TARPON SPRINGS — People who don't even collect coins are still driving to the International Coin Collectors Association show at the Hampton Inn & Suites on U.S. 19.
Why? Because ICCA's in town to buy paper currency and coins issued before 1965. Silver dollars, half dollars, quarters, dimes, even some pennies. Change sometimes stashed in jewelry boxes or collected over the years in mason jars. But that's not all.
"What I want people to know is that we buy more than coins," said Daniel Mendoza, field manager for THR & Associates, the company behind this week's event. "We purchase antiques, vintage jewelry, collectibles, scrap gold, sports and military memorabilia. We'll let you know if the item is simply a keepsake."
People who aren't sure if their Kennedy half dollar or old silver serving set is worth anything can stop by the Hampton Inn through Friday. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., four buyers are ready to appraise items. If the company is interested and the seller likes the price, a check will be cut then and there. There's no charge for the appraisals.
If you go, expect to wait. Buyers get busy.
Employee Vincent Warren does double duty as greeter and check writer. He gives people a number and assigns them a buyer. He also answers questions.
"Hotel guests often stick their head in and say, 'I wish I knew you were going to be here,' " Warren said. "I give them a brochure that shows where we'll travel next."
While waiting to meet with buyers, people often check out the display table just past the reception area. Items on display include silver serving spoons, mint-condition coin sets, military medals and even a silver-plated mortar shell. Gold necklaces hang from posts, and coins sparkle under the lights. The table is mostly an example of what ICCA is interested in acquiring.
When it comes time to meet the buyer, potential sellers sit across from them at a long table. Items are laid out, inspected and appraised. Sellers can ask questions and the buyer may have some, too.
Mendoza said each item's value depends on many variables, like grade, age, what collectors are searching for, and what they're willing to pay. Many of the items are eventually sold at heritage auctions.
Margo Filley of North Carolina brought something unusual to one buyer's table — a large family Bible.
Not just any mass-produced Good Book, either. It was written in Russian. Its spine was crafted from sterling silver. The inside cover had candle wax drippings from being read on an altar.
The front is decorated with enamel oval murals of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
"We wanted an idea of its age," said Filley, who used to live in Tarpon Springs. "It belonged to Captain Ernest D. and Mary Kachikis, my aunt and uncle, who have now passed away. I'm here on behalf of the head of our family, Paul Stavropoulos.
"He, his family and I are considering donating the Bible to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tarpon Springs."
That family Bible, according to ICCA buyer Blake Beyer, was from the mid 1800s, about 150 years old. Its owner wasn't there to sell it, but many do seek out ICCA shows to bring home extra income.
Some memorabilia and coins have more sentimental than monetary value. For instance, many silver certificates aren't worth much more than face value. Wheat pennies, too. Yet there are rare ones, which ICCA wants.
People are encouraged to bring in old watches, jewelry, antique military mementoes, and items created from precious metals.
"When it comes to gold, the company purchases anything from a gold Krugerrand to a gold filling, tooth and all," Mendoza said.
An item's worth, or lack of it, can often surprise a would-be seller. Others do their homework. Mendoza recently bought rare works of art and a Tiffany vase from one individual, who came accompanied by bodyguards. Another Tampa Bay area man showed up with just a half-dozen coins.
"He had two South African Krugerrands, a 1-ounce U.S. St. Gaudens gold coin and three small one-tenth gold American eagle coins," said Mendoza, who lives in Port Richey. "We talked about the fact there are pawnshops up and down U.S. 19, but he immediately accepted our offer. He knew we were offering a good price. He walked out with a check in his hand for just under $5,000."