By Antoinette Rahn
Gobrecht Numismatics of Hollywood, Florida, is celebrating 50 years of business this year. Achieving a milestone of 50 years in 2020 seems almost magical, but in reality, it’s the result of developing a life-long passion for coins and working hard. This reality is the stuff of dreams for Michael O’Higgins. Seriously.
“I found a Buffalo nickel in a handful of change when I was five years old,” said O’Higgins, in response to a question about who or what inspired his interest in coins. “I literally dreamed about coins. I became more and more intrigued and began collecting.”
Growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland, O’Higgins, like a lot of teenagers, was involved in clubs and activities during high school. However, his story is a bit different than most teens in that one of the organizations he was involved, was a coin collecting club, which he helped form. While being a founding member of a coin club is certainly an uncommon path for a high school student, what came next is another level altogether.
At the age of 17, O’Higgins opened a coin shop. It took great organization, dedication, and keen time management skills to make it work, but work it did. He opened his business in what was once an auto body repair shop, a space he rented.
With just a few classes and credits needed to graduate, he would start the day at school, and around 11:30 a.m. each day, he’d open his coin shop and do business until 6 p.m. when he’d return to school for practice with various sports teams.
As mentioned earlier, O’Higgins more than made it work. After completing his schooling, he continued to operate his business, then known as Maryland Coin Exchange, in the same location within his hometown of Silver Spring for nearly 44 years, before moving to Florida in 2018.
Making Positive Changes
When asked about the decision for his family and his business to move to Florida, O’Higgins explained that his wife is from the area, and they still have family there. Plus, he added, with a chuckle, the weather is a lot nicer for more of the year.
“We live on the ocean, and it’s almost always sunny. It’s not a bad way to live,” he added.
When asked about some of the most memorable moments of his business career thus far, O’Higgins said, “Wow, there’s been so many. It’s hard to choose just a couple.”
Of those many memories, he did recall a time, just before the turn of the 21st century, when an elderly woman came in with 200 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln cent coins, which at the time was worth $90,000.
There was also the silver boom of the 1980s, he said. “Every day I was working 20 hours, it was an exciting time.”
Coin Show Community
He also spoke about the many coin shows he’s attended over the past five-plus decades he’s been actively buying and selling rare coins. He, along with staff members, often attend 5-10 shows a year. Attending shows provides O’Higgins and his staff with the time to connect with contemporaries in the industry, speak with collectors who are searching for particular coins to add to their collections, or sell single coins or entire collections. Talk about an ideal situation for a man whose childhood dreams often included coins.
When asked about examples of positive and encouraging events in numismatics today, O’Higgins mentioned the United States Mint issuing a limited number of America the Beautiful quarters with the “W” mintmark. O’Higgins sees the program as a way to create interest in coins and collecting, which is critically important to the industry.
Another plus impacting the numismatic industry presently is the price of gold and silver, he said. “The prices will continue to go up, and that’s positive,” he adds.
O’Higgins has learned quite a bit through this life-long interest and professional passion. He’s held historic and scarce coins, met some of his idols within the industry who then became friends, and he has worked tirelessly beside an outstanding team of employees.
The good news is the journey is far from over for this inspiring entrepreneur.