Question: Mr. Bowers, do you remember the first coin you ever purchased – either for your own collection or for your business? – M. K.
Answer: Thank you M. K. for your question. When I first became interested in numismatics in 1952 I began filling two Whitman “penny boards” with coins from circulation. The first blue folder had openings for issues from 1909 to 1940 and the second began in 1941, if I remember correctly. During the first month or two I found most of the varieties, but never did come across a 1909-S V.D.B. (a circulated example of which was worth all of about $10 at the time), a 1914-D or a 1931-S. Within a year I began attending the Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) Coin Club, often as the guest of George P. Williams, an insurance agent who lived in Kingston, next to my hometown of Forty-Fort. At the club there were all sorts of items for sale.
Meanwhile, closer to home, I learned of a Forty-Fort collector named Mr. Evans, who also raised tropical fish. He had a number of bright Uncirculated Indian Head cents for sale at $1 each and I bought as many different dates as I could, these being the later dates. From Copley Coin Company I purchased my first mail order coin, which I mentioned in an earlier installment of this column, a Proof 1859 Indian cent for $11.
By 1953 I was what they called a vest-pocket dealer, or a part-time dealer with a stock of coins, but not as a main business. Indeed, I was in junior high school. A particularly expensive buy at the time was from a dealer who had a shop in the Hotel Redington in Wilkes-Barre. He sold stamps, hobby goods, coins and other things. He had a beautiful Gem 1854 $3 piece -- which I had never seen before. It was priced at $35 and before I walked out I was its proud new owner.