Greg Bennick's latest interview for the Newman Numismatic Portal is with author, researcher and Numismatic Detective Ron Guth.
Here's the first part, where Ron tells how he got started in the hobby.
Greg Bennick: Hi everybody, my name is Greg Bennick, I'm with the Newman Numismatic
Portal, and I'm here today with Ron Guth of the Numismatic Detective Agency. You can find
out more at numismaticdetectives.com. Ron has been active in the coin hobby for fifty-five
years as a collector, researcher, auctioneer, professional dealer. He's the author of a number of
coin books, including Coin Collecting for Dummies, The 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, which he
wrote with Jeff Garrett and also The Encyclopedia of United States Gold Coins, which he also
worked on with Jeff. In 1999, he created Coin Facts, which is now PCGS Coin Facts. And in
2014, he was named American Numismatic Association Numismatist of the Year. Ron, did I
miss anything important in that introduction?
Ron Guth: I guess the one that I'm most proud of is I was named one of the top ten most
influential people when Coin World did their survey in 2021, so I was really proud of that one.
Greg Bennick: That's pretty fantastic. Do you know what they base that on, by any chance?
Just out of curiosity, was it just overall breadth of knowledge and that sort of thing?
Ron Guth: I was talking to one of the representatives from Coin World yesterday because they
have a new survey coming out this year. And I asked them what is the criteria for the people
that get in there? And he said, basically you're voted on by your peers. So, I'm honored to have
been selected for that. And I made it last year - the top 100 - they haven't had a top ten again.
And I'm not sure that they will or whatever, but yeah, it's basically a vote by your peers.
Greg Bennick: Fantastic, very cool. Well congratulations. That's quite excellent. So tell me,
let's talk about the through line of your career. Did you get started as a collector?
Ron Guth: Yeah, I started as a collector when I was a kid and my buddies I used to go fishing
with all the time. One day they came over with a tackle box and I've told the story multiple
times, but they opened up the tackle box and instead of lures and weights and hooks and sinkers
and each of the compartments there were Indian head pennies, buffalo nickels, silver coins and I
was just hooked. I mean that was it. And I said where did you get these coins? And they said we
would go to the bank with a couple of dollars and just go through rolls of coins and pick out the
good stuff and I started doing that. That's how I started my career and just kept gathering stuff
up. And as a teenager, I would take the silver to a local coin shop and I mean I was making a
really good amount of money for a teenager back when minimum wage was about a $1.50 or
$1.60 an hour. So I was hooked at that point, and then I just became a collector. My career path
at that time was a lab tech in a hospital, but I ended up getting hired by a coin dealer in Tampa,
Florida, Bill Calderazzo at Florida Coin Exchange. And that was the start of my professional
career. Started a coin shop in 1977, 1978, went through the gold and silver boom, moved to
Indiana, opened up a shop there, and then moved sideways to Kentucky, where I worked with
Jeff Garrett. We started Mid-American Rare Coin Auctions, did that until 1988, sold my interest
in that, went back to school and then just became an independent coin dealer ever since. And
then of course, you've already told the story about Coin Facts starting in ‘99 so I've been a little
busy over the years.
Greg Bennick: Now these guys who showed up with the tackle box and they had coins in there,
were they using the coins somehow as weights for fishing? Or did they just happen to have
coins in the tackle box along with all their fishing tackle and what that was.
Ron Guth: Yeah, it was just a coincidence, they weren't drilling holes in the coins and using
them as sinkers. They actually are coin collectors even still, and in fact, they were twins, Kim
and Carl Bildt and I'm in touch with Carl all the time. And so I would say that he is my oldest
friend in the coin industry, but they became coin collectors in their own right.
Greg Bennick: I love stories like this about how people's paths in life started by accident, per
se. I mean, what if they had had anything, a candy in their fishing tackle box that day? Who
knows where you would be today?
Ron Guth: I might have opened up a candy store instead of a coin store.
Greg Bennick: Well, it's funny, when I was in sixth grade, I actually make my living as a
keynote speaker. I started out as a performer, started out as a juggler, a juggling street performer
and whatnot. And I got my start because I'd signed up for a coin collecting mini course that I
actually petitioned my school to add to a list of mini courses they were holding after school.
And when I went to sign up for the coin collecting course that I'd found a coin dealer to teach,
I'd paid the guy to come into my middle school in sixth grade to teach it, the school's secretary
accidentally signed me up for a juggling course instead of a coin collecting course. I went to
this juggling course, I'm like, this is stupid, I can't stand this. And I walked in and the second I
saw somebody juggling, I said that's what I want to do for the rest of my life. And that led to
juggling, which led to performing, led to speaking, led to my career now. And I ended up taking
both the coin collecting and the juggling class. Point being, who knows where we're going to
end up by the paths we take in life and the so-called mistakes that happened to us along the
way. Pretty awesome about the fishing tackle box. I've not heard anyone with a similar story to
yours. I think that's pretty cool.
Ron Guth: Well, I like your story as well. I mean there are all these forks in the road as we lead
our life and you just never know where it will take you. We have all these rabbit holes that we
go down. And fortunately for me, I've been able to make a career out of this hobby that most
people can only enjoy. But it's been just a great experience and I've made so many good friends
this way. And like I said, I still know the Bildt twins, and it's just wonderful after 55 years that
we can still tell stories like that about the tackle box or the juggling or whatever the story.
Everybody has a story.
Greg Bennick: Amazing. Now just out of curiosity, as a collector, what sort of things did you
collect and really focus or hone in on? Were there any particular series or types of coins or
anything that you enjoyed most?
Ron Guth: I think starting out, we all worked on a Lincoln had pennies because those were
coins that you could actually find in circulation and take a set to about a 95% completion level.
A friend of mine that used to go to the bank with me was able to ultimately find every penny
that he needed; an 09 SVDB, a 1914 D and 1931S, so I was never so lucky. But that was the
sort of thing that you could do as a kid back then. So we focused on Indian head pennies,
Lincoln Pennies, Mercury dimes, Standing Liberty quarters, you know, these are all coins that
you could have pulled out of circulation and put together a fairly meaningful collection. When I
was about 18, my collection was stolen. And so at that point, I said I still want to collect coins,
but I need to focus. You know, I had a mishmash of everything, more of an accumulation than a
collection per se, but I said I started going through the Red Book and looking at all the different
series and picking out something that would be doable, affordable for an 18 year old and still be
a really fun thing to collect. And so I focused on half cents and I began collecting those by
variety. I met Roger Cohen, who authored the book in 1971 and in 1981. I knew Jim
McGuiggan really well. In fact, one of my earliest contacts with half cents was at something
that they call a half stone happening where big collectors got together and they would compare
their collections and this was amazing. And so I slept on Jim's floor when he was living up in
Michigan. And again, great memories, great experiences, but the half cents became my primary
About the Interviewer
Greg Bennick (www.gregbennick.com) is a keynote speaker and long time coin collector with a focus on major mint error coins. Have ideas for other interviewees? Contact him anytime on the web or via instagram @minterrors.
To watch the complete video, see:
Ron Guth Interview
To read the complete transcript, see:
RON GUTH Interviewed for the Newman Numismatic Portal
Wayne Homren, Editor
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