There’s a store by the oldest skyway in downtown Minneapolis where time stopped and piled up.

Premium Quality Coin sells someone else’s bygone pocket change, mostly, but you’ll find all sorts of stuff — and usually someone who wants to talk about old money with the proprietor.

Doesn’t matter what you collect; he understands. If you want to unburden yourself of your collection? He gets that, too.

“After being in college for a year I was so broke I was eating peanuts from the gas station vending machine for the dinner,” says Bill Himmelwright. “I decided to sell my beer can collection. It was legendary in my neighborhood, where there were six other kids who had collections. I thought it was worth a ton of money.

“Hauled my boxes of beer cans down to a beer can show in West St. Paul. I walk in the show, thinking I’m going to finally sell my life work and be comfortably flush for the summer. I spent 30 minutes walking around, went back to my boxes, took them all and threw them in the garbage can. That’s what they were worth.”

This may explain why he got into money.

Do you get a lot of folks who just want to talk coins with someone?

“That’s why I have a retail store. For six months I would come home from my store and sell stuff on eBay. It was so easy to make money — but it was so against the way I enjoyed spending my day. The whole reason I have a store is so people have a store to talk and linger and discuss cool stuff about historical collectibles.”

Do people often overestimate the value of what they have — like the beer cans?

“It’s awful. People come in and say, ‘Oh you must really love ruining people’s day.’ Most people look at something 80 years old, and they think it’s really valuable. They come in with a buffalo nickel, they think it’s real money.

“But money is that one thing that no one ever throws away, no matter how little it’s worth. No one throws away a penny. But everything else worth a penny, you throw. So every penny is still around.”

He also collects — well, collections. “I bought this whole pile of silver coins from this lady whose husband had died — but he also had a mousetrap collection. You may think, well, that a mousetrap collection is a mousetrap collection, but he had 80 on the wall, all different. Until you’ve seen an extensive mousetrap collection, you don’t believe it.”

So if someone built a better mousetrap collection, would you buy it?

“Yes. I appreciate the time and knowledge that goes into assembling and researching a collection of anything. Museums are full of people’s stuff that other people collected.”

He’s right. Next on “Hoarders” — the Smithsonian!


James Lileks