Publish Date: 3/14/2010

Coin show at county fairgrounds

By Scott Rochat
© 2010 Longmont Times-Call

LONGMONT — When Gene Murren was a kid, silence was copper.

“My great uncle was one of those guys who said kids should be seen and not heard,” said Murren, a Longmont coin collector and dealer. “So to keep us from making too much noise ... he’d put all his pennies in a bowl. Anything we found that was 1959 or older, we could keep.”

That started the fascination. And by now, it has gone well beyond common cents.

On Saturday, Murren was one of 57 dealers on hand for the start of the two-day Front Range Coin Club coin show at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. Last year’s show drew nearly 300 people curious about silver dollars, Liberty dimes and even steel pennies.

“For me, it started with my mom’s 1943 steel penny that she kept in her purse,” said dealer Neal Hatgi of Denver, a collector for 33 years. “She had been carrying it since way back when.”

He still keeps some on hand for the curious. But perhaps his favorite in a wide-ranging collection is a 1933 1-ounce silver piece, struck in Denver for the World’s Fair in Chicago.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Hatgi said, showing off the detailed landscape on the dollar-sized coin. “It’s not very rare — they made about 10,000 of them — but in nice condition, it’s hard to find.”

Similar small pieces of history covered the tables of the show. A $60 note printed in 1729. A Dutch coin recovered from a 1702 shipwreck. An 1873 dime, just a short walk away from collections of German, Australian and Guatemalan currency.

For some, the investment value counts for as much as the history. Rudy Munguia, a coin speculator from Loveland, noted that coins tend to hold their “numismatic” value, even if the underlying metal rises or falls in price.

“Now is the best time to buy coins — there’s some real bargains to be had,” Mun-guia said. Dealers have to keep the cash flow going, he said, so in a tight economy, coins may be marked down slightly. But some of his best acquisitions, he said, have come from government and online auctions.

“Some of these auctions go on in the middle of the night and are over before you realize it,” he said. “There’s some opportunities if you’re smart about it.”

Some prizes are more obvious than others. Scott Sherwood, a Westminster dealer, pointed out a few coins made of platinum — a metal trading at about $1,600 an ounce.

“With China buying 25,000 cars a week, it’s a good bet that platinum and palladium are going up,” he said.

But other discoveries are a little more subtle, such as the 2004 Wisconsin state quarter. Some of those quarters were accidentally minted with an extra corn leaf in the image, and can be worth $300 to $500.

“That’s what makes the hobby exciting,” Hatgi said. “You can still find something special in your pocket change.”

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Coin dealer Dale Orlowski sorts through his stock during the coin
show Saturday at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont.
Lewis Geyer/Times-Call

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