Claremore businessman Richard McPheeters is a man on a mission, willing to pay as much as $10,000 to the person who can help him complete his collection.
McPheeters opened his self-named rare coin shop in Claremore last summer, downsizing from his 20-year-old business, Tulsa Coin and Stamps.
“I decided I would slow down a little bit,” McPheeters said, “But it really hasn’t been a slow time since I’ve been here.”
“I can’t remember when I didn’t have an interest in coins,” McPheeters said, with a chuckle, having been in and out of the business since 1968.
“When my uncle came home from World War II, he brought back a couple of German coins from the 1870s,” he said.
McPheeters was just a baby, the youngest of six on a small farm in Bushyhead, north of Foyil.
“We put those German coins in a little box where we kept our toys, in between the two beds of the five boys who slept in them.”
“I remember playing with those coins as just a little child and I was fascinated by them,” McPheeters said.
His hobby of coin collecting took off in 1957, when his mother handed him a 1907 barber quarter and a Liberty Head V Nickel.
It quickly grew into a rather pricey passion.
In order to feed his habit, McPheeters started trading.
“I bought a roll of Indian head pennies and took them to school to sell them for 15 or 20 cents a piece,” McPheeters said, adding that he purchased them for 5 cents each. “That was the beginning of my dealings.”
McPheeters kept up his coin collection while stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War.
“Coins always fascinated me because you can hold history right in your hand,” he said. “By studying coins you can learn a lot about history, economics, politics, the kings and queens of the world. People have made coins since 500 B.C.”
Among the neatest prizes in McPheeters’s possession is the first commemorative coin of Athens, Greece, struck to commemorate the defeat of the Persian invasion on the plains of Marathon.
He also has coins from the early Babylonian period and plenty of vintage Americana.
His mission, before retiring, is to complete an eight-piece set of Denver pennies.
In addition to coins he collects commemorative exonumia, or historical tokens.
“For instance, Rogers County has a great history of coins and tokens that were struck to commemorate Will Rogers and the Cherokee Indians,” McPheeters said.
McPheeters is a lifetime member of the American Numismatic Association and a former president of the Oklahoma Numismatic Association and the Magic Empire Coin Club in Tulsa.
In 2007, McPheeters was part of the commission that designed the Oklahoma centennial quarter.
All of it was possible, McPheeters said, because of how supportive his wife has been every step of the way.
“Coin collecting is kind of like catching a fever,” McPheeters said. “We call it the numismatic bug. You either like it or you can’t understand why people do it.”
Find a historical niche and search for all the collectibles surrounding it or start with one old coin, learn its history and let your passion grow, McPheeters said.
Maybe you can start by helping McPheeters find an elusive 1982 certified small date Denver mint penny made of copper.
“I’d like to challenge all of your readers to look for that penny,” McPheeters said. “There are a lot of 1982 Denver mint pennies, so before I get inundated with calls, they have to be certified, they have to weigh right, and they have to have the right date size.”
His shop on Will Rogers Boulevard, the last bastion staving off the boredom of retirement, is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.