SPRING HILL — When the Whistle Stop Station recently closed after 21 years of providing "A Simply Unique & Unusual Place to Shop," loyal customers wondered if they could ever find anything to replace it.
Turns out they can — at the same address, only with slightly different merchandise.
Vermillion Enterprises, in the old New England-style cottage on Spring Hill Drive just east of the waterfall, sells jewelry from estate sales rather than the costume adornments once available at the Whistle Stop. The handbags aren't Vera Bradley but pre-owned Louis Vuitton.
Owner Brian Vermillion buys and sells the most unusual goods he can find, including jewelry, watches, vintage toys, musical instruments, flatware, military memorabilia and especially old U.S. coins.
Vermillion, 35, who has carried his business on the road for 15 years, decided to settle down at the landmark structure on June 15.
"I couldn't think of a store in this area that fits the bill of what I have," Vermillion said.
While early customers have come selling old jewelry, they have stayed to spend their proceeds on coins and currency, whether as an investment in gold or silver or as a collectible.
Consider the half-dime. Circulated in the 1800s, before the introduction of the nickel, it is made of silver and about half the size of a normal dime.
Under lock and key, along with Vermillion's other coins, is a 1833 half-dime in "mint condition," meaning it was never circulated. Asking price: $800.
"You think the older your coin is, the more valuable," he said. "But not so. It's the rarity, then the condition."
Non-experts might scoff at the idea of a 2-cent or 3-cent coin. But Vermillion can show a shopper the real thing, which dates to the Civil War era.
Among his rarest coins is a penny minted in 1795. "It's really in rough shape," Vermillion said, and therefore priced at the relatively low price of $275.
"If not (rough), you could add a couple or three zeros."
The cases of silver dollars attract nearly every novice's eye. Once again, their age is not as important in determining value as other factors, including where the coins were minted.
A 1889 silver dollar from Philadelphia, the source of 21 million of the coins, is valued at $37; the same vintage coin minted in Carson City — output 350,000 — is worth $1,400.
Vermillion can also educate shoppers on Continental currency, issued in Colonial times, or paper and tokens issued by the Confederacy.
But he also touts other opportunities to buy and sell: grandmother's sterling flatware or diamond ring, which might not be of much interest to younger people; hand-wrought American Indian jewelry that is no longer to the owner's taste; a Chanel handbag that was must-have for the owner when she was 25, but not now that she's a decade older; a World War I Army helmet that's now seen as only an object that has to be dusted.
As Vermillion says, "Somebody will always buy it."