In for a penny, in for a pound

Currency dealer's hobby evolves into a career

Jim Everett had a gun holstered to his side Saturday afternoon.

He was not carrying one because he's a police officer or because he's a crazed, strapped vigilante.

Everett, owner and operator of Tiah's Coin and Currency, sported the weapon for simple reasons: The Constitution allows it, and he wants to protect his property.

"Dealers get robbed," explained Everett, a Craig resident for the past three years. "At any one time, we may be carrying around $200,000, $300,000 (in coin and currency value). We tend to protect ourselves. Law enforcement can't be there all the time."

On Saturday, Everett and seven other coin and currency dealers showed off their wares during the third annual coin show at the Holiday Inn of Craig. About 500 coin and currency enthusiasts from across the country visited the show.

The show took place inside a meeting room at the hotel. Inside that room were several hundred thousand reasons for Everett to keep the gun at his side.

"That's low-balling it," Everett said. "I'd say there is anywhere from $750,000 to $1.5 million in that room."

The firearm is just one precaution that Everett, who's owned Tiah's for the past three years, takes against criminals looking to bilk him of his collection. The security system at Tiah's, 500 Yampa Ave., is a digital fortress -- a labyrinth of laser beams, cameras and sensors.

Everett said criminals have taken notice. Only once has someone attempted to rob Tiah's. The person failed.

"I've probably got some of the best security in Craig," he said. "If a fly goes through the store, it will set off an alarm."

What began as an attempt for a 15-year-old Everett, then living in Denver, to gain a Boy Scout badge, has evolved into a full-fledged hobby and career for the man.

"This is something I really love doing," he said. "I love looking at the different types of art. I love wondering who's hands was this coin or currency actually in."

When he began tinkering with the idea of a coin and currency store in Craig, some skeptics thought the store wouldn't make it. They've been wrong, Everett said.

"It's just boomed," Everett said. "I've got more than 300 times than what I started with."

His collection now boasts between 50,000 to 70,000 coins and a host of other rare currency. The jewel of the collection, or at least one of them, is a Quaker Indian Peace Medal, a coin that was once in the pocket of Ulysses S. Grant, the country's 18th president and a Union general in the Civil War.

Only 36 were produced. An authenticator in Colorado Springs shed light on its value.

"He told me this is a museum piece," Everett said. "This is something you can't set a price on. This one of those things that offers are taken on."

The medal was on display Saturday. And, sure enough, a price tag couldn't be found. During a recent auction, the bidding for a peace medal began at $200. It escalated to $106,000 in just three minutes.

"That's one of my babies in there," he said.

Although Everett has been able to acquire many pieces he's sought, one particularly coveted coin has eluded his grasp. He's not in the minority, either.

Only eleven 1933 Double Eagle gold coins were made, and the U.S. treasury owns 10 of them. The coin is valued at $7.5 million, Everett said.

Because the government has never admitted to producing the coin, it is illegal to own one, Everett said. The 11th coin is owned by a private collector.

Lewis and Joelynne Miller, of Grand Junction, made the trip to Craig on Saturday for the coin show. The collectors said they were impressed by the selection.

"I saw a lot of coins in there that interested us," Lewis Miller said. "What they have is a good selection. We enjoyed it very much."

The allure of coin collecting lies in its investment value, Everett said. Routinely, coins double or triple in value each year.

"Price guides can't even keep up," Everett said.

Collecting rare coins and currency will remain a lifelong pursuit for Everett. His hard work is rewarded with moments such as Saturday, when the shine of his display provides a gleam in his eye.

"It took me more than 20 years to get some of these," he said. "Some people never get to see some of these in their lifetimes, let alone own it."

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