SETH W. CHANDLER
LIFELONG COIN COLLECTOR AND CHIEF NUMISMATIST OF WITTER COIN
Seth W. Chandler is the owner and chief numismatist of Witter Coin. Witter Coin (www.wittercoin.com) was founded by Dean Witter in 1960 in a small shop on Bush and Kearny Streets. The business has been at its current location, the Hobart Building, since 1982. Seth started collecting coins when he was four. He would place Wheat cents in blue Whitman coin folders given to him by his parents. His collecting interest started getting serious when Seth was 10 years old. Money earned from mowing lawns was used to buy coins at his local coin store, the Edgewood Coin Shop. Seth spent so much time at Edgewood, he was offered a job, and he worked there from the age of 14 through 18.
Seth has been an avid coin collector for more than 40 years. The focus of his collecting efforts are early United States gold coins and all coinage minted at the three San Francisco Mints. When not playing with coins, Seth spends time with his family — his wife and three children.
Witter Coin is an authorized dealer of PCGS, NGC, CAC, and PCGS currency and has one the largest inventories of PCGS and CAC graded coins in Northern California.
What is the future of coin collecting and investing?
I was very lucky to have the opportunity to take over Witter Coin in 2016 from the founder, Mr. Dean Witter.
The shop was founded in 1960 in San Francisco. Since then, my belief in the future of the hobby has lead me to make a decision to go “all in” and build one of the greatest coin stores that the hobby has ever seen. Recently, we completed a one-year, one-million-dollar gut renovation of our location and now it is fifteen times the size of our previous location. That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Every day I become more and more convinced about the strength of the hobby. I have three children that go to three different schools, and I know a lot of the parents; when they find out I have a coin store, their faces just light up, and they tell me some form of a coin story.
Most importantly, we have a lot of young collectors coming in. During the summer, Witter Coin has six different interns that do a great job helping around the shop.
The strength of the hobby is alive and well!
I have no way of predicting the future, but I believe the demand for great coins will continue to grow. Historically, if you research prices of rare coins, they tend to do well over time. I kick myself from time to time about why I did not buy such and such coin a few years earlier when it was so much cheaper.
Why should someone collect or invest in coins today?
It’s fun! No doubt about it. It a wonderful thing when you can hold a rare and valuable coin in your hand. Coinage has what we appreciate and respect in design.
Building a set of a particular series, say Morgan Dollars, is a lot of fun and challenging. It gives you a goal, something to look forward to, and is very rewarding once it is finally complete. Coins come in various conditions, which allows collectors of all budgets to build nice collections.
What is the future of the retail coin store, and has the internet reduced opportunities for brick and mortar coin shops?
Like most businesses, to thrive, and in some cases, survive, you must adapt. I do believe that many coin shops haven’t been able to adapt as quickly as they should. The internet has created many more opportunities for coin stores and the collecting public. There is more information and transparency than ever before. This is great for everyone.
At Witter, we have what I feel are the basics that most successful businesses have: We have a great website, we visit major shows to connect with clients that live outside of San Francisco, and we are very active on social media. For example, we will text a quick video of a particular coin that is wanted by clients, because, this is the kind of service clients appreciate, and its ease of doing business right.
I think gone are the days when coin shops just exist as a “buying
operation.” There is so much more that can be done to make people feel welcome and enjoy the hobby, which is great for the business of coins.
How concerned are you about the sales tax issue?
I am certainly not a fan, and I just hope that legislation gets created to exempt coins from tax. I do have trust in our government that it will come to understand that sales tax on coins should not exist.
Does the U.S. Mint help or hurt the hobby with its production and sale of many modern issue coins?
I think it helps. Although the Mint is our biggest competitor, it continues to bring collectors into the hobby. I would never purchase anything from the Mint outside of a Proof Set. It seems like you need to spend six figures if you wish to buy everything the Mint sells in one year. That’s too much! The Mint has done a tremendous job with marketing new issues with limited mintages. However, with many of these, it seems the stories fizzle out, and the collector gets burned. I do not like that. But the positive is, situations like these create new collectors, and they hopefully venture into the areas that I love: classic and rare coinage.
Please offer your opinions about what you think is right about our hobby today and what we need to focus on and continue.
I like the transparency — with auction records — that the industry provides. We all like to do research before we part with our hard-earned money, and I have always felt the more information, the better. Collectors just need experience and to work with a professional numismatist in order to translate the information to make it beneficial to their collections. There are many pros and cons to the coin grading services, and I do not want to rehash the same arguments over and over but let me say that I am a fan. The hobby is better for it. I strongly believe that the service that CAC provides is one of the most important things to happen in the hobby in the last ten years.
As human beings, we rank things — cars, restaurants, whatever it may be. Not every coin is the same, even coins within the same grades; there are special coins, examples that are a cut above the rest, and these coins tend to be CAC approved. Collectors will always pay more for better than average coins. CAC assists the collector by offering an opinion to say if a particular coin is solid for the grade. The market agrees with this, as CAC approved coins sell for substantial premiums. The coins speak for themselves.
I feel the most immediate thing the hobby can tackle is to eliminate the sales tax on coins. The next item, which is an absolute, is to find a way to create a connection between young people and coins. The kids these days are so wrapped up in their iPhones and video games that it’s becoming more difficult to connect. Place a 140-year-old Morgan Dollar in their hands, and see how they react.
It’s about telling them the stories, about the people who handled the coins, and what their lives were like. Imagine doing the same thing with a $20 gold coin, or, an ancient coin made in 300 BC?
We’ve seen this with the interns that work in our shop. They learn so much, beyond just about coins. They learn the business. They learn how to communicate with people. They see how I handle specific situations, as I know all of this will help them as they grow older. This is all because of coins. So, I recommend that people mentor young kids using coins. For more information about Witter Coin, visit the new shop at 2299 Lombard St., San Francisco, CA, the website www.wittercoin.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 415-781-5690.