US Coins

SilverTowne founder Leon Hendrickson dies at 90

SilverTowne founder Leon E. Hendrickson, who built his numismatic empire starting with coins in a cigar box in a family restaurant in Winchester, Ind., died July 23 at age 90.

Images courtesy of SilverTowne.

SilverTowne founder and former Professional Numismatists Guild President Leon E. Hendrickson died July 23 at Summers Pointe Senior Living in Winchester, Indiana.

Mr. Hendrickson was 90.

The PNG, in which Mr. Hendrickson held membership since 1970, issued the following statement upon Mr. Hendrickson’s passing:

“The Professional Numismatists Guild was saddened to learn of the passing of longtime member Leon Hendrickson of Winchester, Ind. Hendrickson joined the PNG in 1970, served as the organization’s president from 1985 to 1989 and received the PNG Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. He was one of the first members approved as a PNG Accredited Precious Metals Dealer when the PNG-APMD program was created in 2015,” PNG Executive Director Robert Brueggeman said.

“Leon was a giant in the profession and hobby. He was a good friend to so many collectors and dealers across the country. Our condolences to his family and friends,” said PNG President Dana Samuelson. 

Connect with Coin World:  

Sign up for our free eNewsletter
Like us on Facebook  
Follow us on Twitter

Mr. Hendrickson entered numerous professions during his working career, many of them at the same time: farmer, roller-skating rink proprietor, rural-mail carrier, high school basketball referee, restaurant co-owner. 

None of those careers was as satisfying, rewarding and lucrative to him, however, as that of professional numismatist.

And the seed that started that numismatic career was a cigar box in that Winchester restaurant, The Rainbow, that Mr. Hendrickson and his wife, Ruhama, known as Hamie, co-owned with her parents.

Exploring art, monuments, and coins”Connecting coins, the arts, and American monuments: Another column in the August 7 monthly issue of Coin World continues with the art theme, as the artists who’ve designed our most gorgeous pieces of paper currency are profiled.

Mr. Hendrickson left the family farm at age 17 to enlist in the U.S. Navy during World War II; he served aboard the USS Caldwell in the South Pacific. On his first leave home, Mr. Hendrickson and Hamie were married.

Jockeying multiple jobs while helping to run the restaurant, Mr. Hendrickson still found the time to serve on the local school board for 16 years, as well as on the board of directors of a local bank of which he would later become majority stockholder.

Establishing roots

The Winchester Coin Shop, which began in the restaurant and burgeoned into today’s SilverTowne, soon became Mr. Hendrickson’s full-time passion.

Mr. Hendrickson credited his brother-in-law, Dick Rhoades, with sparking his interests in coin collecting.

Dick, already a coin collector, periodically worked at The Rainbow. During his shifts, Dick would examine the change customers would pay their bills with, looking for coins to add to his collection. Coins from the restaurant’s candy machine would also be inspected. Select coins were put into a cigar box next to the restaurant’s cash register or on plates on the counter.

Mr. Hendrickson, with entrepreneurial prowess, quickly picked up on being able to turn around and sell, for more than face value, coins received in payment. He found that customers often purchased the special coins with change they received from their restaurant bills. The coin business began to pick up. Coins were put in display cases that replaced the cigar box and plates.

Mr. Hendrickson’s son, David, at the age of 9, kept busy combing through countless quantities of coins, although Mr. Hendrickson did not push his son’s interest in numismatics. However, David Hendrickson’s interest in numismatics never waned, and he remains at the helm of the company his father founded.

Eventually, the Hendricksons’ coin business was so good that the new enterprise, the Winchester Coin Shop, took over the space on the second floor above The Rainbow.

A new home was erected on property from the Hendrickson family farm upon which Leon Hendrickson grew up. In 1964, the basement of that ranch-style home would house the expanding coin business, by then renamed SilverTowne. That year, Leon entered the coin business full-time.

The basement was renovated to full size; in the original home construction, the basement had covered only half the area under the home’s main floor.

By the time of the passage of the Coinage Act of 1965, SilverTowne was among the largest buyers and sellers of silver coins in the Midwest. 

Mr. Hendrickson was instrumental in securing significant numbers of $1,000 face value bags of silver dollars in the 1970s that had been held in Treasury vaults.

The 1970s also brought two major coin deals involving the acquisition and disposition of silver dollars — buying and selling portions of the LaVere Redfield hoard of more than 400,000 silver dollars, and brokering with Ed Milas from Rare Coin Company of America the hoard of 1,500 1,000-coin bags of Morgan silver dollars from the cash-strapped Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago.

In 1980, construction began on what has become known as the “Mighty Fortress,” a dedicated new facility for SilverTowne; it was completed in 1982. 

In 1985, Leon paid $500,000 to George Vogt from Colonial Coins in Houston to acquire the James V. Dexter specimen of Class I 1804 Draped Bust dollar. The coin is recognizable by the small D punched into the cloud below the O in OF on the reverse.


Mr. Hendrickson held memberships in more than 30 numismatic organizations, and received recognition from most of them for his contributions.

In addition to serving as PNG president, Mr. Hendrickson also served terms as president for the Central States Numismatic Society and Indiana State Numismatic Association.

Recognition beyond his PNG accolades includes being recognized by the American Numismatic Association in 1990 with its Medal of Merit; in 2003 with the ANA Presidential Award; and in 2008 as the ANA Numismatist of the Year.

Mr. Hendrickson was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Ruhama Pearl Rhoades; a brother, Chester Hendrickson; and two grandsons, Jason Andrew Barker and Corby Lee Hendrickson. 

Mr. Hendrickson is survived by one brother, Stanley Hendrickson (wife Gretchen) and one sister, Myrtle Huffer; a son, David Hendrickson (wife Debbie); two daughters, Kathy Barker (husband Steve) and Tanda Abel (husband Tony); and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren: Carrie Chipley (husband Mike) of Kalispell, Montana, Ryan Barker (wife Katie), Kevin Barker (wife Shannon), Eric Barker (wife Melanie) all of Winchester, Andy Abel (Amanda Hindsley), Tyler Abel (wife Allanna) both of Winchester, Brock Abel (wife Eva) of Muncie, Chad Allen (wife Jami) of Lynn, Cheyanne Allen of Fairview, Tennessee; great grandchildren, Kaitlyn Chipley (Chris McClung), Abby and Rachel Chipley, Paige, Parker, Jane and Payne Abel, Jayden Hindsley, Emmaline and Tillman Abel, Emerson and Lillian Abel, Mason and Molly Barker, Ross and Breena Barker, Lexie and Chloe Barker, Elijah, Alyssa and Noah Allen; and two great-great grandsons, Keldrick Enis and Liam McClung.

The family asks that donations be given to the Leon and Ruhama Hendrickson and Family Scholarship Fund, 213 S. Main St., Winchester, IN 47394, or Hendrickson Trust Fund for Local Out Reach, 1212 E. 100 S, Winchester, IN 47394. 

Community Comments