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Stories, things to do, and one of a kind tips from downtown Cape Girardeau.
A Hobby that is Literally Worth Something
A Hobby that is Literally Worth Something
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Did you know that the largest silver artbar dealer in the world is in downtown Cape Girardeau? I sure didn’t, and until this week I didn’t know what a silver artbar was either. Mike Sprouse, owner of River City Coins and Jewelry and – the world’s largest artbar dealer – filled me in during a visit to his shop this week. I discovered that silver artbars are rectangular collector’s items made of silver with engraved artwork that were mostly produced in the 60’s and 70’s after the U.S. stopped using silver in coins which in turn caused an increase in silver interest and value.

During my visit to River City Coins & Jewelry, Mike was kind enough to show me around his shop, give me some coin collecting 101 and share his story.

When I walked in the shop, I carried in a trinket-box full of coins. The box, shaped like a heart with “Toni’s Things” painted on top, held coins that I had thrown in since I was 12 that I thought were interesting or that held special sentimental value. Mike said that people walked in on a daily basis with similar stories of coins they thought may or may not be worth something. We poured mine on the counter, and Mike thumbed through foreign coins, smashed souvenir pennies, a few buffalo nickels and a Kennedy half dollar. The verdict? My buffalo nickel was worth 35¢. Everything else was face value or less.

Since I wasn’t expecting any of my coins to be worth much, I wasn’t that disappointed, so we moved on to bigger and better things. I asked Mike about some of his favorite coins, and he pulled out a buffalo nickel with a 3 legged buffalo and a $20 gold coin. The buffalo nickel (sans one leg) was worth anywhere from $500-$1,000! The $20 gold coin was printed in 1924, and was now worth approximately $1,800! Mike explained that the intrinsic worth of the gold in the coin was $1,200, and the numismatic worth (collector’s value) added another $600 of worth to the coin. Many coins have a raw precious metal value (intrinsic) plus a numismatic value determined by how valuable collectors deem the coin. Mike proudly referred to himself as a numismatist – a student or collector of coins.

As I stood at the counter in River City Coins & Jewelry, I was most impressed with Mike’s knowledge of economics, investing and the precious metals market. As he told his story, I learned he had majored in Economics at SEMO and worked in the banking industry for 10 years before deciding to take a chance on his dream job: buying and selling coins and jewelry. He first opened his shop in Cape in 1985 and moved to the current location downtown in 1993. He laughed in disbelief, as I reminded him he was nearing his 30 year anniversary. Mike confessed that he had collected coins all of his life, and I could tell he had a true passion for the trade.

When I left the store, I couldn’t help but peek at interesting pieces, and I made two mental notes:

  1. Collecting coins is a hobby that is literally worth something.
  2. I really need to add investing in gold to my list of strategies for retirement.

After all, cashing in a $20 gold coin for $1,800 doesn’t sound too shabby.

Author: Toni Eftink is a Project Manager at Element 74 where she leads custom web projects. She has a huge love for downtown Cape Girardeau and small businesses. You can find her on Google+ and Twitter.

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