Saturday, December 11, 2010
The Coin Broker in Palo Alto, California, --------------------- Appeals to Collectors Far and Wide
PaloAltoOnline - 24 September 1997
By Therese Lee
People have an instinct to collect, says Jim Beer, owner of The Coin Broker in Palo Alto's Town & Country Village. Beer founded his establishment more than 16 years ago to satisfy this instinct on a worldwide scale--with a personal touch.
"Practically everyone collects something," Beer said. Even animals have this instinct, he adds, citing pack rats (as in the busy-tailed rodent, not one of your in-laws) as a prime example. "And most everyone has an interest in history." Open since 1980, The Coin Broker offers an extensive collection of United States and foreign currency. The volume of his material sets his store apart from other coin shops, Beer said.
He offers the largest collection of Confederate coin and currency on the West coast. He has also had the privilege of selling the finest version of the 1870 "S" silver dollar; only 12 of them were ever made by the U.S. government. His shop also features a comprehensive selection of supplies and books for all avid "numismatists" (coin collectors), regardless of age.
"There are lots of young people starting out" in coin collecting, Beer said. "We try to take as much time as possible to help educate them. A lot of stores don't do that, but we make the time."
Beer, a retired civil engineer, regularly tells his customers the stories behind the coins. Like how the labeling of 1883 nickels--originally only varked with the Roman numeral "V" -- was revised to include the word "cents" after racketeering had become too rampant.
Young aficionados are the collectors that will support the coin collection industry in the future. Thus, he has been happy to see the number of coin collectors increase dramatically over the last five years, although it has meant he has had to be more aggressive in seeking out desirable coins.
"The demand is far outstripping the supply in rare coins," he said. He conducts worldwide searches at shows and auctions. And just as he travels far and wide to find rare coins, his store is visited regularly by international collectors from countries as far away as China, Israel and Germany. Word of mouth is Beer's best publicity.
Beer himself has been a collector since 1950. His personal collection began with early Americana coins and steadily grew from there--much like his business. "Our volume has increased every year in the retail rare coin trade," he said.
The store's extensive display space is unusual in the business, Beer said. Many of his customers tell him "it's almost like a museum to come in her and look around." Coins over 2,000 years old are regularly featured on the shelf, although Beer is quick to point out that age does not guarantee high value.
His shop features coins that range in price from $1 to $1 million and caters to everyone from hobbyists to dilettantes to professional collectors.
"Coin collecting," he said, "is something people can do throughout their lifetimes."
NOTE: Jim Beer is the son of the late Joe Beer and Reavis (Montgomery) Beer of Centerville. He grew up on the family farm east of Jerome. The family were active members of the Jerome Methodist Church.