This is the latest installment in a series of articles delving into
the careers of professional numismatists who have traveled the coin
show circuit for more than four decades. In this installment, we
take a glimpse at the career of Greg Rohan.
Greg Rohan, president of Heritage
Auctions since 2002, began his numismatic journey in 1969 at age 8
while growing up in the state of Washington.
Already imbued with the collecting gene and love of history, Rohan
was introduced to coins when an elderly next-door neighbor gave him a
jar of cents she had been collecting for decades, along with blue
Whitman folders to fill.
“We didn’t have any extra money, both my parents worked, and I knew
that to grow my coin collection, I would need to earn the money
myself,” Rohan said. “I was a nerdy only child, but industrious. By
the time I was 11, by washing cars, yard work, and babysitting, I’d
saved $300. A schoolteacher I knew, George Booth, was a weekend dealer
and took tables at the Seattle Center coin shows. He offered me a
showcase on his table for $6. Not being able to afford the fancy
Allstate cases, my dad and I built a showcase out of an old bulletin
board and heavy plastic, secured with a little gold padlock.”
Many of the dealers who were helpful to Rohan in the 1970s are still
active today, including Brian Jenner, Wayne Freese, Dave Schmidt,
Hendrik Sharples, and Doug Robins.
Through his teen years, Rohan said, he worked part-time at a small
coin shop in Washington’s capital city of Olympia.
“Before I could drive, my dad would drop me off and pick me up
before and after his job as a mechanical engineer at a nearby college
campus,” Rohan said. “I was paid $3 an hour at the shop, but I had
full use of the dealer teletype machine, and I was allowed to conduct
my own mail order business when I wasn’t running the shop.
“By my junior year in high school, I had a 170 square-foot office in
the very impressive sounding ‘Security Building,’ with a downtown
Olympia address and a suite number. I paid $170 per month.
“When class was out each day, I raced to the office to see what
orders had come in the day’s mail from the full page advertisements I
was running in Coin World. Business was good.”
As Rohan was finishing high school in the late 1970s, the precious
metals market was booming, as was the coin business as a whole.
“I was so excited to enter the coin business full time, I never
considered college,” Rohan said.
Following high school, Rohan said, the business partners he had
acquired took advantage of him financially, leaving him in numismatic despair.
In the mid-1980s, Frank Greenberg from Delaware Valley Rare Coins in
Philadelphia came to the rescue, offering Rohan a vice president’s position.
This was around the time certified third-party grading was beginning
to take hold in the hobby, and about a year later, a grading contest
was held at a Long Beach Coin
Expo in California.
“I just attended the January  Long Beach show, and realized
I’d been going there for 37 years,” Rohan said. His big break arrived
Starting in the late 1980s, PCGS invited dealers to test their
skills against the grades assigned by PCGS, Rohan recalled. Rohan said
he tried his hand at the contest for the first time in 1987 and placed first.
“The founders of Heritage, Steve Ivy and Jim Halperin, congratulated
me, and invited me to dinner that night.” The two presented him with a
“I first met both Ivy and Halperin when I was 15 at the Jack Tar
Coin Show in San Francisco. Back then they ran competing companies,
and I was an eager fresh-faced upstart, in awe of the business they
were doing. The day after placing first in the grading contest, I told
Frank Greenberg of the job offer they had made me. He told me it was
an incredible opportunity, and that I had to accept it.
“To this day, I couldn’t ask for a better friend than Frank Greenberg.”
The year was 1987, Rohan was 25 and was hired as Heritage’s vice
president, coin buyer and coin grader, reporting to Halperin.
In 2002, 15 years after starting at Heritage, Rohan became a partner
with Ivy and Halperin, and Heritage’s president.
“When I arrived in Dallas in 1987, Heritage had 55 employees and
sold about $60 million in rare coins annually,” Rohan said. “Today,
more than 500 professionals work at Heritage. Along the journey, we
created the most efficient, transparent, and progressive auction
company in the world.
“Last year, we came close to $1 billion in sales in 39 collecting
categories. Coins remain our largest category, and are the first love
of all of us that run the company.
“Beginning at 8 years old, I was immersed in coins. To my good
fortune, I make my living from my passion for numismatics. I’ve made
decades-long friendships and worked with the greatest collectors of my
day and all the greatest coins. It simply doesn’t get any better.”
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