US Coins

Numismatists deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

Florida numismatic businesses faced challenges from Hurricane Ian. Z-Man's Rare Coins (left) saw little disruption in business, Certified Collectibles Group (background) closed for several days, but was not impacted. Others like a southwest Florida residence were not as fortunate.

Photos by Alexandrea Zieman, Certified Collectibles Group and National Weather Service.

The uncertainty of the path of the storm that became Hurricane Ian caused thousands to take action without certainty that their actions would be either warranted or sufficient. Still, when it comes to protecting lives and property, cutting corners has devastating consequences.

Business owners kept a wary eye on the storm track as it began to move north from Cuba. Forecasters projected the possibility that the storm would arrive in the highly populated area of Tampa, home to a number of numismatic businesses. The ominous warning was that it would be the biggest storm in 100 years. Precautions were necessary.

As the storm moved closer, the trajectory began to change. Soon it appeared Tampa would be spared, and that the likely point of landfall would be the Bradenton-Sarasota area, south of Tampa. Preparations ramped up in that region. Certified Collectibles Group, which includes Numismatic Guaranty Co. and Paper Money Guaranty among others, based in Lakewood Ranch, announced closure on Tuesday afternoon with precautions in place.

Still, the storm drifted eastward, striking Florida on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at Cayo Costa Island as a Category 4 hurricane, tied for the fourth-largest storm to strike the United States. Packing winds of greater than 150 miles per hour, it blew onto the coast of Florida, through Fort Myers and Cape Coral, sweeping up the spine of the peninsula and dumping dozens of inches of rain on the land, ominously arriving at high tide.

“It got nasty, the water was like a tsunami,” said Mike Joyce of Gulfcoast Coin & Jewelry in Fort Myers and Bonita Springs, among the businesses directly hit by the storm. “It was so fast and violent when it arrived. There are areas where the roofs are torn off. The store may have 15 holes in the roof. It’s a bad situation, but we’re all OK. Many people were not. It’s going to take a long time to be done and get things back into shape.”

Harry Miller, owner of Miller’s Mint in Patchogue, New York, has since 2004 owned a waterfront home in Lee County, Florida, where the storm made landfall. On Sunday, Oct. 2, he flew to Tampa and made the drive down Interstate 75 into the area hardest hit by the storm.

“The place is a disaster area,” he said by phone the following day. “We just got water back on. There are a lot of people down here who won’t have power for weeks or several weeks. There’s just so much devastation.”

Miller’s boat was blown up onto the docks, and hundreds of boats were strewn about in the area and washed up onto land. “The Lowe’s is open for supplies, but on an emergency basis. There’s probably 200 people in line. We had a broken pipe when the water came back on and we needed a cap for it. It took three hours to get a cap, an 89-cent part.”

The silver lining that Miller finds very apparent as he works to shore up his property can be found in the people. “People are working together. When you approach a major intersection, there’s no power, the traffic signals aren’t working, but people are courteous to each other and being patient and kind.”

North of the scene in Bradenton, John Maben said his shop, Pegasus Coin and Jewelry, was spared. “At my home, there were a dozen 50- to 60-foot trees that fell. We had closed the business for a day and a half because of the storm, but were able to open back up, with the worst of it on Wednesday.”

Certified Collectibles Group was able to reopen for business as usual on Monday, Oct. 3. The storm did not cause any adverse effects to the buildings or the collectibles stored inside. “We have policies in place that are designed to protect our employees and the property in our possession,” said CCG executive vice president Andrew Salzberg after the storm. “We had thought about returning on Friday but decided to allow employees more time to recover from any damage they may have had from the storm, so we waited until Monday.”

The end results served to assure CCG officials that plans are working. “There is nothing better than having your plans tested in real life. When it actually happens, you can see how the plan stands up to the test,” Salzberg said.

CCG employs several hundred people from a wide-ranging area throughout western Florida, including many who live in the hardest hit areas south of the business.

The storm cut across Florida and caused flooding along the east coast, including in the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine. Alexandrea Zieman owns Z-Man’s Rare Coins in a commercial mall complex there, and she and her family had prepared for the storm. “The entrances had been sandbagged and we took a few steps. The city closed down briefly but we had our regulars back when we reopened on Saturday.”

Like all previous natural disasters, the lessons are there for learning. Those who have learned from the past were better able to prepare for the future through the experience.

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