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Home > Articles > Van Simmons interview...


Interview with Van Simmons and Daniela Cambone of Kitco.com


Kitco: So we are going to have a bit of an educational segment here on Kitco News today, because I know absolutely nothing; and I’m going on the record with this about rare coins. Hopefully Van Simmons will be able to help me out. He is co-founder of David Hall Rare Coins and co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Service. Van thank you so much for being with me today


Van Simmons: You’re welcome


Kitco: So apparently there is a lot to learn, where should we start when we are talking about rare coins?


Van Simmons: That is a pretty good question. Part of the things you’d need to focus on is what type of coins you want to buy, the condition, and how much you want to invest.


Kitco: Well I guess my first question to you is…how did you get involved in this side of the business?


Van Simmons: I’ve pretty much been a junk collector my whole life. Buying and selling things. Coins were the natural thing for me to go to. Because they are made out of gold, silver, copper and nickel and they were made in the United States Mint. Coins are very historic, so for me, I like parts of history. Every time a coin changes it’s design, it’s because of some historical change that happened in the United States.


Kitco: Okay Van, so you have an interesting display here. Let’s look at some of the things you brought to the San Francisco Hard Asset show. Those are some interesting pieces you have.


Van Simmons: You had pointed this out, this was made in 1915, and it’s a $50 gold piece. It is the largest U.S. gold coin made in the United States. In 1915 they had the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. They made a little over 600 of these. So it’s the largest gold coin produced….about 2 ½ ounces of gold.



Kitco: Is that pure gold?


Van Simmons: No, it’s mixed with other metals so that it doesn’t get marked up. It is a very rare coin because it’s preserved in a high grade. Because it’s composed of soft metal, and it's also very large… most were damaged pretty easily.


Kitco: So what would the value of this coin be Van?


Van Simmons: This would be about a $115,000 USD.


Kitco: $115,000 USD. Okay, what else can we look at?


Van Simmons: This is another $50 gold piece. When they had the gold rush in Yerba Buena, which is now San Francisco, the U.S. Mint couldn’t make enough gold coins fast enough. They hired some private minting companies to make gold coins, so this is one called a Humbert. They had the U.S. Assay office, they had Wass Molitor. A lot of these guys were old watch makers. As you can see they look like the back of a watch on the reverse.



Kitco: That’s beautiful 


Van Simmons: They’re all $50 gold pieces. These are true gold rush coins. This is dated 1851.


Kitco: 1851, so a true gold rush coin… How much would something like this go for Van?


Van Simmons: This is just shy of $50,000 USD


Kitco: What other goodies did you bring?


Van Simmons: This is a $4 gold piece, made in 1879. A very rare coin. This is $225,000.00 USD. The grade is Proof 65. It’s known as a pattern coin which means it’s an experimental coin and this is a  flowing hair variety. They also made a coiled hair  design, but it’s very rare.


Kitco: Now are these things for sale?


Van Simmons: Actually these are all sold. I didn’t sell them here, but I sold them prior to coming here. I just didn’t have any inventory to bring to display, so I brought some stuff out of my safe that belonged to clients. Most of the time I have this type of stuff for sale.


Kitco: Well, I see you also brought some paper currency, and not just gold. What’s this over here?


Van Simmons: These are all different pieces of currency. In 1896 they made what’s called the Educational Series they made a $1, $2 and a $5 note. You can see in the engraving and everything that it’s spectacular and this is a really good example. This is an MS67 on premium quality paper.




Kitco: How many of these exist?


Van Simmons: You know, I don’t have any idea. This is a $22,000 USD note. I’m guessing there are just a handful of these in existence.


Kitco: Where do you safeguard these things Van? not that you would tell me…


Van Simmons: In my office at PCGS, the coin grading company. We walk in the vault and that’s where we store everything.


Kitco: Is it open to the public? Van you can almost open a museum with all the memorabilia you have.


Van Simmons: It kind of comes and goes. There’s a lot of stuff that goes in and out of our office.


Kitco: You mentioned that PCGS is obviously a world famous coin grading company. When you’re grading a coin what makes one coin better over another coin?


Van Simmons: Rare coins are graded based on how well-struck they are… in other words, when the dye is the right temperature, and the metal is the right temperature…the gold or the silver would be able to get up into the coin’s design elements and thus become a fully struck coin. Another factor of grading a coin is how many marks or abrasions the coin exhibits or how banged up the coin is. Another factor is the luster on the coin. Whether or not the coin is bright and lustrous. And lastly, the overall eye appeal. So there are really four technical things involved in grading a rare coin.


Kitco: Van, what’s the rare coin market like? Is there any room to make money here?


Van Simmons: For investors, I think it’s one of the underpriced assets out there because gold has gone up six or seven times. In the rare coin market, over the same period of time, it’s probably gone up 100% not 700% or 600%


Kitco: Fantastic. Well I’ve definitely learned a lot today Van. Thank you for taking the time to explain it.



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