I was sorry to learn recently that Sterling Rachootin had passed away. Sterling was quite active in the Civil War Token Society and
wrote a number of great articles for their journal. Susan Trask forwarded the below article by Sol Taylor (published January 12, 2008) with Sterling
telling the story of how he got started as a collector. Susan also provided the photo of Sterling. Thanks. -Editor
In the mid 1930s, when the penny boards just came out, a few of my friends
bought them and began collecting. I thought it was a great idea, especially when my father bought a neighborhood grocery store and I had the
opportunity to try and fill my penny board. That was not to be.
My father was in fact dealing in pennies, also, and he felt that I was in competition with him by taking pennies out of his cash register. On a
15-cent pack of cigarettes, 2 cents was the profit margin, so I had to get rid of my penny board. My dad worked very hard from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30
p.m., seven days a week, with one day off each year — Yom Kippur. He had to retire after his heart attack in 1944.
By 1960 I was a married man with three children. One evening, while walking through a Sav-On drug store, I noticed a thick, three-holed notebook
filled with pennies in 2x2 holders. In one corner were marked prices ranging from 10 cents up to $3.50, and in the opposite corner was the date and
In my mind, I was thinking, "I must be throwing away a fortune in pennies."
So I immediately purchased a Whitman holder, some 2x2 coin holders and a copy of Dick Yeoman's "Red Book" ("A Guide Book of
United States Coins").
Dad's grocery store was no longer available to me, but I was in "good" with the cafeteria manager of our school where I taught, and
she sold me her daily take of change.
A few weeks passed and I had my penny folder almost complete, except for 12 empty slots. I needed the 1909-S VDB, 1914-D and some of the scarcer
Just out of curiosity, I went to a nearby coin store and inquired as to what the 12 slots would cost to complete my set of cents. The dealer added
up the cost on his calculator and it came to $375.
The dealer saw I was not impressed, so, wishing to make a sale, he said, "I have a complete set of Lincoln cents in a Whitman folder I just
bought, that you can have for $300." I purchased the set of Lincolns just to prove to myself that I was a serious collector. I still have
My father-in-law had just moved to Los Angeles from Monaco and I noticed he brought with him a gumball machine filled with pennies. After a hint,
he gave me the machine, but I couldn't open it. So I smashed it open to obtain some 40 pennies — all common ones. The gumball machine was worth
some $75, however.
This incident only verifies my commitment to numismatics. Needless to say, I progressed to nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars, which were still
common in Las Vegas. In the gumball machine was a strange copper-like coin, so I made a trip downtown and visited several coin stores to learn what I
The first three coin dealers could not identify the token, but the fourth dealer informed me I had a Civil War token. I was so excited that I
bought two black books by Fuld for $1 each, and I began collecting Civil War tokens. Then I met Jack Detwiler, who encouraged me to write articles
for the Civil War Token Society. I joined the society, served on the board of governors, and a few years later I was elected vice president and later
My collecting enthusiasm did not end there. After meeting another numismatist, George Baude, I became interested in many new fields of
numismatics. I became excited with encased postage, followed by privately issued scrip and postage stamps of the Union and confederacy of the Civil
War era, then patriotic covers and the interesting propaganda messages contained therein.
There was inflationary money appearing after World War I, with its anti-Semitic, Nazi propaganda. I was on a roll, and almost everything proved to
be exciting: counterstamped coins, love tokens, Conder tokens from England, Hard Times tokens, cobs, and most recently, items not used for commerce
made from coins and currency.
I have not collected coins from every field yet, but I seem to be swayed by every field of numismatics. If I live long enough, there are many more
fields that will excite me. I just remembered — I delved into the field of errors and off-metals earlier and helped a few get started in that field.
When I taught elementary school, I usually provided material to after-school stamp and coin clubs that met weekly, gratis. If money and health hold
up, I'll be into more new fields.
To read the complete article, see:
A Conversation with Sterling Rachootin, Modern Renaissance
Susan Trask also forwarded this entry for Sterling on the CWTS Hall of Fame:
Sterling Rachootin undoubtedly has written more articles and received more Literary Awards at all levels than any other author contributing to The
Civil War Token Journal. A history teacher by profession, Sterling brought historic interpretations to his articles, often challenging the reader to
do research and writing of his or her own. He served on the Society's Board of Governors for five terms, and as President in 1997- 1998.
I met Sterling Rachootin a couple times early in my time as a member of the Civil War Token Society. This was probably in the early
1980s, as that was when I began attending the summer ANA convention and CWTS membership meetings. I admired his articles on scrip and other
numismatic items that were issued by merchants who issued Civil War store cards. Having an interest in both fields myself, I actively collected
these, such as the scrip issued by D. L. Wing. He was a true force in the hobby and will be greatly missed. -Editor
Wayne Homren, Editor
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