Greg Bennick's latest interview for the Newman Numismatic Portal is with London dealer Richard Lobel. Here's the third part, where Richard talks about starting Coincraft.
Greg Bennick: Yep. Exactly. And move to London as this free spirited wild soul. And then how
did Coincraft come about once you were in London?
Richard Lobel: Right. I started my own company, Richard Lobel and Company Limited. And a
guy who used to work for me owned the name Coincraft, and he had an account, a bank account
in Switzerland, and I think I paid him £500 pounds for the name and the account. And that's how
I got the name, Coincraft. I thought it was fine. And so we've used it since then. It's probably -- I
could have thought of a better name, but it's fine. It works.
Greg Bennick: It's great. It absolutely works. Now, you're a free spirited youth, you're running
around London, you're sleeping past breakfast because you've been out partying all night.
Richard Lobel: Right.
Greg Bennick: Where did the transition point come from between that, and maybe that
continued into Coincraft. But where did the transition point come from between staying up all
night, that sort of thing, and then paying the £500 pounds for the Coincraft name at which point
you're underway and in business?
Richard Lobel: Well, I was -- In those days, you had three big dealers. You had Seaby, Spink,
and Baldwins. And then you had the joker in the pack, you had a man called Geoffrey Hearn,
who is unbelievable. And the first -- I moved here October, and the first Christmas I spent
actually in Ireland with Geoffrey Hearne, his brother, Bernard Hearn, who was also a coin
dealer, and my mentor, Peter Gerald Maundy Allen. And these were a hard drinking, hard
playing group of people. Geoffrey had been invited to a coin dealer's home for the weekend, and
the coin dealers' daughter had just come out of a convent. And when he left, he took not only the
daughter, but the coins.
At the time, Geoffrey was the most important individual dealer around. At auction if you wanted
a lot, you would be better to pay him 5% commission. Otherwise, he'd buy the lot just to spite
you. He had the most incredible -- he had, in 1954, he put out catalogs, Edward VI crowns, 1551
UNC, 1551….I mean, he had incredible material. He also had a very checkered background,
shall we say? A friend of mine once went to his office And I don't know if you've heard of the
Kray Brothers, the most notorious gangsters in England. And he walked into Geoffrey Hearn's
office and the Kray Brothers was there and Geoffrey just said, go away, go away. But he was an
incredible guy. He was…they talk about the Una and the Lion, the five pound piece that now
sells for a quarter of a million pounds.
I remember Geoffrey actually bringing three Una and the Lions out of his pocket and he wanted
£1,800 pounds, not each, but all three for £1,800 pounds…but who had £1,800 pounds in those
days? It was wonderful thing. When I moved to England on Great Portland Street, there were
seven coin shops on this one street. And there were others scattered around. Now I'm not sure
there are seven coin shops in London…in all of London. But it was great. And you went to the auctions. I mean, Mr. French at Glendining, the best auctioneer ever, very austere, I must admit.
After -- in a year and a half or two years, I decided I wanted to try and get credit there, and I had
all my reports and all this. And I went in and I you know, he was very…never
Bill. It was
always Mr. French. And I said to him and he said,
You know, I've been buying from some time
Mr. French. I'd like to try and get credit. He said,
That's all right. Fine. Okay. And I said,
Well…but you haven't told me how much? He said,
Mr Lobel, I don't expect you to spend
more than you can afford to pay for. And that was the way it was. And it was fantastic. In those
days, you could make a fantastic living. I remember before I got credit, there was one mixed lot
of 700 coins at Glendening's. And I found a rare US five cent piece, half dime, in it, 1800
And I figured, oh, the lot's worth more, but I can bid up to £115 pounds and the check will clear.
At £125 pounds maybe not. And I bought the lot for £44 pounds. And I dumped it out and I
found not one but three rare US half dimes in it. And the dealer paid me £300 pounds. I mean,
you're talking about where I was paying £15 pounds a week for a flat at that point. And it was all
cash money. There were no taxes, there were no VAT. For a youngster, it was….
And the coin dealers I grew up with, many of them are still around, some are not, some are dead,
whatever. We had a ball. You know, it was a fantastic time. It was so exciting. Everything was
new, it was exciting. There were auctions. There were coin dealers to go to. They had junk lots. I
mean, that to me is the one thing in the coin business that is missing today: junk lots. I used to
love, in Boston, going through junk lots. You know, you'd find incredible things in them. It's
changed. You know. You're making more money, but it's not as much fun.
Greg Bennick: It sounds like a grand adventure back in the day from what you're describing. I
mean, you've got the wild Richard and this untamed frontier of a hobby with people diving in. It
just sounds quite remarkable.
