dealers are reliable, Mader said. They will take a coin back if it doesn’t meet a buyer’s standards.
But, personally, Mader likes to see a coin before he buys it. Unscrupulous dealers might doctor a picture so that a scratch might not be visible. If he’s going to pay $1,000 for a coin, Mader says, he wants to see the condition of it first-hand.
Another benefit of a coin show is it brings together people who can talk to each other about their shared interest.
One of Saturday’s attendees was Marty Childs of Kearney. He knew just about everybody in the room, because he operated a shop in Kearney for 30 years.
A coin show points out how the world has changed. Fewer people carry around coins, which is bound to affect the hobby.
None of the dealers this weekend accept cards. But most of them will accept a check. So you don’t necessarily have to bring currency to buy currency.
Collector’s interests evolve over the years. A big prize used to be the 1909 S VDB penny. Mader wasn’t asked about one on Saturday.
Interest in paper money is bigger it used to be, Mader said.
People are also buying more gold coins and bullion. Maple Leafs, Krugerrands and American Eagles are popular “just because of the world situation. There’s a little more demand. The stock market’s kind of turbulent,” Mader said.
Ed Bishop of Fremont says $20 gold pieces are a particularly good investment right now because a “huge horde of gold pieces” came out of Europe within the past year.
In buying such a coin, you will acquire almost exactly 1 oz. of gold, Bishop said. You’ll also be buying “a piece of history,” he said.
As examples, he pointed to a Saint-Gaudens’ $20 gold piece, produced in 1908, and a $20 Liberty coin. Production of those coins began in 1849, but the example Bishop had came out in 1873.
Buying either one of them Saturday would have cost $1,545.
Aside from the annual coin show, the Grand Island Coin Club doesn’t meet anymore. The group is down to three members.
What is Mader’s title? “Well, I was the secretary. I guess I still am,” he said.
He hasn’t heard differently. “Yeah, I haven’t been fired yet.”
One of the longtime dealers, Bill Arnold, is especially interested in coins from around the world. Coins in some countries change more often, and the designs are more artistic.
“It’s not like our country, where it’s just a bunch of dead presidents,” said Arnold, who lives in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Arnold, like many people, was introduced to coin collecting by his grandfather. Arnold has a 9-year-old grandson who is now showing interest in the hobby, which makes him very happy.