January 15, 2024

Coin Road Trip: Four States, 23 Coin Shops, a Disastrous Hotel Stay, and 10 Days Later…

I had my first published article on CoinWeek! Below is a short recap about a road trip I took in late 2023 visiting various coin shops across the southwest United States.


In late December 2023, I found myself presented with a rare opportunity.

I was in California to pick up a car that I needed to drive back home to Colorado. Initially, I was just planning to drive straight back but then it hit me: You know, I could drop by a few coin shops on the way back…

I could sense my wife rolling her eyes as she saw me Googling all the coin shops on the way. What was initially a handful of shops ended up being the road trip of a lifetime.

As a collector who specializes in researching and collecting Dansco coin albums, my goal was to find as many cool Dansco products as I could. I also wanted to meet other coin collectors along the way and share my Dansco preservation project with them.

Four states, 1,500 miles, 23 coin shops, a disastrous hotel stay, and 10 days later, I arrived back home with dozens of albums and pages, 15 pounds of world coins, 200 world currency notes, and many more stories.

In addition to all that, I also made some observations after visiting 23 coin shops across California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado:

  • 15% of shops were extremely welcoming. I was able to chat with the owners about my Dansco preservation project and they wanted to help out. They often suggested nearby shops to visit.
  • 25% of shops were generally friendly and welcoming, but I was seen more as a customer rather than a fellow collector.
  • 40% of shops were ambivalent.
  • 20% were outright hostile.

Some shops were extremely hostile when I said I was looking for rare Dansco albums. One shop owner looked at the Danscos I was trying to purchase, took them out back to look up sold listings on eBay, then refused to sell half and overcharged the other half.

The best shop owner experiences were the ones where I got to share my preservation project with the owner and we got to talk about the current state of Dansco and coin collecting. The best interactions happened when shop owners were curious about my knowledge of Dansco products, rather than assuming I was just a reseller trying to make a quick buck.

For fun, I ran an experiment. Some days I dressed in casual clothes, and other days I dressed up a little more. When I was in casual, baggy attire, I was given worse service and experienced more hostility. When I was better dressed, I received significantly better service and respect.

As a young person of color, I always wonder if my age/race plays into how shop owners treat me. After this trip, my experience was that age and race didn’t impact me as much – but class and perceived social status played a significant part in how I was treated.

The smallest coin shops tended to have the most personable owners.

Regarding my disastrous hotel stay, let’s just say that it wasn’t fun waking up to teenagers trying to break into cars in a hotel parking lot in Albuquerque when you have a few thousand dollars worth of coin supplies in your car. We ended up checking out of the hotel at 2 am and sleeping on the road.

I saw all types of coin shops on our road trip. From holes in the walls to boutique jewelry stores. It didn’t matter how fancy the shops were, the key thing was how the owner saw and treated customers.

Some other observations:

  • Every shop has complaints about how hard it was to purchase and attain supplies from Dansco.
  • Around 90% of shop owners and employees were men; 10% were women.
  • Around 30% of shop owners & employees were under the age of 45; 70% were 45 or older.
  • Some shops have old coin supplies like Whitman albums in a free giveaway box!
  • Negotiating deals is both an art and critical for coin collectors. Almost every shop was willing to negotiate the final price.

Overall, my coin road trip was a great experience. I got to meet a bunch of collectors and build out my collection. It was interesting to see the range of coin shops around the southwest United States. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it again, but this time across the country.

–Justin Hinh, aka Dansco Dude