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Coin Collectors Converge On Brooksville

Published:   |   Updated: May 8, 2013 at 03:23 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - There are good coin dealers and there are bad coin dealers.

If you're lucky enough to stumble across a rare coin in your backyard, you're better off consulting with a good one. Otherwise, you could miss your chance for a six-figure payday.

Many of the region's most reputable collectors and dealers assembled at the Hernando County Fairgrounds last weekend for the first ever coin show in Brooksville.

One of them was Mark Palermo, who along with his wife owns and manages Brandon Coins and Collectibles.

Anyone who finds or inherits a jar of old coins should call Palermo. The next best thing would be to take his advice and call someone who trades and appraises coins for a living.

"Contact a local coin club," said Palermo, who had one of the largest displays among the dozen or so dealers at Brooksville last weekend. "They can recommend someone. They can get you in contact with a dealer you can trust."

That would have been the best course of action for one Massachusetts landscaper who discovered a 19th century half-dollar at a work site a couple years ago.

He was not sure what he had, but suspected it was worth something. He took it to a local dealer, who then told him it was worthless, Palermo said.

The landscaper's son begged him to get a second opinion, but the man naively polished the coin using Tarnex, a silver cleaner.

The man eventually gave in to his son's demands and brought it to another dealer. That was when he found out what he had - a coin worth $250,000.

His excitement was tempered more than slightly when he found out what he would have made had he never cleaned it. It depreciated in value by more than 35 percent. He could have walked away with almost $400,000 for one coin.

Palermo said there are three major factors in determining the value of a coin - which applies to mostly anything people commonly collect (comic books, baseball cards, stamps, etc.). Appraisers look at age, condition and rarity.

Do not expect bicentennial quarters or state quarters to be worth much, at least not for a long time. Millions currently are in circulation.

Old silver dollars, particularly Morgan dollars? That is another story. They can go for six figures, depending on their condition.

The newly established Hernando Coin Club hosted the local coin show, which was held Saturday and Sunday. The wet weather on the event's first day helped keep a lot of people inside, mingling with dealers and collectors - all of whom were selling and trading.

Larry Bonessa is the president of the local club. Throughout his life, he has been a collector of many things. His extensive list of hobbies has led him to join flying clubs, gun clubs and several other coin clubs in the Northeast.

He owns Lincoln pennies, steel quarters, Eisenhower dollars and countless other pieces of classic U.S. currency.

Like a scene from "Goodfellas," Bonessa pointed to each individual dealer and said his name and where he was from. Over there was Ritchie. Then there was Artie. To the right stood Guy, Jack, Jimmy and several more. They came to Brooksville from Pasco County, Clearwater, Brandon and Tampa.

"They all have tables here," he said, obviously delighted at the robust turnout for the first-ever show in Hernando County.

Then he pointed to Jim Korp, a collector and club member himself who helped promote the event.

"Jimmy's been in this business since he was a fetus," Bonessa joked.

John Couch, a snowbird who spends half his time in Hernando County, said he has visited coin shows across the country - from Fort Lauderdale to Phoenix.

"I'm pretty heavy into it," he said. "I have a lot of bullion, a lot of silver, a lot of rolls of stuff."

He gave the two-day event high marks, saying it was one of the best small-scale shows he has attended in recent memory.

The room was filled mostly with Italian men 50 years or older - and mostly from New York or New Jersey. There were some couples and young collectors, but for the most part, coin collecting is a hobby for those who were alive to remember when currency included more than the usual faces - Lincoln, Kennedy, etc.

The local club seemed aware of the median age among the attendees and made sure to include a kids education forum Saturday afternoon.

Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or

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