by Bonnie Stichart
Red Line Coins has been a presence on West Garland in Spokane, Washington, for thirty years! Tom Ehler, the owner of Red Line Coins, has been collecting since he was a child; his grandmother introduced him to the hobby when he was only ten. He worked at a Spokane coin shop for three years while still in his teens. When Tom bought Red Line Coins in 1985, he already had a lot of experience.
Coin collecting as a hobby has been around for almost as long as coins have been minted – about 2,600 years! Coins were invented for very practical purposes: it makes commerce easier by eliminating the need to barter with equivalent items, and it makes the storage of wealth easier. Merchants were possibly the earliest coin collectors, as it is much easier to store a bag or box of coins than a barn full of grain. Many of today’s collectors also save coins for their intrinsic value – the value of the gold, silver, or platinum that the coin is made from.
It didn’t take long before some people went beyond basic worth and started enjoying the beauty of the coins. During the Renaissance, coin collecting emerged as a popular hobby, but it was, by necessity, restricted to the wealthy. Not for nothing was it called the “Hobby of Kings.”
The hobby of coin collecting has become more democratic over the years. Now, even children can start a coin collection with their pennies. If they start with a common coin such as the Memorial Lincoln cent, which was minted from 1959 through 2008, it is fairly easy for them to find a penny for each year.
Coin collectors range in seriousness from beginners and casual collectors, to long-time collectors who have learned much about the subject. Red Line Coins can help collectors at both ends of the spectrum, as well as everyone in between.
While Red Line Coins does specialize in rare and old coins, many others are also available. Collectors have various goals: some collect coins in a series, foreign coins, coins from a particular historical era, or coins of the same denomination. Red Line can help people reach their goals. “People get really excited when they finally find a coin that will complete their collection,” Tom said. “That’s one of the fun things about dealing in coins, to be able to share in their excitement.”
Sometimes people inherit a coin collection and are not sure what to do with it. Tom can help; first with a free verbal appraisal so they will have a better idea of the value. Then, if they decide to sell, Tom will give them a fair price.
Verbal appraisals are helpful for individuals, but insurance companies need written appraisals, as do some attorneys when dealing with estates. Tom can also provide these.
Red Line Coins also buys precious metals in the form of jewelry, gold and silver scrap, sterling silver tableware, bullion, and even gold crowns. Most people are not trained to see the difference between costume jewelry and gold or silver; asking about jewelry is one of the most common questions Tom gets. To identify the metal, Tom can do tests; also, some clasps have marks to show what kind of metal it is.
Whether one is buying or selling, it is safer to deal in person with Tom at Red Line Coins rather than using the Internet or a mail carrier. This eliminates the risk of items being lost in the mail, and, if selling, Tom can pay cash right away. No waiting!
Dealing with a person who is trustworthy is certainly an advantage. Red Line Coins was recently recognized by a local rating service as one of the two top stores in Spokane. Last year Tom was awarded “Coin Dealer of the Year” by Consumer Business Review; the occasion was written up in a local newspaper. For those who are extremely cautious, they can be assured that Tom isn’t going anywhere. After thirty years in the same location, he’s not about to suddenly move.
Getting a second, or even a third opinion is prudent, especially when selling. Bullion is easy; it has a set price. But the value of coins can vary quite a bit, depending on rarity, condition, and how good the buyer is at determining value.
“A family came in with a gold piece they needed to sell to pay for their father’s funeral,” Tom related. “They had been to a couple of other dealers who offered between two and three thousand. I suggested sending it to a professional grading service. It came back certified as both authentic and very high grade. I gave them $10,000.00 for it.”
Very few coins will end up being that valuable, but it never hurts to find out for sure.
Red Line Coins is located at 461 West Garland in Spokane and is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tom is available on Saturdays by appointment only. He can be reached by phone at 509-327-9402; out-of-town people can call toll free – 866-327-9402. For a more comprehensive listing of the items Tom buys and sells, and more information about Red Line Coins, take a look at the website – www.redlinecoins.com.
If you have favorite memories of coins you were given, or collected by an elder, share your story in the comments below.