US Coins

Mentor encourages collector Bugeja

Scott Nichols, owner of Chester’s Coins and Gifts in Ames, Iowa, is shown at the Coin-a-Rama bourse where he is happiest.

Original images courtesy of Michael Bugeja.

Home Hobbyist column from May 30, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

As more collectors buy coins online and brick-and-mortar shops close in hometowns, numismatic mentorship may change from the interpersonal to the digital.

Bloggers and columnists (and I am both) will be mentors of a sort. 

But something will be lost. 

I have a mentor: Scott Nichols, owner of Chester’s Coins and Gifts, in Ames, Iowa.

A few years back, a vibrant Scott was biking across the country and learned via telephone from his doctor that he had developed cancer. He has been fighting the good fight, all the while showing up for work and selling coins.

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For decades now, Scott has planned our annual Coin-a-Rama show. This year he felt it was time to showcase his complete collection of Morgan dollars — none of it for sale. Many of the coins are beautiful high Mint State and some are richly toned.

I arrived after the doors opened. Scott was in the process of selling a coin when he glanced up and I shot the photo of him, happy to be among friends and hobbyists. 

I began collecting coins as a pre-teen. One coin dealer in my New Jersey hometown was across from the local bank. I would get rolls of cents from the bank, inspect them in the lobby, and go to the dealer with my finds. I collected through high school.

Then life happened. I went to college, work, the wedding altar, the maternity ward, parent-teacher conferences, soccer practice, graduation — you get the idea. I stopped collecting. 

Fourteen years ago, my wife, Diane, encouraged me to visit Chester’s Coins and Gifts. Scott asked questions about my collecting, and I shared precious memories of boyhood. I still had a near-complete set of Lincoln, Wheat cents — almost all found coins. He showed me a worn 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent, which I could afford finally as a professor. The hobby took hold, and I was happy again. 

Scott taught me about grading, strike, luster and trends. He showed me how to crack open holders and, yes, dip tarnished coins without ruining them. I joined the Ames Coin Club and he prodded me to become president. He introduced me to Col. Michael Olson, another Iowan, who was then a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. Both encouraged me to apply for a seat on that panel. I got one. 

Because of Scott, you are reading this. Yes, he encouraged me to write for Coin World, too.

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