John Edelman (left), of Edelman’s Coins, and his son Andrew.

John Edelman (left), of Edelman’s Coins, and his son Andrew.

by Jeremy Jones

A visit to Edelman’s Coins in Jenkintown is a step into an intriguing world where loan transactions, the frenzied daily fluctuation of gold and silver prices, and pleasantly unexpected acquisitions guarantee no day will ever be a “business-as-usual” day.

A testament to achieving the American Dream, after 89 years and four generations of family ownership, Edelman’s is currently the largest full-service retail coin and stamp shop in the Philadelphia region. It also buys and sells gold and silver bullion and gold and silver jewelry, as well as estate and antique jewelry.

While I spoke with third-generation proprietor Jon Edelman and his son Andrew, 27, calls came in from all over the country, and I met customers from around the world.

They say mistakes can be costly, but at Edelman’s you will discover that mistakes made in production of stamps and currency can eventually make them far more valuable than they were originally worth. Serious collectors know these mistakes can pay off in a big way.

Jon told the story of the most valuable stamp that came across his counter years ago; an inverted 1901 Pan American Exposition commemorative stamp. The image on the one-cent stamp was erroneously printed upside-down. Last week at Robert A. Siegel Auction Gallery’s “2015 Rarities of the World” sale in New York, a block of four of those one-cent stamps sold for $75,000. A block of four four-cent stamps from the same issue date, sold for $240,000.

“Collecting stamps isn’t as popular as it used to be,” said Jon. “So we are getting fussier about what we buy in the stamp field. It has to be salable. Kids aren’t collecting stamps any longer because they don’t get letters with pretty stamps, they don’t mail letters with stamps and they don’t know what it’s all about. The U.S. Mint does a better job of promoting coin collectors than the U.S. Postal Service.”

Fifteen years ago, Edelman benefited from an error made by the folks at the Mint. He bought and sold a 2000 “mule.” In numismatics, a mule is a coin or medal that was inadvertently engraved with front and back images that represent two different entities; they have no correlation to each other. The front of this coin was a Sacajawea dollar, the back was a Washington quarter. This coin is now valued at $50,000.

“The most interesting thing is rarely the most valuable thing,” said Andrew, who is a graduate of Penn State University and is in charge of Edelman’s Internet sales and paper money department. “For me, the most interesting thing is errors. Error notes are bills that were printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing that contain mistakes. Any error notes are supposed to be destroyed, but sometimes they get into the general public and become collector items.”

Collectors, entrepreneurs and creative gift givers who are aware of, or politically invested in the current campaign to print the face of a woman on the $20 bill might like to visit Edelman’s just to see Martha Washington on an 1886 paper silver dollar certificate (a bit bigger than a dollar bill).

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s June 17 announcement that a woman will be featured on a redesigned $10 bill in 2020, heats things up and makes the price of $1,000 for the Martha Washington certificate pretty much a steal, if not a charmer.

Speaking of charmers, at Edelman’s I learned that the $2 bill is not by any means rare, but if it was printed before 1960 and is stamped with a red seal, it is currently worth $10!

Edelman’s is licensed and bonded by the Banking Department of Pennsylvania and grants loans on rare U.S. and worldwide coins, stamps, paper money and jewelry. They are examined by the department once a year.

As a team, Jon and Andrew teach a course titled “How to buy gold and silver,” for the Abington Adult Evening School and Cheltenham Township Adult School curriculum.

Gift ideas (or perhaps to start your own collection): Beautiful Silver Eagle dollar – (1 oz. of silver), $20; birthday coins – a set with birth year of 1950 and later is prepackaged by the US Mint and runs about $40. Sets for birth dates prior to 1950 are compiled by Edelman’s and price varies depending on the year, starting at $25; Edelman’s gift certificates – invite your child, your inner child, your niece or nephew to explore!

My picks: A truly poetic, delicate and feminine 14c gold pocket watch, c., 1901. Designed by Elgin, this working time piece has a gold enamel face with handsomely defined Roman numerals and is calling to be worn on a long golden chain, $695; Hobo tokens – If I were to start a collection, it would be these tokens. In the 1920’s, hoboes would find Buffalo Head nickels, engrave caricatures on the front and then sell the nickel for 20 cents, $75.

A Shop Local world of its own, Edelman’s is located at 301 York Rd., at the corner of Greenwood Ave.