Richard Lobel: It was incredible. I mean, and I grew up with a group of people, a number of
them are still around. You know, and after 50 odd years, you don't have to say much to them.
You know whether it's good or bad or whatever. I had one in today who I've known for 54
years. And he bought, sold me some stuff. I know he's got too much merchandise, he could use
some cash. That's fine. So, I bought it. Although when I say cash, because of the problem with
the money laundering, we no longer deal in cash. Up to £100 pounds, we will pay you cash.
Otherwise, we wire the money to your account. Because in this country, if I wire the money to
your account, not for today, but for tomorrow, it costs me 35 pence. If I write a check, it costs me
70 pence.. So, it saves a lot of problems.
Greg Bennick: It sounds like it. It sounds like it. Okay. So, you're going to auctions. You are
deeply involved in the coin industry. It is the high time of collecting and dealing in London.
Richard Lobel: Yeah. Absolutely.
Greg Bennick: Coincraft starts. You pay £500 pounds for the name. Where do you set up shop
at this point?
Richard Lobel: Ah. I had two rooms on Morley House at Upper Regent Street, there were two 8
foot by 10 foot rooms. I didn't have much space, and I hired a friend of mine, John Casey's
girlfriend as a secretary, and I paid her £15 pounds a week. But her spelling was even worse than
mine. My spelling has never been good, and hers was…
But it was fine. We had an office, and we're on a third floor, or fourth floor. And even when
there was no electricity, there was no lift, people would still walk up. Collectors, as a collector
myself, collectors are crazy. They must own, they must have, they must -- and I enjoy that.
I had a collector in today who's been with me 30 years. He's an MBE, which is a Member of
British Empire. And he's 93 years old. He looks healthier and stronger than I do and we had a
great chat. First time I had met him, we've dealt through the post and we've written a few times.
But he was so delighted with the way we do business, because one of the things when you said,
asked about investments. And for my sins, and I say that honestly, in the early 70's for a year and
a half, two years, I sold coins as investment. I have never sold them since. We sell – and I want
this to be in big bold letters. We do not sell anything for investment. We sell to collectors. We
want people to enjoy themselves. And when someone comes in and they've been looking for a
coin for 20 years and I can say,
Yes, I have it and it doesn't have to be expensive. It'll be £20
pounds or 30…. It gives me great joy in supplying them with what they're looking for. Does that
Greg Bennick: Absolutely. It's fantastic. I love hearing this.
Richard Lobel: And this guy today, thanked me for -- because we run the business the way he
wanted it. He's old fashioned, which is fine. It's a family owned and family run business. My
wife Claire is in charge of the banknotes, and she's one of the world experts on banknotes. We
have another couple couples working for us. I think we have, and I'm bragging, but I think we
have the best staff of anyone in the coin business in the UK. And they enjoy doing it.
We do things that…when it's your birthday, you get a card that's literally signed by everyone in
the office, and we give you £20 pounds, so you can go buy a little something. You know, it's just
that we want to remember your birthday, we want to enjoy it. I think that the staff really enjoy
working there. If it's been a good year and most years have, at the end of April, you get a 13th
month salary as a bonus. And that's everyone from the cleaner to the directors. Well, you know,
that's just the way we do it.
Greg Bennick: That's amazing.
Richard Lobel: Luckily, I'm not doing it for the -- I mean, I still want to make money, don't get
me wrong. But I'm not doing it for the money. I've done well enough. But I'm doing it because I
enjoy it and I really love it.
Greg Bennick: I can tell. It's quite obvious and it's infectious in a way. I'm just so excited to be
able to talk to you today about all this because at the end of the day, I'm really a collector. Sure, I
sell things from time to time and buy things from time to time.
Richard Lobel: Everyone does. Everyone does.
Greg Bennick: I'm a collector at heart and always have been, so I really appreciate hearing your
perspectives. Now, you go from two 8 by 10, I think you said, rooms.
Richard Lobel: Right.
About the Interviewer
Greg Bennick (www.gregbennick.com) is a keynote speaker and long time coin collector with a focus on major mint error coins. Have ideas for other interviewees? Contact him anytime on the web or via instagram @minterrors.
To watch the complete video, see:
Richard Lobel of Coincraft Interviewed for the NNP by Greg Bennick
To read the complete transcript, see:
Richard Lobel of Coincraft Interviewed for the NNP by Greg Bennick (Transcript)
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
RICHARD LOBEL INTERVIEW, PART ONE
RICHARD LOBEL INTERVIEW PART TWO
Wayne Homren, Editor
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