US Coins

Editor's Q&A: Picking the brain of a top numismatist

W. David Perkins knew he would become a professional numismatist at some time in his life and was well-prepared for the transition when it came. He is fortunate to have spent decades as a serious collector, researcher and author. Dave has also consulted with and cataloged for most of the leading numismatic auction firms.

Image courtesy of W. David Perkins

Early in his more than two decades at IBM, weekends afforded W. David Perkins — owner of W. David Perkins Numismatics in Centennial, Col. — the opportunity to visit New York City to view auction lots and attend sales.

In 2014, Dave switched careers from technology to becoming a full-time professional numismatist.

Coin World: What triggered your interest in numismatics and how old were you at the time? What did you start collecting first?

W. David Perkins: When I was 9 or 10 years old, my grandfather got me interested in coin collecting and numismatics. Like most young kids in the 1960s I collected Lincoln cents by date and Mint mark using the blue Whitman folders. I also collected dimes, quarters, and half dollars. The higher denomination silver coins often got spent, and thus I, like many, found these collections hard to complete. When in California during the summers I would get a $50 bag of cents maybe three times a week, and pull out the S Mint-marked cents along with other rare and scarce coins.

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CW: We know you have an affinity for early United States silver dollars and half dollars. What drew you to these issues?

WDP: I got back into coin collecting in the early 1980s after purchasing a copy of Coin World to check on current prices of coins I’d pulled from circulation over the previous 12 years, or so.  This awakened the collecting bug in me. I began learning about and buying coins that I’d never seen or handled “in person” and couldn’t find or afford as a child, like Draped Bust silver dollars, Liberty Seated and Trade dollars, and Seated and Capped Bust half dollars. I liked the way these large coins looked and felt when holding them — heavy and old! Over time I focused more and more on the early U.S. silver and copper coins, these coins having been made from individually punched dies, and with all the inherent problems that the first U. S. Mint had during the early years — die varieties, overdates, die cracks and shattered dies, errors, etc.

CW: We know you love numismatic research and love to trace die progressions and coin pedigrees.

WDP: I do love studying and collecting die progressions on early U.S. coinage. I especially love late die states and cuds. A large portion of my numismatic research falls under the heading, “Famous Collectors and Collections.” I love the “thrill of the hunt.” In the 1980s, I began trying to contact current and former collectors of the early dollars 1794–1803, hoping they or a relative might have old letters and correspondence with other collectors and dealers, invoices from purchases, notes, annotated silver dollar reference books, photos, listings of old collections, etc. I’ve had great luck and success with this approach over the years.

CW: What made you decide to take the leap into becoming a professional numismatist?

WDP: I had always intended to become a professional numismatist at some point in my life. It just worked out that I was in a position to do this a little earlier than planned. I set up with my first table as a dealer at the 2014 ANA World’s Fair of Money. I belong to over a dozen numismatic organizations, many for over 25 years. I also talked with a number of dealers that I knew before turning professional. Thus there have not been a lot of big surprises.

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