SOUTHGATE SNIPPETS - Show and Tell Column

Southgate's frontline assistant Somer Athari shares her insights into the rare coin business.

Show and Tell Column

By Somer Athari

Hi. My name is Somer. I am a 20-year-old college student employed part-time at Southgate Coins in Reno, Nevada. Because my major is English Writing, my employers at Southgate Coins found it apt to put me to work in my field of expertise; hence this column.

When I started here in January, I knew nothing of coins, especially collectible coins like those from the Carson City Mint. In fact (just FYI), I am a native of Nevada and I never knew Carson City even had a mint. (I suppose the Las Vegas schools never found it fit to make their students aware of this bit of history from our northern capital.)

Since the beginning of my employment here at Southgate Coins, I have observed many of the conversations, people, and interesting facts brought up in the store on a daily basis. Every day, I am challenged with more and more information about the numismatic field that intrigues me to the point that I too am now incredibly interested in this somewhat expensive hobby (for a college student anyway).

Due to my age, there are many things that I was unaware of in this hobby. For example, it was news to me when I found out that the United States Treasury issued coins with denominations such as a half cent, two-cent, three-cent, and a twenty-cent piece. For most of you visiting this Web site, I am sure this is common knowledge, but it was bizarre to me. It really gives me a sense of what was important to our newly developing nation at the time these unusual coins were issued.

Another thing that I am sure that you readers will laugh about is, I had no idea that proof sets existed. After I became conscious of this wonderful item (which was later that day), I checked some of the prices of my friend’s birth years and my own as well. When I found out the affordability of these particular years, I was ecstatic! I know now what everyone I know will be getting for gifts, this year! After I found those prices to be in my range, I thought that I might want to collect all the proof sets, eventually. But after checking all the dates in the series, I realized quickly that there are some key dates that are way out of my range, one being the 1999 proof set which is substantially more expensive than say the 1983 set, which only cost me seven dollars.

My advice for all who read this column is this; the Red Book (A Guide Book of United States Coins 2004) will become your coin bible. I can't even tell you how many times this book has saved my life working at Southgate Coins. I am learning, but I can't know everything there is to know about coins, so believe me when I tell you that this book is a necessity if you are interested in coins, although sometimes it is just beneficial to know how to spell these words and not know everything about them. I found in our local Reno newspaper the other day, a little girl who won the statewide spelling bee for spelling the word numismatic, correctly. A little eighth grader has a more extensive vocabulary than I did when I started this job. Maybe it's something that they feed the kids now! Who knows for sure?