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It may be time to unearth that coin collection or rummage those treasures in the attic. Over the past few months a number of gold and silver buyers have set up temporary operations in Los Alamos as the price of gold and similar commodities has spiked.
The American Coin Buyers Guild (ACBG) is currently at the Best Western Hilltop House Hotel through Saturday, and representatives are looking to purchase coins, precious metals and collectables.
“Not everyone’s going to have the lottery ticket. But people can bring in something they thought had absolutely no value, and walk away with some real money,” Field Manager Dereck Outten said.
Outten displayed items already purchased from Los Alamos residents, including a bayonet brought back after World War II and a four-ounce silver piece that mimicked a dollar bill.
Outten had just paid $800 for a solid silver serving tray.
“We photographed it and sent it to our research department in Springfield, Ill., and had an answer in minutes,” Outten said. “We would have purchased it just for the silver content, but this piece is a few decades old and was more valuable than that.”
Coins can also be valued by metal content or by rarity. “Coins tell two stories, either a precious metal story or a numismatic story. We’d rather have the latter,” Outten said. “Rarities are what we aim for.”
Outten related how an Artesia resident had brought in some rare coins he had purchased for a few hundred dollars.
“He thought he might get $2,000 or $3,000, but he made $13,000,” Outten said. “One coin would have been worth $200 to $300, based on the price of gold. But it was an 1858 Indian head gold coin, which is very rare, so the numismatic value was worth 10 times that.”
One of the team’s most unique finds was an 1895 American typewriter. “It was made to type one key at a time,” Outten said, and described how the keys rotated into the “type” slot. “It would take an hour just to type your name. We gave her $1,100 -- and she was literally going to throw it in the trash when she saw our ad in the paper.”
Although Outten’s specialty is coinage, he obviously relishes the unusual items that come his way. He said, “One of the cool things in our job is we get to see history everywhere we go.”
ACBG resells either at their retail shop in Springfield, Ill., or through major auction houses. “We’re a half-billion dollar corporation, represented in five different countries: the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany and Spain,” Outten said.
Although collectables more than 40 years old hold greatest interest for the company, they also purchase broken and mismatched jewelry, class rings, coins and even dental fillings for their metal content. “A silver quarter might be worth $2 just for metal content,” Outten said.
Outten noted that people are often surprised at what has value, such as Lionel trains and Bisque dolls.
“A Barbie doll from the 1950s can fetch a pretty penny,” Outten said. “What’s even more important than the condition of the item is the packaging. Packaging shows the actual age of the item. Collectors will go berserk over packaging.”
Outten obviously enjoys his work. “We enjoy coming into communities. We meet very nice people, and it’s interesting to hear the stories behind how they got the items - they’re almost as good as the items themselves.”
Outten urges people to come check out ACBG. “We want to leave as much money as we can in the community. I have a quarter million dollars I’m dying to get rid of.”
ACBG is at the Best Western Hilltop House Hotel from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. today and Friday, and from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday. Call 217-726-7590 for more information.