OC’s Treasure Chest
THE EXPERT: Tami Dickason JOB TITLE: Managing Director
Written By: Genesis Gonzalez
Photographed By: Michael Oliveri
London Coin Galleries is more than your average coin shop. For over 25 years, London Coin Galleries has become a truly unique mainstay of the OC community. Their vast and varied inventory includes some fascinating finds such as ancient glass and pottery. There is so much to see, learn and appreciate. Whether you are an expert collector or a beginner, a child or student curious about fossils, minerals, or coins, or if you are an individual seeking to indulge your curiosity for something new and different, London Coin Galleries is the place to be. From the minute you walk in, there is a world of interesting things to be enjoyed, from ancient and foreign coins to beautifully framed paper currency from the 1800s, to an array of African masks and barnacle-encrusted shipwreck items. Tami Dickason, Managing Director, asks, “Where else other than a museum can you see Roman coins, petrified wood, meteorites, and dinosaur teeth under the same roof?” In addition, London Coin Galleries provides a professional and free service for those looking to sell all types of coins and precious metals. Ever wondered what to get that one person who has everything? Well, London Coin Galleries’ astonishing inventory can help with that, as well as those looking to decorate with one of a kind pieces. So, whether you are in the neighborhood or just landing at the John Wayne Airport, stop by London Coin, because you never know what you might discover at this unique and interesting gallery.
Q: How has London Coin Galleries grown over the years and expanded its collections?
Tami Dickason: When I first opened the gallery in 1990, my inventory primarily consisted of US coins. Over the years, the inventory has gotten larger, more diverse, and more sophisticated with the increased operating capital that we’ve realized through doing business. Also, my interests have broadened, so naturally that has affected my inventory.
Q: How does London Coin Galleries go about acquiring the rare and unique artifacts?
TD: The antiquities, fossils, minerals and ethnographic art are all bought exclusively from dealers whom I’ve been working with for 20-plus years.
Q: What would be some of the price ranges for items sold at London Coin Galleries?
TD: Our inventory appeals to all budgets, ranging from less than 25 dollars to multiples of tens of thousands of dollars.
Q: When customers bring their coin collections to sell, what is the process like?
TD: It’s far easier than most folks envision it to be. We evaluate collections by appointment. It’s a free service with no obligation to sell. We start by sorting through everything and grouping like items. There are three main categories: items that are worth their face value only, those whose value lies solely in their precious metal content, and items whose value exceeds their face value or their precious metal content, either for their condition or their rarity, or both. Once everything is sorted, we evaluate and make an offer based on current markets. If the client wishes to sell, we pay them on the spot. If not, they now have a current value in which to reference at a later date.
Q: For those holding onto a collection of coins—say handed down to them—when is a good time
to sell if interested?
TD: I recommend establishing a benchmark value whether you intend to sell or not. This can be done by obtaining a written appraisal for a fee, or a cash offer which, as I mentioned earlier, we provide free of charge. Markets are volatile and unpredictable, so unless they are at an extreme high or low, it’s impossible to advise when the best time to sell is. We do our best to provide our clients with the information necessary to make their own decision. Additionally, we recommend acquiring more than one bid to ensure they are getting the most value.
Q: When it comes to collecting coins, what do you feel makes it such a unique and interesting hobby?
TD: It’s so broad in scope! Many collectors start out when they are kids. The Boy Scouts have a “coin collecting” merit badge. In fact, many coin dealers and collectors are Eagle Scouts! It’s a hobby that can be enjoyed with very little financial outlay, or you can spend millions of dollars on a single coin! The first coins were made in the 6th century BC. Since then, every culture throughout history has made and used coins or some other medium of exchange to facilitate trade. Most people think age determines value, but you can find many nice, ancient coins for less than 50 dollars. If you are interested in history or a certain culture or country, there are coins available for you to collect. Some people collect coins recovered from shipwrecks; others focus on errors.
Q: Would you consider this a particular art form in which history is being learned and appreciated?
TD: I have learned more about world history, world economies, and world cultures in dealing coins than I have from any other medium. There’s a wealth of information to be learned from coins and currency. Take Roman coins for example; the obverse or front of the coin depicts a lifetime portrait of the emperor and a legend, which gives information on where he was in his tenure when the coin was struck. The reverse or back of the coin often illustrates a military victory or political agenda. Twentieth century US coins are another example. There were anomalies in US coinage in the 1940s as a result of WWII. For one year only, 1943, we made our cents out of zinc-coated steel because of a shortage of copper. From 1942 through 1945, we made our nickels out of a mixture of copper, silver and manganese because nickel was such a critical wartime material. Coins recovered from shipwrecks teach us about colonization and trade routes. The debasing of coins from ancient times through modern day teaches us about inflation.
Q: When it comes to a Rolex watch, it is a timeless and true collectible. How have watches become another interesting form of collecting?
TD: It’s not only Rolex. There are many high-end watches that are collectible, some even more so than Rolex. Watches are collected and traded mostly by men. They are mechanical and such an iconic fashion accessory. Additionally, they are practical; they make watches specific for aeronautics, deep sea diving, or frequent travel between time zones among other things. Not only do high-end watches hold their value, but they are actively traded at shows and auctions worldwide.
Q: Are there any rare or interesting pieces to see at the store currently?
TD: To me, it’s all interesting, but some highlights are a Greek helmet from 600 BC, a 5 kilogram slice from a 380 kilogram meteorite discovered in Russia in 1967, a dinosaur humerus bone from the Jurassic Period, which dates back 150 million years, and ancient coins attributed to Alexander the Great from 356 – 323 BC.
Q: Has there been a unique or stand out piece that you’ve come across over the years?
TD: Much of my inventory is unique. Many of the items that I have sold through the years I wish I still owned because I haven’t seen anything like them since, but it’s all gone to people who appreciate it as much as I do, so that makes me happy, and sometimes I’m fortunate to buy the pieces back when someone sells their collection.
London Coin Galleries
4533 MacArthur Blvd
Newport Beach, CA 92660