WHEATLAND — As the president of the Wheatland and Greenville coin clubs, Ralph Perrone said the coin collection he’s been building since he was 10 has grown “too big to count.”
But the only coin from the collection he’s ever given away was a 1930 Standing Liberty quarter he used to buy some firecrackers when he was about 12.
“Now every Fourth of July, I think about that coin that got away,” the New Castle resident said.
However, Perrone’s interest in coins started before he even realized it.
At the age of three, Perrone was in a store with his mother when she sat him on the floor. As he crawled around, Perrone said, he picked up a 1921 Silver Dollar, which his mother held onto for safekeeping until he started collecting coins at the age of 10.
“My mother would give me $30 or $40 so I’d go to the bank and get rolls of coins to go through,” Perrone said. “The Lincoln cents were being made, but I’d find an occasional Indian head penny.”
Perrone’s son, Ralph Perrone II, has also taken up coin collecting, though he said his collection hasn’t reached the size of his father’s collection yet.
“My collection, you could probably carry it out of the house in one or two trips under your arm,” the son said. “His, you’d have to make several trips back and forth to move it all.”
Even though a coin might say “25 cents” or “one cent,” a variety of factors can make a coin much, much more valuable — in some cases, up to millions of dollars. One such coin, the 1913 Liberty Head “V” nickel, only has five coins in existence, and each is worth about $3.2 million, the father said.
Other times, a coin might become valuable not just because of age or rarity, but because of where it was minted or errors that occurred while the coin was being minted, such as a penny with the letters “A” and “M” in “America” too close together. A 1999 penny with Abraham Lincoln on both sides went from being worth 1 cent to $238,000, Perrone II said.
“If they’re at the mint and there’s an error, there’s no telling how soon or how long until they notice the error,” he said.
When looking for coins, the Perrones said they have two main dealers they purchase coins from and try to attend one or two coin shows every year. While some coin collectors shop over the Internet, doing the browsing and collecting in person gives people a chance to not only see what the market’s like but to interact with other likeminded people and see their collections, Perrone II said.
“It’s not something that you can do over the phone or the computer or the Xbox,” the son said.
Aside from collecting, the elder Perrone said he does some coin appraisals for people as well, with referrals coming mostly through word-of-mouth.
“Everybody has a grandfather or grandmother who kept a lot of old coins, but when family members come across the collections, they have no idea what they’ve got on their hands,” he said.
Sometimes, people might come across old currency hidden away in secret places of homes. People who lived through the Great Depression preferred to store their money at home. However, neither Perrone said they’ve come across such a stash themselves.
“I’ve torn down houses for the lumber before, and out of 26 houses I’ve only gotten 81 cents,” the father said.
While collecting coins is enjoyable, the son said having a collection can be an investment and serve as a potential nest egg. However, his father said he never sells or gives away anything in his collection – except for that one he used to buy some firecrackers.
“A lot of people know there’s certain currency out there like state quarters and $2 bills, but there’s a lot out there that people don’t know the significance of,” he said.
Both the Wheatland Mercer County Coin Club and the Greenville Coin Club have Facebook pages for anyone looking for more information.
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