Brothers Tim and Jeoff Brown, 42 and 26, have always liked coins.
But over the years, their interest in coins exceeded casual collecting, and last year, they decided to make it a business instead of just a hobby.
For about 10 years, Tim talked about opening a coin shop after he retired. But when the construction industry took a turn for the worst, the brothers decided to go for it. Although they live in Pensacola, they decided to open All-American Coins in Foley because there was an interest in coins, but not a lot of shops in the area.
Now, they’re making a living from what they love and at the same time, helping other people learn to love it, too.
“We share our knowledge so much with people,” Tim said. “We’ve been trying to get kids into it, because we all had mentors like that. That’s probably one of the reasons Jeoff’s into coins, is because I was.”
Tim began collecting through Boy Scouts when he was earning his coin-collecting badge. He said he was originally interested because it was real money and was potentially worth something years later.
“I also collected sports cards, and when you collected sports cards, your money disappeared,” Tim said. “But with coins, you do that when you’re a Boy Scout, and then you go back after college, and you’re like, ‘Wow, these really have a lot of value,’ so for me, a lot of it was money.”
But after he started seriously collecting, his interest quickly changed from making money to learning about the history behind the coins.
“There’s so much cool history to it,” Tim said. “In college, I didn’t pay attention in history, and I didn’t know any history. But now, I can talk Civil War stuff all day long. It’s not just some boring book that you’re reading and thinking, ‘There’s no real story here.’”
Jeoff was introduced to coins at a young age by his older brother. However, the history grabbed him from the start.
“Tim would show me this or that, and I’d be like, oh man that’s awesome, just to think about who’s touched the money and all the different stories on and behind the coins,” Jeoff said.
Most collectors have a favorite era, and some even have a favorite series of coins they like to collect. That may be influenced by history, family or a host of other factors, Tim said.
“It’s almost overwhelming as a beginning collector,” Jeoff said. “We’ll have beginning collectors come in, and they’ll look for direction sometimes, because there are just so many different types of coins.”
Tim’s favorite coins are the two-cent pieces that were in circulation from 1864 until 1873.
“Most people didn’t spend them because the Civil War was ending, so people would keep them,” Tim said. “They’re about twice the size of our pennies nowadays, and it’s the first coin to say ‘In God We Trust.’ They’re old, and they’re copper, and you can get them really pretty cheap. It’s a pretty cool coin to collect. Most people don’t even realize we have two-cent pieces.”
But numismatists don’t just pay attention to coins that are no longer in circulation. Tim said studying the history of coins has called attention to the need for change in the current American coin system. The penny is now more expensive to make than it is worth, and he believes it’s time to phase out the coin.
But not surprisingly, politics play a large role in currency, Tim said.
“Part of the reason the Lincoln cent won’t go away is Illinois has a pretty strong lobby — they want the land of Lincoln,” he said. “It’s the same reason we don’t redesign all our coins. The arcade industry and the concessions industry — the machines that take quarters, nickels and dimes — they’re all made the same. So if you were in that industry, think about all the machines that would have to be changed just to accept the new coins. They don’t want that change.”
Tim and Jeoff are constantly learning more and more about coins, the way money works and the history behind it all.
“We both have other hobbies, but we still sit and research sometimes,” Jeoff said. "We enjoy it. That's why we do this."