Van Simmons started collecting rare coins when he was 12 years old...
Back then, coin collecting was a tough business. You had to be an expert, or you'd get ripped off.
The old coin market was a bit like the diamond industry is today.
To value a diamond, you have to be an expert with a magnifying glass.
You have to know about flaws and colors and cuts and clarity. Then you
have to know everything there is to know about history and prices. Only
then do you have any idea what a stone is worth.
The rare-coin market used to be the same way. You needed a
magnifying glass and 30 years experience to judge the value of a coin.
Professionals had a large advantage over nonprofessionals. Mainstream
investors stayed away from the rare-coin market. They thought the market
was a fraud.
Then Van Simmons came along. In 1986, Van co-founded a business
called PCGS or the Professional Coin Grading Service. This service
revolutionized the coin industry. It made coin prices transparent.
Van hired rare-coin experts and asked them to grade billions of
dollars worth of coins. After they had graded the coins, the experts
sealed them in airtight plastic wallets. The plastic wallet acted like a
guarantee of authenticity. Novice investors could trade coins with
other novice investors without knowing anything about coin grading. PCGS
became a very successful business... and today it's still the top
grading service in the world.
Outside coins, Van also collects pocketknives, Winchester and Colt
antique firearms, American Indian memorabilia, antique fly-fishing rods,
marbles, classic surfboards, old skateboards, and much more. Van has a
library in his house. He packs its shelves with price guides for
He's too humble to say it, but he's one of the most important people in the collectibles business.
I spoke to Van last week and asked him for a coin recommendation. I
told him I wanted something affordable. "That's easy," said Van.
"Morgan Dollars are a great deal."
The Morgan Dollar is a silver one-dollar coin. The U.S. minted
Morgan Dollars between 1878 and 1904... and in 1921 for one year. The
coin contains 0.77 ounces of silver.
"I just bought another 100 myself," said Van. "I love them. But they are getting hard to find."
In 2003, when silver was $4 an ounce, you could have bought a common-date Morgan Dollar for $125 in mint condition (MS65).
Today, silver is around $30 an ounce, 650% higher, yet you can buy
the same mint-condition Morgan Dollar for only $170. To give you an idea
how much these coins could be worth in the future, in 1985, Van Simmons
paid $1,000 for one of these. Now, you can buy at an 83% discount to
Rare coins do not move in tandem with gold and silver prices. In
the last bull market, the silver price peaked in 1980, but the Morgan
Dollar didn't peak until 1985. The same thing is happening today.
Everyone is focusing on silver bullion. They're overlooking silver
I don't know when the next bull market in rare coins is going to
start, but I'd rather buy something that's only up 35% from its lows of
the last 10 years than something that's up 650%.
Besides, if Van Simmons is buying them for himself, they're good enough for my portfolio...
. And he's always happy to talk to our readers about precious metals and collectibles. You can reach him through