HomeCollecting StrategiesRare Coin Road Warrior: Dot’s Coins

Rare Coin Road Warrior: Dot’s Coins

Dear Rare Coin Enthusiast,

While some might accuse me of being somewhat of a ‘coin snob’, it has taken a lot of years and millions of dollars in rare coin purchases to get to that point!  You see, when I was a kid I was fascinated by money-any kind of money.  Old coins especially held a special, nearly mystical spot in my heart and mind.  I had the ‘bug’ and I had it bad.

Whenever my family took a trip anywhere, I would have my coin wallet in my pocket with some of my coolest coins, as well as a few bucks in my wallet in case I found anything to buy.  I would visit antique shops, pawn shops, jewelry stores, and banks in search of old coins.  If I couldn’t find anything in the stores, I would find a bank or grocery store and buy rolls of pennies or nickels, find a place to sit comfortably and sort through them for a ‘good’ coin.

Most of the time, the stuff I would run into was pretty ‘run of the mill’.  Generally speaking, I might find some beat up wheat cents, an occasional Indian Cent or Buffalo Nickel (with no date), or once in a while a silver dollar or two.  For the most part these were ‘beat to heck’, ‘common as dirt’, and grossly overpriced, but….I still kept looking.  When you are ‘coin starved’ you will settle for almost anything.

sedaliaThe closest coin club for my buddies and me was in Sedalia, MO and still exists to this day.  Before finding out about the ‘club’, I had spent a little time in Sedalia.  When my folks or grandparents went to Sedalia to shop, I would find an excuse to search the antique shops and banks within walking distance of where my folks were shopping.  There were NO outright brick and mortar coin shops in Sedalia-I knew enough to check the phone book.  Sedalia is a small Midwestern town in West Central MO where some of the first cattle drives met the railroad back in the mid nineteenth century (before the railroad moved farther West).  Sedalia was a railroad town, but it’s biggest ‘claim to fame’ is as the home of the annual Missouri State Fair.

mo_state_fairDuring the annual state fair in roughly 1974, I stumbled onto Dot’s Coins.  Dot’s Coins was a ‘mom and pop’ operation that operated mainly out of their small home by appointment.  During the annual MO state fair (always held in August), Dot and her husband had a booth in one of the trade buildings at the fair with hundreds of coins on display!!!  There were pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and halves.  There were even some silver dollars.  They were ALL real shiny!

After spending ALL the money in my wallet on coins with Dot and her husband (I didn’t even have enough left for a coke), I got a business card and decided I would come see them in Sedalia when I had more money.  Another classmate (who was as nuts as I) convinced his dad to take us to Dot’s house a couple of months later one evening.  We had to pay for his dad’s gas and buy him dinner-of course we thought that was a bargain because we weren’t but 13 or 14 and couldn’t make the thirty mile drive ourselves.

I was still working on my Lincoln Cents and had decided I wanted to try and buy higher grade coins vs. ‘slick’ average circulated G/VG coins.  Dot and (I think his name was Bill) had a nice selection (did I mention they were ALL shiny).  After agonizing over dozens of pennies, I bought a 1909 VDB in BU condition.  It had FULL detail and great luster-or so I thought.  I think I paid $12 or $15 dollars because it was supposed to be Choice BU.  It was my best coin-up to that point-and I couldn’t wait to get home and show it to my dad.

It was a school night and I had to go straight to bed once I got home, but I left my purchases on the kitchen table when I got home because I wanted my dad to see what I bought.  I was really proud of myself and thought I was learning to grade as well as being more discerning in my collecting interests.  The 1909 VDB was ‘after all’ a one year type coin with the designer’s initials on the reverse of the coin.  The bottom line was that I was quite proud of myself and my coin.

The next morning over breakfast, both Mom and Dad asked about my evening and where we went for dinner.  They asked about my friend’s dad and whether I had thanked him for taking me along to Sedalia.  Then they asked what I had purchased.  Although my Mom was trying to be nice, she couldn’t have cared less.  Dad, on the other hand, knew about coins and his Lincoln Cent set had ALL but the 1909-S VDB.  He hadn’t actively collected for quite a few years and I was not allowed to ‘mess’ with his coins, although, he would sometimes get them out and show them to me.  By the way, I STILL have his intact set and IT will NEVER be for sale.

My dad was a great father.  He didn’t want his son to be taken advantage of, but….he let both my brother and I make OUR own mistakes because (many times) we often needed to learn the ‘hard way’.  First he asked what I had bought.  The few semi-key Lincolns for a buck or two each were ok, but he commented about them all being dipped?  I wondered about the shiny surfaces and he explained that they were shiny because they had been dipped in something.  Then I showed him my 1909 VDB.  First he asked me what it graded.   I told him it was a Choice BU!

damaged LincolnThat laugh of his was NOT friendly.  After shaking his head and settling down he told me the coin was at best VF or XF and that it had been ‘whizzed’.   Of course, I was devastated.  And, to make matters worse, I wanted to get a second opinion.  At 13 or 14 you often start to believe that you are smarter than your father.   How come you don’t realize what a ‘fool’ you were until your father is gone?

Of course, the coin had been ‘whizzed’.  Of course, the grade was a ‘net’ VF/XF, and of course Dot’s Coins ‘shined them all up’.

Interestingly enough, there were collectors and dealers I met at the Sedalia (Mid-America) Coin Club who I did business with for years afterwards.  I met and have kept in contact with some wonderful folks who shared their knowledge freely at the monthly meetings there through the mid and late seventies.  There are even a few who I still buy or sell an occasional coin with, but…I never did business with Dot’s Coins again.

Dot and Bill are dead and gone.  Their business model wasn’t markedly different from many dealers back ‘in the day’.  There is an old saying among unscrupulous dealers that goes something like this:  rip em, dip em, flip em, ship em!  Sound familiar?

Vic Bozarth
Vic Bozarth
Vic Bozarth is a member of the Professional Numismatics Guild (PNG), the ANA, the CSNS, FUN, and many other regional and state coin clubs and organizations. Vic has extensive experience buying and selling coins into the mid-six-figure range. Both Vic and his wife Sherri attend all major U.S. coin shows as well as most of the larger regional shows.

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