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Westminster Coin and Currency Show puts history in hand

On Sunday, Jan. 29, the Westminster Coin and Currency Show will bring collectible coins and paper money to the Westminster fire company's John Street Quarters with more than 30 experts on hand to share that currency and the history that piggybacks every old coin and bill.

The show started with one man's love of money and the history that comes along with collecting it.

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Carl Earl Ostiguy, of CEO Coins, Currency and Treasures in Savage, runs the show. His story proves that coin collecting is not just your grandfather's hobby. Ostiguy was just a kid in 1968 when he earned his first Boy Scout merit badge in coin collecting. Now he is a full-time numismatist — a person who collects and studies currency, coins, paper money, tokens and other related objects.

"I was born in Alaska before it was a state," Ostiguy said. "I guess living on military bases [while] growing up gave me an interest in history."

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For Ostiguy, collecting money presents a fun challenge. He said he is always on the hunt for something new.

"I specialize in early American and Spanish gold doubloons, and I like to look at what happened during the [coin's] time frame," he said.

Westminster fire company member Bob Ruby works with Ostiguy to bring the coin and currency show to town three times a year. Ruby understands the draw to coin collecting. He said his son Greg loved history and could name every president in sequence when he was only 8 or 9 years old, and that interest in history pulled him into coin collecting.

Coin dealer Mark Switzer writes up a purchase for Trysten McCrobie with his mother Phyllis and brother Tucker at the Westminster fire hall Coin and Currency Show at John Street Quarters in Westminster Sunday.
Coin dealer Mark Switzer writes up a purchase for Trysten McCrobie with his mother Phyllis and brother Tucker at the Westminster fire hall Coin and Currency Show at John Street Quarters in Westminster Sunday. (Dylan Slagle / Times File photo)

"When he was just 15 and not old enough to drive, Greg was invited to an international trade show at the World Trade Center in New York as a guest educator, so I drove him. Everyone knew me as Greg's dad," Ruby said with a laugh.

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Greg's story is not unusual. Ostiguy said many collectors and dealers start out just like Greg, with different collectors attracted to different coins and eras.

About 30 U.S. and world coin and currency collectors will set up at the Westminster show, buying and selling old coins and paper money and silver.

"You might start collecting one thing and become interested in another," Ostiguy said, noting that he has turned many collectors into dealers. "If you have an interest in history or a financial interest you might like collecting. Although you can make money on coins, you have to educate yourself first. We always try to tell people to buy the books before the coins. A $20 book can save you hundreds of dollars by keeping you from making a mistake."

Ruby said he has seen all sorts of treasures come through the door. Ostiguy agreed.

"I've seen misprint currency and coins that are misprinted," Ostiguy said. "I like early American money because they didn't have quality control back then. Liberty is sometimes misspelled on the large pennies that were the size of a quarter."

Collector Richard Henderson will be at the show with his U.S. coins and tokens.

"My father started me when I was about 10 years old. He was a coin collector, too," Henderson said. "It is about the history involved in all the coins. There are reasons behind why they look the way they do. You never know whose parka that coin might have been in. A coin can't tell you where it's been."

Henderson spoke of currency we might consider odd and some of the reasons it was made the way it was.

"During the Civil War there were tokens the size of a penny. There was a shortage of small change back then, so they made paper money that was 3 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 15 cents, 25 cents and they did make some 50-cent ones too. Then, during World War II there was a shortage of metals and that affected the coins being produced, too."

Collector John Rusinko said historical stories linked with coins and currency add to the intrigue of collecting. He will set up at Saturday's show, too.

Foreign coins are displayed at the Westminster Coin and Currency Show at the Westminster fire company Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015.
Foreign coins are displayed at the Westminster Coin and Currency Show at the Westminster fire company Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Times File Photo)

"I always liked history," Rusinko said. "I used to look at a coin and think, who could have handled this? I'll hold a 1796 silver dollar, and think, George Washington could have had it in his hand.

Rusinko spoke of the story behind the first U.S. coin made for circulation, a 1792 half disme.

"They said it was made from silverware that was donated by Martha Washington," he said with a laugh. "That story has not been proven to true but it has lingered around for over 200 years and it hasn't been disproven. I found one at a show, purchased it, and I still have it."

Rusinko said coins tell stories of value and beauty.

"A coin is a work of art," he said. "Mint engravers design them, sculpture them and make a cast. It is pretty involved. The 1943 steel penny was made because copper was in short supply due to WWII. There are only 22 copper pennies dated 1943 that were made by mistake. They are worth well into the six figures."

Just like Ostiguy, Rusinko encourages folks to research coins and currency collecting before they start. They may just find an era or a coin that attracts them, and that they might want to collect.

"Go to the library and get a coin book and look at the different designs," Rusinko said. "You could fall in love with a design like an Indian head or the Morgan. They are true works of art. My favorite is a bust half-dollar. They were made from 1807 to 1836. The way liberty is portrayed and the eagle on the back is a neat design. It is a big coin, and they are still pretty much on the cheap side. You could get one, depending on the condition, for $50 or up."

Ostiguy said those starting out in the hobby can spend a little money, or a lot.

"We have coins that start at 10 cents or a quarter, and go all the way up to thousands of dollars," he said. "Anybody can start collecting coins and not feel like they will be priced out of the hobby. Not everybody has gold coins. But at this show we have it all."

According to Rusinko, most collectors love to talk about their coins, and he is no exception.

"The people are very friendly in Westminster," he said. "If anybody has any questions they can bring their coins by and I'll give them a free verbal appraisal, or if they just want to talk about coins. I always seem to meet someone new and I usually buy a small — or sometimes a large — coin collection."

Ruby said the show is worth checking out.

"It's amazing to see some of the stuff people bring in that they want to sell," he said.

For more information: Call Carl Earl Ostiguy at 443-623-7025.

If you go

What: Westminster Coin and Currency Show with about 30 coin and currency dealers

When: Saturday, Jan. 29. Consignment sales 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Westminster fire company's John Street Quarters, 28 John St., Westminster

Admission: Free admission



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