9 Questions with… Len Penzo
Welcome to our 2nd ever coin collector interview! And, just like the 1st one we did (on myself), this one’s a bit quirky too :)
Because you see, my good friend, and fellow finance blogger, Len Penzo does not fancy himself an actual “collector.” At least in terms of numismatics. Rather, he’s all about protecting himself with gold and silver bullion in case of a future economic crash. And while I don’t necessarily subscribe to this doom and gloom, I must admit it’s something we should all at least consider. It’s also times like these I wish I had included a question about zombies in this series ;)
Without further ado, Len Penzo everyone!
1. What’s your favorite coin in your collection?
My favorite coin is the 2014 gold Buffalo I recently purchased. It is absolutely gorgeous! I also have a couple of Braided Hair large one-cent pieces from 1851. They are pretty cool and I like them only because it reminds me that there was a time long ago when one cent actually had real value.
2. How did you get started collecting?
When I was six or seven years old, back in the early 1970s, Grandpa Penzo gave me a couple large bags of old US pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars from as far back as the mid-1800s. Those bags had a little bit of everything including wheat pennies and buffalo nickels. The bulk of the coins, however, were silver: Morgan dollars; Kennedy, Franklin and Walking Liberty half dollars; Standing Liberty and Washington quarters; Mercury and Roosevelt dimes.
After I counted them all up, it turned our that Grandpa gave me more than 700 silver coins! At that point, I wanted to learn everything I could about US currency. Before I knew it, I was buying coin books that to hold my coins and categorize them by their year and the mint marks.
3. What’s the coolest thing you’ve found in circulation?
When I was a kid back in the 1970s I found a 1909 Lincoln Wheat cent at the base of my local market’s meat counter. (No, really!) I don’t know how long it had been there, but it was lodged near a grate and covered in dust. (Hey, I was bored and waiting for my folks to finish buying some meat from the butcher.) Sadly, I misplaced it at some point and I haven’t been able to find it.
4. What was the most you’ve ever spent on a coin?
$1783.89 for an American Gold Eagle.
5. What’s the best bargain you’ve gotten?
I don’t buy coins today for numismatic purposes — and I never have. I only buy bullion coins for their precious metal content. All of the coins I’ve added to my collection since my grandpa gave me his stash I have found — usually in my spare change. Of course, over the years, it gets harder and harder to find an interesting coin worth keeping in my change. Last year I picked up a 1964 silver dime in the change I received from a Coke machine. The best coin I ever found was that 1909 Wheat penny.
As a side note, despite the size of my coin collection, I don’t have anything of great value from a numismatic perspective. I think my most valuable coin is an 1880 Morgan Silver Dollar that is in extra fine condition; I think it’s worth $30 or so. Considering the melt value of the silver is about $20 right now, that ain’t saying much!
6. Have you ever been ripped off?
No. Then again, it’s hard to get ripped off when you don’t buy.
7. What’s your favorite type of coin to collect?
American Gold Buffaloes — but I’m most attracted to any gold bullion coins. I think my next purchase is going to be a 1 troy ounce Mexican Libertad. I’m not a big fan of the obverse, but the reverse is beautiful.
8. What’s one piece of advice you could share with us today?
If you’re like me, and buy gold coins as insurance against a currency collapse, you’ll save on premiums by sticking to the one-ounce coins. And American Gold Eagles are better bargains than Gold Buffaloes — at least when it comes to the premiums.
9. If you could own any coin in the entire world, which would it be?
Without a doubt, the most beautiful coin in the world: the Saint Gaudens Double Eagle. Of course, the only way I’ll ever get one is if I find it laying on the ground. Maybe I’ll go back to my hometown and visit that local market. Hey … you never know!
Len can be found blogging his financial heart away over at LenPenzo.com – an “off-beat personal finance blog for responsible people.” He may also be a future contributor to this blog – that is, if the economy doesn’t crash by then ;)
Want to be famous yourself? Answer the 9 questions here, and we’ll make it happen. Bonus points for submitting over pics! (Though not required)
Hey, J — Relax … I fully expect to contribute at least a couple of articles to CoinThrill before the zombie apocalypse gets here!
Thanks again for interviewing me. It was a lot of fun!