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People have been collecting coins since they became useful for bartering around 700BC. The hobby of collecting currency today is now one of the best activities that kids of all ages can become involved with. There isn’t a video game in existence that packs the same reward as collecting coins.

Greg Mencotti is president of the Mountain State Numismatic Society and member of the River City Coin Club in Huntington, which was formed with about six members back in 2017. Today the RCCC has grown to 30 active members who hold meetings on the second Thursday of each month. Dues are $12 a year that’s used to advertise coin shows and purchase supplies.

“We meet at the Holy Spirit Orthodox Church located right off the 5th Street exit as you go towardHarveytown,” said Mencotti. “Meetings begin at 7 in the evening and usually last until 8:30.

“Until our club was founded, Huntington didn’t have a viable numismatic coin club that provided open, honest discussions and education about the hobby. If you enjoy collecting and trading coins, believe me, this is one hobby where education isn’t a nice thing to have — it’s critical.”

Listening to Mencotti talk about the collectability of certain coins, their value and things to look for as you purchase various coins, it becomes clear to recognize the passion he shares with the hobby of collecting coins.

“Some coins are good investments,” said Mencotti. “You must connect with knowledgeable and reputable people and have good reference books to know exactly what you’re looking at. This is what makes a coin club a good idea. Our membership contains a wide interest in coins; not everyone is interested in the same denomination, but together we cover a wide area of coins.”

Meetings at the RCCC usually begin with questions from members and guests. Interested potential members are encouraged to attend, especially the younger generation. After a Q&A session, senior members will lead discussion groups on various coins.

“We do sponsor coins shows four times a year,” said Mencotti. “They are held at the Milton VFW and are posted in this paper in advance with times and dates. Our next show is Saturday, July 18. There are major shows in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Chicago also. Those shows are quite large and usually contain many of the most rare and valuable displays.”

Mencotti used a 1909 Lincoln 1-cent piece to illustrate the small difference in identical coins that mean a big difference in price.

“A 1909 Lincoln 1-cent coin with a San Francisco (S) mint mark and the initials VDB is worth thousands,” said Mencotti. “The nearly identical coin without the mint mark and initials drops considerably in value down to a few hundred. Again, there are variables that affect price, especially condition.”

When asked if he bought collections, the answer wasn’t as simple as you might think.

“It takes considerable time to appraise an entire collection of coins,” he said. “Sure, I can give you a general ‘shoot from the hip’ value, but it will not be as accurate as taking time to examine each coin individually. Demand also fluctuates — some coins are fakes, and they are often difficult to tell the difference. You need a set of scales and a magnet. Coins made of silver will not be attracted to a magnet, and it really takes too much time to evaluate a collection at one of our meetings.”

According to Mencotti, coins are weighed in ounces and you need to know the exact weight of certain coins. A set of scales can be bought on Amazon for around $30. There are several guide books available, and he recommends a book titled “Mega Red Coin Book,” which is a guide to collecting American coins. Both items are available on eBay and Amazon and recommended if you’re going to pursue this hobby.

“There are many coins in circulation today that are ideal starting points for the beginner collector,” said Mencotti. “The Lincoln 1-cent piece or the Jefferson Nickel is fun and affordable for beginners.”

Mencotti often sees parents accompanying children to coin shows. Their most commonly asked question is, “Is collecting coins a good hobby?” Here’s his answer:

“Video games quickly lose value when a new edition appears on the market. The time and money spent with such a hobby offers few future rewards. Collecting coins provides a way to invest, while providing an education into American history, historical places and special events that are depicted in American coins. Unlike video games that lose their value, coins are a better investment — especially silver.”

If you need more information about collecting, selling or trading coins, call 304-314-4419.