I have been collecting coins for more than 40 years, starting when my mother began buying Mint and Proof sets in the late 1960s. I then expanded my collecting activities to Wheat cents and picking silver coins out of circulation, as they were still fairly common at that time.
My collection slowly expanded over the years, but like many collectors, I would work on a set or two for a while and then go on to something else. As I grew older, other financial obligations, including four children, limited my budget, but my interest in numismatics was never really far away. I counted heavily on local coin shops to improve the quality and quantity of my collection, often adding what appealed to me as much as anything else.
I have attended many shows over the years and still enjoy getting to a few each year. I have read many articles regarding negative experiences that collectors have had with dealers, and only occasionally stories about a positive experience. I have had some of each, although I have to say my positive experiences far outweigh those that left me disappointed.
I also buy coins through the mail and I have been satisfied with virtually all of my purchases. I try to use common sense when buying. If something appears to be a bargain or simply too good to be true, I have learned to avoid buying in these situations. Like every coin collector, I have been burned a few times, and even though it makes me angry, I chalk it up as the cost of a good education.
I would like to share a recent experience with my fellow Coin World readers that I had with a dealer. In the way of background, I was the president of a small community bank for more than 10 years until it was sold in 2007. To say the least, this was a traumatic experience, and I can empathize with all those people who have gone through a job loss. I stayed on the acquiring bank’s payroll for one year, after which my family and I moved approximately 100 miles when I took a job at another community bank.
Moving a lifetime of possessions added to the stress of a new job in a new area. In the second quarter of 2009, I again changed employers, going to work for a competitor. I was determined to stay put, as my employment history prior to the sale of the bank had been stable. However, when a better offer came along, my wife and I decided to accept it, selling the house we had purchased in 2008, and buying one in 2011. Once again, we moved into an area where we knew virtually no one, and I was working for my fifth employer in four years. We had not even unpacked all of the boxes from the previous move.
I have always found numismatics to be a stress reliever as I can “get lost” for a few hours in my collection. Shortly after my bank was sold, I began buying coins after a period of a couple of years where my numismatic activities were limited. Concentrating on improving my Morgan dollar collection, I began ordering through the mail from several Coin World advertisers, including Steve Estes. I had been buying coins from Steve for many years, though an on-and-off basis. At various times I received his catalog, but it had been a couple of years since my last order by the time 2007 rolled around. I obtained his phone number and called him to receive his price list. Upon receipt, I ordered a Morgan dollar or two and continued to add to my collection. As had been my past practice, other interests intervened and my purchases declined. In this instance, the physical move, selling one house in an extremely poor housing market and buying another, and the stress related to changing jobs were the primary reasons that my collecting interests waned.
Steve was kind enough to allow me to upgrade my collection through trades. I usually keep a record of what transactions I have going, but one that was initiated in the first quarter of 2009 apparently got away from me. I had sent a 1904-O Morgan dollar professionally graded to be upgraded to a Mint State 65 Professional Coin Grading Service graded coin. I sent Steve my coin and we settled on the difference I would pay, with him (apparently) telling me that he did not have what I wanted in stock and that he would send the coin as soon as he came across one that met his and my eye appeal standards. I had no recollection of this transaction as it was pushed from my memory by more pressing matters.
In August 2011, I received a call from a former co-worker at the bank where I previously worked. She was able to get the phone number of the bank where I now work, and once on the phone, told me that Steve Estes had called about a silver dollar. My first reaction was that I had forgotten to pay a balance due and owed him money. I thanked the caller and placed a call to Steve after looking up the number on his website. It had been so long since I ordered that I was no longer receiving catalogs. I left a message on his voice mail that included my cell phone number.
Steve called later in the day and reminded me about the 1904-O Morgan dollar deal that we had made in 2009. I was pleasantly surprised when Steve told me that he had finally located a suitable coin and would be sending it to me. Obviously, I knew that I had been doing business with Steve, but this was two and a half years later. I had no memory of this specific transaction and I was a little stunned to get the message. This was like getting unexpected money from home. The call was short and Steve sent the Morgan dollar to my new address. It is a fine coin with great eye appeal and a wonderful addition to my collection.
After I received it, I wondered how many people, coin dealers or others, would have gone to the trouble Steve Estes did to obtain and deliver a coin after such a long period of time. I had forgotten about this particular transaction and had physically moved my residence, not once, but twice. But Steve found a way to locate me and delivered my coin, one which he said was fully paid for. He even picked up the cost of the postage to send it.
This is what I enjoy about the hobby. Friendships and relationships that last years are as important and pleasurable as the coins themselves. Do you think I would buy again from Steve Estes? Absolutely! This is not just good customer service, it is superior customer service. I am sure all of us have had some less than positive experiences with dealers in our hobby, but I suggest taking it in stride and moving on. I have found most dealers and fellow collectors to be courteous and caring. Steve Estes’ actions have demonstrated his dedication to his customers and I am sure many other collectors have good stories to tell.
Thanks to Steve for making my day, and thanks to all who make numismatics such a wonderful hobby. ■
Wesley M. Weymers is senior vice president of the Gratz National Bank, Gratz, Pa. He has collected coins for more than 40 years.