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History of coins featured in Now & Then Lecture Series

The Niwot Historical Society's first lecture in its annual Now & Then Lecture Series, Aug. 23, featured Daryl Mercer and the history of coins, particularly in Colorado. The Now & Then Lectures were started in 2011 by Laura Skaggs and have continued for 12 years, bringing interesting new historical insights to the history lovers in Niwot.

The Now & Then Lectures are now organized by Kathy Koehler, who has been the president of the Niwot Historical Society for several years. The lecture series continued even over the Covid pandemic and are still going strong today, with five lectures scheduled for this season.

Mercer, a Niwot resident who specializes in coin history and identifying old coins, became interested in coins at a young age. He eventually came to work at Tebo Coin Company in Boulder and bought it from the original owner, Stephen Tebo, in 1978. Mercer owned the shop until 2020, when he sold Tebo Coin Company to Bruce Bollschweiler.

"Kathy called me six months ago and asked me, 'Would you be willing to come out and talk with the historical society?'" Mercer recalled. "That was my first event with the historical society." Mercer explained that some of his favorite coins come from the diversity of coins from early U.S. minting. "With the beautiful coins, it is really truly hard to beat the 1907 Saint-Gaudens twenty-dollar gold piece," he said. It's called high relief." The coin recently sold on ebay for $37,000.00.

Another one of Mercer's favorite coins was prominent in the lecture and dates back to the Civil War. "One of the ones that comes to mind just because it makes me laugh is... the Civil War token where they misspelled the word "spot," so instead of saying, 'the flag of our nation if anybody attempts to tear it down, shoot him on the spot,' it says, 'shoot him on the spoot.' And so we've always joked about, where is a person's spoot."

Mercer's talk focused mainly on the history of minting coins in the United States and how that had an influence in Colorado and many mining towns in the west. The Gold Rush impacted the establishment of currency due to the differences in the purity of the gold, as well as the variations in the price of everyday items sold by merchants.

Because the government had not made private mints illegal, various mints began to pop up in Colorado and along the west coast, which created several varieties of coins with the same value. The Denver Mint started at the Clark and Gruber Bank in Kansas, which eventually moved to Colorado as a mint, and was very successful despite the failure of other mints at the time.The mint was eventually bought by the U.S. Government by an Act of Congress in 1963, and became the current Denver Mint.

Mercer described this historically important mint in the lecture, "The bank was a two-story building. There would have been a basement. That's where they would have kept the dies and where all the manufacturing of the coins would have taken place... It would have been one of the first brick buildings in Denver... There is still a plaque marking the place of the first bank."

"The presentation by Daryl Mercer was so special," Kathy Koehler said after the Early Coinage in Colorado Lecture. "He was filled with the history of amazing coins in Colorado and other early minted coins. When you can relate coins to the historical development of our country, it can be inspiring, and Daryl is a very good storyteller."

The lecture, with over 50 people attending, included several pictures of old and rare coins from United States history. Mercer discussed how the value of gold in the coins compared to the value of the coin itself caused coins of certain years to be melted for their gold value, and how this led to periods of extremely rare coins that can sell for millions of dollars today.

Next month's lecture, "Boulder County's Early Residents," will be held on Sept. 20, and will focus on the pioneers who settled in Colorado when it was only a territory. The speaker, Diana Carson, is a specialist in genealogy and research.

The Now & Then Lecture Series takes place in the Left Hand Grange monthly at 7:00 p.m. on a Wednesday evening. The doors open a half-hour early and lectures are free to all members of the Niwot Historical Society, or five dollars for non-members.


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