A Gold Coin for Your Thoughts?

Owning a Piece of History Costs Less Than you Think

By Doreen Hemlock

June 2018

Greek coins from 300 years before Christ. Notes from Confederate states during U.S. Civil War days. Money from pre-Castro Cuba. 

Step into Gables Coin & Stamp Shop on Miracle Mile, and you’ll find special items like these. History buff John Albright started the business 52 years ago and still enjoys telling the stories behind the currency. 

Consider the bronze and silver coins from the Roman Empire. The coins often depict emperors to highlight their authority and power, Albright says. One bronze from 316-326 AD shows Emperor Crispus, a wreath of leaves around his head. It sells for a mere $60. Albright’s own collection features every Roman emperor, “except the son of one who was a co-emperor and only in power for two weeks,” he says. 

John Albright, owner of Gables Coin & Stamp

Or check out the ancient coins in gold. Some from the Byzantine Empire curve like tiny bowls for easier stacking, says Albright. One Greek coin dates back nearly 2,300 years to 278-276 BC, when king Pyrrhos ruled Syracuse in Sicily. That coin shows Athena, the goddess of reason and the arts. With 4.3 grams of gold, it sells for a slightly heftier $2,400. 

A 2,300-year-old Greek coin showing the goddess Athena, $2,400

Among Confederate notes, I gawked at a pink $100 note from 1864 that shows Lucy Holcombe Pickens, wife of the South Carolina governor. She’s the only contemporary woman ever pictured on a Confederate note. That envelope-sized bill retails for $95.  

Confederate notes of smaller denominations are tougher to find, Albright says. “People saved the 50s and 100s thinking they might be valuable one day. But they used the ones and twos to line the inside of their log cabins, because paper then was scarce.” 

A $100 Confederate note depicting the wife of the governor of South Carolina, $95

Cuba aficionados can see the strength of U.S. ties in the Cuban coins minted in Philadelphia from the early- to-mid-1900s, adds Albright. One silver peso from 1953 marks 100 years since the birth of Cuban independence leader Jose Marti and sells for $35. 

A silver peso with the image of Jose Marti, $35