By Antoinette Rahn
Tom Snead, founder, and president of Palm Island Coins & Currency is among the fortunate people who do what they love and love what they do. In the world of numismatics, that’s not uncommon, but it is part of what inspires him to expand his business vision and inspire others to do the same.
Snead’s interest in numismatics began at the age of 10 when he made an exciting discovery in the yard surrounding his family’s home.
“I found a 1930 Standing Liberty quarter,” he recalls. “Since I was sure that only George Washington was on quarters, I thought I had made quite an archeological find.”
"Red Book" Beginnings
Snead promptly made his way to the local library, where he was introduced to “The Red Book” (A Guide Book of United States Coins). Although his homestead discovery was worth just $2, it opened the door to a lifetime of coin collecting.
In 2019, was the 20th anniversary of Snead’s decision to turn his lifelong hobby into a full-time business. He started small, with a mail-order business, driven largely by ads he placed in various numismatic publications, including COINage. In time, he was publishing and distributing a full-color catalog featuring listings of thousands of coins, currency, and other related collectibles. This evolved into developing a website and establishing the online arm of his business in 2008, and in 2012 he opened his first retail shop in Clearwater, Florida. In addition to the original Palm Island shop, Snead has a small operation in Bradenton, Florida, and in the fall of this year, he’ll open another store in Largo, Florida.
Visitors to the Palm Island Coins & Currency Clearwater location will find a wide variety of items presented in a manner reminiscent of old-fashioned coin shops. There is an area with buckets of inexpensive coins to sort through, a section of high-end certified coins, intermediate priced coins, an area featuring world coins and currency, ancients, and Roman and Medieval coins. But, that’s not all.
Having extra space and opportunity, Snead made a point of displaying and offering items many people may not realize are related to the hobby. This includes, but is not limited to, Colonial currency, Depression-era script, stock certificates, antique postcards, historical documents, and U.S. Presidential election memorabilia.
Numismatics Opens Doors of Travel
For this member of the American Numismatic Association, Florida United Numismatists, and the 1715 Fleet Society, the business of traveling to acquire world coins and currency and ancient items is one of the great joys in life. His journeys have taken him to various locations in South America, Europe, and Africa, just to name a few. Snead shared two of those experiences with the readers of COINage.
In “The Coin Hobby in Cuba,” which was published in the June 2016 issue, he told about being part of a historic first numismatic trip to Cuba, where a group of prominent coin dealers from the U.S. met with the director of the National Numismatic museum to examine the museum’s collection. Another of his numismatic travel tales appeared in the July 2017 issue, and it highlighted his journey to Mexico City to tour historic numismatic locations.
Throughout his life as a collector and dealer, Snead has watched the hobby evolve significantly. Among the two most impactful advancements has been the development of third party grading and the advent of the Internet, he says.
“Third-party grading, which involves encapsulating a coin in a certified “slab” holder and giving it a numerical grade, was met with much skepticism when introduced in the 1980s,” says Snead, who is an authorized dealer for NGC, PCGS, and PMG certifications. “Since then I’ve realized what a valuable tool it’s become to standardize grading, guarantee authenticity, and protect coins from mishandling.”
Evolution of The Hobby
In terms of the internet, he views it as a “mixed bag for collectors.”
“It’s both a great source of information, but an impersonal way to enjoy the hobby,” he adds. “You can learn more in a day talking to fellow hobbyists and dealers at a coin shop or local coin show than you could in weeks of solitary internet research.”
Regardless if he is working side-by-side with his employees at the two, soon to be three, Palm Island Coins & Currency locations in Florida, or traveling across the country and around the world to acquire coins, currency, and collectibles to sell, meet fellow collectors and dealers, and study ancient history, Tom Snead is living his best life, with a profession that is his passion.