Celebrating a half-century of collecting

As the members of the Fort Dodge Coin Club prepare for their annual coin show – to be held on March 29 and 30 at the Crossroads Mall – they are also celebrating a milestone birthday for the group.

It is 50 years old.

John Hallgren is the son of charter member Bruce Hallgren, who was elected the group treasurer at its first meeting in early March of 1964.

Hallgren, although not yet a collector at the time, remembers the early days when club members would hang out in his father’s store, the Hobby Craft Shop, which was located at 25 S. 12th St.

“It was the year I graduated from high school,” he said. “I remember the guys in the shop. It was their second hangout.”

Hallgren’s father put him to work in the basement.

“I can remember going through bags of pennies looking for certain dates,” he said.

Once done, the remaining coins went back to the bank where more bags awaited.

Bruce Hallgren died about five years ago, John Hallgren said. He inherited the collection and was urged by his wife to take up the hobby in earnest.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you get involved?'”

He said, “I’ll give it a shot.”

Club President Steven Rozek joined in 1986. He’s been president of the group for about 15 years.

His interest began when he would see his father save pre-1964 dimes, quarters and half dollars in a drawer. Coins of that vintage contained 90 percent silver.

“I kind of got interested then,” he said. “It’s part of me now.”

He kept doing what his father was doing into the late 1960s and early 1970s

“You could still get 90 percent silver coins then,” he said. “I’d get a roll of dimes to see if there was any silver.”

One thing that continues to interest both of them is the history represented by the old currency.

Rozek often thinks of that.

“If you have a coin from 1857, the coin could have been in the pocket of a Confederate or Union soldier, ” he said,

It might even have gone further than that.

“It could have been in Abraham Lincoln’s pocket,” he said.

Rozek credits the club’s continuing efforts to introduce youths to the hobby as one of the reasons for its longevity. He said the group often gears prize drawings toward young collectors and helps educate them about the hobby.

“Youth,” Rozek said. “That’s the future.”

The 110-member club meets on the second Thursday of the month at the Iowa Central Community College East Campus at 6 p.m. Dues are $10 per year. Youths and spouses pay $5.

The club hosts a picnic in August and a Christmas party n December. Each meeting features an 80-item auction of coins.

Pete Fritz, of Fort Dodge, hasn’t missed too many of those.

“I’ve been a member since 1973, and I’ve only missed two meetings,” he said.

One of those occasions was after a shoulder surgery, the other, the Hong Kong flu.

Club membership has offered him several benefits.

“I like the guys,” he said. “You find other guys that have similar interests.”

Steven Rozek said there will be about 40 vendors buying and selling at the show.

He urges anyone who wishes to sell coins to do so with one of the show dealers or a trusted local coin shop. He said that dealers who move through an area and operate out of a local hotel for a few days give the lowest prices.

He said that if the current market is face value times 16 for a silver coin, the “fly by night” operations will only offer eight or so.

He said a seller can trust the dealers at the show.

“All are reputable,” he said. “They will give you a fair market price.”