Penny brings more than luck
Businesses typically launch with the help of some start-up money. Chris Seuntjens’ business sprung from a single coin.
As a child growing up in the western Iowa town of Mapleton, Seuntjens found a 1919-S Lincoln cent. That penny sparked an interest in coin collecting that eventually led Seuntjens to turn his hobby into a job. In 1980, Seuntjens opened a coin shop in Ankeny. He’s moved his business to a number of different Des Moines-area locations under various names.
Customers now know Seuntjens’ Merle Hay Road store as Christopher’s Fine Jewelry and Rare Coins. Jewelry is half the business. But coins are Seuntjens’ first love.
Q. What made you decide to pursue this as a business rather than just as a hobby?
A. Having it become a business is kind of an extension of your love of coins and wanting to be involved in them more.
Q. What is it about coins that you love?
A. The history of coins is the neatest thing. Almost every coin that has been made by the U.S. government, there’s a historical reason why they have that design and why they change designs. That’s probably the biggest thing, the historical aspect.
Q. Are you a history buff?
A. No, not really.
Q. How are sales of coins these days?
A. The coin market is actually very good right now. The price of gold and silver are up. That’s spurred a lot of activity in our business. Usually, when precious metals are up, the coin market feeds off of that as well.
Q. How is the collectibles market affected by the economy?
A. The less faith people have in the economy, the more they’re apt to put money into collectibles and hard assets such as gold and silver and coins. A lot of people buy them as a hedge against inflation. It’s something they can have that will always have value no matter what happens. It’s a good foundation for any portfolio.
Q. So people are pursuing this as an investment, not as collectibles?
A. Well, both. Some people buy them just as an investment. Some people buy them as a collectible. Some people buy both. Some people are collectors, but obviously when they’re buying coins they want to buy something that will hold its value or increase its value down the road.
Q. Can you tell when customers come in the store whether they’re collectors or investors?
A. A lot of our customers are regular customers. We know who they are and what they like. We have customers that are looking for specific things and they give us want lists. We try to find those items for them.
Q. How do you acquire them?
A. We go to trade shows and (buy) through other acquaintances in the business.
Q. How has the Internet changed the collectibles business? Has it affected you?
A. It has affected us, but I think mostly in a positive manner. It’s basically made for a broader coin market. There’s more people interested in coins. While a lot of people shop on the Internet for coins, it has also created a stronger market because there’s more demand for coins. I think it’s helped the coin market.
Q. Will you sell coins on the Internet?
A. The problem is every coin is unique so it’s not like you can buy 50 of every coin that are exactly the same and list them for sale. Every time you put a coin on the Internet, once that coin sells, it’s done. You have to take it off and put a new item on. So it’s a real high-maintenance thing.
Q. Do you sell international coins?
A. No, we don’t. Just U.S. coins. It’s a whole different market and it’s not near as big a market as U.S. coins. We’d rather just specialize in one type of thing.