His two cents
John Kranz has owned and operated The Penny Ranch on Highway 32 for 37 years. He started out with a handful of old coins but throughout the years has diversified into stamps, jewelry, sports cards and all things collectible.
What’s the rarest coin you’ve had?
I’ve got one now of which there’s only three known. It’s a United States penny. Basically, it is a sample of a design they were contemplating, and there were several designs that year. In 1858, there was this design and the Indian Head. Well, ultimately they decided on the Indian Head design … so the 1858 Indian Head is more well-known, but this one’s much scarcer.
What’s the design?
Well, it’s a flying eagle, although the eagle is not very eagle-like. I’ve had people describe it more as a flying buzzard. That was probably detrimental to its being picked as a design.
What do you think of those new [Sacagawea] dollars?
I really like them. I think they’re just fantastic. If they would use the coin dollar and stop printing the paper dollar, they would save over a billion dollars a year. We spend over a billion dollars a year just printing paper dollars to replace the ones that wear out—we could save all that money and have a beautiful coin to use.
I guess when you start collecting things you learn a lot…
Oh yeah, there’s a lot of history … [Coin collecting] documents history through economics in a lot of ways. You can see periods of United States history, when there were recessions or depressions, they didn’t make that many coins. In times of abundance, when people have more money, they make lots and lots of coins as people tend to throw their change in a jar and get more change. During recessions and depressions, the cookie jars get emptied and all those coins go back out into circulation, so they don’t need very many.
Do people try to counterfeit coins?
Oh, all the time. It’s relatively easy, actually. I had some junior high students that were taking a class in shop and part of that was making molds. … Well, they took a half-dollar, made a mold, and cast more half-dollars out of metal they had lying around. They went and took them to the cafeteria and bought lunch.
That’s a federal crime.
It is, in fact, a federal crime. But who’s going to prosecute a few teenagers out of junior high?