Making head or tails of coin history

By Dean Wright -

Some the coins displayed at MTS Coin Company are as old as 1800.

Some the coins displayed at MTS Coin Company are as old as 1800.

Dean Wright | Daily Tribune

GALLIPOLIS — Few items display the development of a nation’s history like a coin.

MTS Coin Company makes it their business to understand the history behind rare American coins and currency as a specialty by either helping clients find the right kind of coin they are looking for, or selling and trading with their current stock.

Arguably, MTS Coin Company’s business is history of business and finance as they are required to understand the values of precious metals throughout time and the manner in which money was distributed through the ages.

The store sits at the corner of Second Avenue and Grape Street in Gallipolis and was founded in 1976 between three partners who began collecting coins while in college. Tom Tope said this was between 1964 to 1986. The original three partners were Tope, Marc Sarrett and James Magnussen.

Tom said his uncle was originally a coin dealer and insurance salesman in Ashland, Ohio. The group would go to see him on holidays and buy coins as investments. Gold $20 coins were around $60 each in the late 1960s and are now considered well over $1,200.

“We would take $100 and pull them together,” Tope said. “We’d go up there and would have $300 to spend and we’d think we were making an investment. It got us away for the day and we enjoyed it.”

Eventually, the three colleagues would buy a large collection of coins around $10,000 and felt they needed to open a shop because, as collectors, they couldn’t “digest” all of those items. The three started in a building which used to be a broom factory located near is now the Gallia Academy Middle School on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The building eventually burned down and the colleagues moved their location. However, they would always take their coins with them at the end of the night so nothing of major value was lost in the fire beyond the structure itself.

In 1990, the colleagues moved to their current location after the facility was geared toward a business for jewelry and coins. What was originally one case of coins has grown into seven cases worth of coins and currency. Coins owned by the business number in the thousands and a single coin can be well worth a few thousand dollars to the right buyer.

“If you want to do something, specialize and be good at what you’re doing,” Tope said.

MTS Coin Company is a Professional Coin Grading Service dealer and they take pride in making certain a coin fits the right value through expert oversight. Tope said that when the grade of a coin holds several thousands of dollars at stake, one needs make sure clients and the business are getting fair purchases.

Tope and his colleagues could write books with the wealth of knowledge they hold in the history of coins. Tope shared a story about Maybelle McIntyre, the wife of New York newspaper columnist Oscar Odd McIntyre.

“Morgan dollars are the number one collectible coin,” Tope said. “They were made between 1878 to 1921. It’s a nice big, fat silver coin.”

Tope said that oftentimes the coins were given out as gifts and birthday presents.

“(Maybelle McIntyre) called me one afternoon and said, ‘Tom, what are you paying for silver dollars?’” Tope said. “I said $4 a piece. She said, ‘Well, I’ve been putting them in a handbag and taking them to New York City and getting $2 a piece.’”

Tope met with Mrs. McIntyre to discuss the coins.

“She brought 900 coins stacked,” Tope said. “I said, ‘Mrs. McIntyre. I just thought you had 20 or 30 of them.’ She said she would come back tomorrow. She kept bringing them down. I told her, ‘Mrs. McIntyre, that coin is worth $700. This one is a $5 one and this is a $50 one.’ When we were done, she had 1,800 (coins). She had bought five bags back in the (Great Depression) and said she had been giving them out to a kid that had (mowed) their yard or to an (employee) at Christmas time.”

Overall, Tope said Maybelle had handed out maybe 3,200 of the coins. Mrs. McIntyre at the time did not know the true worth of the coins as their value had increased with time. Mrs. McIntyre died in 1985. She lived to be 101.

“I think we wrote her a check for $18,000 that day,” said Tope.

In the end, Tope said coin and currency collecting, as well as the business behind it, is all about appreciating the stories behind the coin and not just their value.

“Enjoy the hobby and enjoy what you’ve spent for yourself,” Tope said. “Don’t look at it as, ‘I paid $50 and I’ll sell (an object) for $60.’ A hobby and coin collecting is something you should enjoy, personally. You buy stock to get a dividend and make money. You buy an 1895 silver dollar to appreciate, enjoy and know that you’re saving it for the future. An 1895 silver dollar you’ll see (worth) $30,000 to $50,000.”

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

Some the coins displayed at MTS Coin Company are as old as 1800. the coins displayed at MTS Coin Company are as old as 1800. Dean Wright | Daily Tribune

By Dean Wright