And as the owner/operator of Richmond’s Western Coins & Stamp, Jim Richardson is equally adept at spotting a needle in a haystack or calling out fool’s gold for what it is.
Having been in the business of collecting stamps, coins and metals since 1983, Richardson now sees something of a renaissance in the hobby. As people have hunkered down over the last two years due to COVID-19, they’ve re-discovering previously forgotten treasures.
“Rare coins in last two years are setting new highs they’ve never set before,” Richardson says. “Everyone at home has time to re-do their collections again. Collections have expanded and prices have been really strong on everything.”
Now 62, Richardson remembers a time when everyone on the block, both young and old, had a stamp collection – now those collectors and clients are predominantly men between the ages of 60 and 80.
Today’s customer base is much younger, with some looking to sell their parents’ collections and others who are intrigued by the historical aspect of coin and stamp collection. To that end, some of the oldest pieces in Richardson’s collection date back to 100 A.D.
Others still are entering the coin collection world simply for the fun and mystique of it.
“I have a nine-year-old who is coming in quite regularly to buy Canadian coins,” Richardson says. “It just fascinates him.”
Despite that five-decade age difference, the same spark keeps Richardson coming back to his hobby of choice. He collects reference materials used to source and price collectibles more so than coins and stamps themselves, but it’s the stories that grab him the most. Richardson has seen or owned coins from countries that no longer exist from centuries ago – those stories allow him to delve deeper into the history of the world.
“What really gets me is when I sell somebody a coin or a stamp and it’s something they’ve been looking for for years,” Richardson says. “When they finally see it and they’re able to get it, it’s a thrill for me to be able to sell it to them.”
With that thrill in mind, Richardson lists a number of how-tos and know-hows for fortune seekers and newbies alike.
First and foremost, those new to the hobby must adhere to the age-old axiom that if something is too good to be true, it definitely is.
“Don’t believe half the things you read on the internet,” Richardson says. “We get phone calls every day and 99 per cent of the time the information the customer has is wrong. At least, buy a book or borrow one from the library to get started.”
Richardson lists three primary and trustworthy sources of information around collecting: the Charlton Standard Catalogue for Canadian currency, the Official Red Book for U.S. coins and Krause Publications for coins from other international locales.
Richardson adds that locating rare and valuable collectibles is best done in traditional, brick-and-mortar outlets.
“You’ve got to deal with a reputable dealer and 99 per cent of the dealers with stores are reputable,” Richardson says. “The ones who are what I like to call ‘hotel buyers’ come around every so often and they are the ones that we don’t trust. No one in Canada does.”
As for the holy cache of coins, Richardson points to three items he’d love to get his hands on.
Number one on his list is a Canadian $500 bill.
“You will hardly ever see one,” Richardson says. “The last one in auction went for over $100,000. It’s not the rarest, but I’ve held one in my hands only once.”
Gold coins issued in B.C. in 1862 are also coveted rarities.
“I’ve seen them, but never held them before,” Richardson says. “There is something about those coins that fits into our history that is so interesting.”
The final piece to Richardson’s treasure triumvirate is an American $20 gold piece issued in 1933.
“At one time, there was only one known in circulation but now there is over a dozen of them,” Richardson says. “It would be very unusual to see one of these.”
Western Coins & Stamp provides competitive pricing for both buyers and sellers. Whether you’re looking for collector stamps from around the world or Canadian Mint products, you can find them at their store. For more information, visit www.westerncoinsandstamps.ca.