As a paperboy, Steve Marshall traded a three-month newspaper subscription for a tetradrachm, an ancient Greek silver coin, when he was about 10 years old.
Now 52, Marshall said he still owns the silver piece and has collected coins ever since.
“I love talking about coins,” he said. “There is just so much history that passes through your hand. If they could just talk for a minute, I would ask them to tell me where they’ve been, what they’ve seen.”
Marshall and his wife, Brenda, opened Cowboy Gold and Silver Exchange on Oct. 9 at 308 S. Third St. The shop caters to local and online collectors of both numismatic and bullion coins.
“Bullion coins are bought primarily for their metal content — gold and silver,” he said. “Numismatic coins are collectible coins like wheat pennies.”
Digging through a bucket of metal currency, Marshall retrieved a penny minted in 1951 with two strands of wheat wrapped around the outer edges of the coin’s tail-side.
“This is a wheat penny,” he said holding up the copper coin. “For most people, it’s their first numismatic coin. We give them out to the kids that come in.”
In addition to selling coins, Marshall said he and his wife make custom jewelry for men and women from silver dollars, half dollars and gold dollars as well as various pendants featuring precious metals or rare coins.
“I made this ring here,” he said, pointing to a thick gold band on his right hand.
Sliding the ring off and looking inside, Marshall pointed to a portion of the coin’s still visible effigy.
“People think the jewelry is just for women, but we make some great rings for men, too,” Marshall said. “They can even watch us make it. That’s pretty fun.”
No stranger to running businesses, Marshall moved to Laramie from his hometown, Salina, Kansas, when he was about 25. He purchased Laramie Ford, which he owned for about 24 years. After Laramie Ford, Marshall purchased Adventure Dodge and ran the dealership for about two years.
During his car dealer days, Marshall said his coin collecting fell by the wayside, but he never lost his passion for history.
“If I didn’t go into business, I would have taught history,” he said.
Marshall’s love for history becomes immediately apparent upon entering Cowboy Gold and Silver Exchange. Fuel pumps from the ’40s and ’50s adorn the entryway, American flags from throughout the country’s history adorn the walls and Civil War-era weapons are both available for purchase and serve as decorations.
“This flag has 36-stars and dates back to 1865,” Marshall said, walking toward the tattered banner encased in a glass frame. “It’s obviously been used. You can see the tears and stains from smoke, which is campfire smoke I believe.”
An American parade flag with 44-stars was framed on the opposite wall.
“This one is from 1891,” Marshall said. “That had a wooden dowel on it at one point, and people literally stood on the side of a parade and waved that flag. Where’s that flag been for 120 years? I would love to know.”
History, like cash, appears to be less and less important in today’s society, he said. But, Marshall added there are enough collectors interested in numismatic coins and people who invest in gold, silver and bullion coins to keep the coin industry thriving.
“We’re rapidly moving toward a cashless society,” he said. “I wouldn’t say the hobby is in the decline, but the spending habits have changed. There are fewer coin collectors than there were 20 years ago.”
But Marshall said there are likely more precious metal investors now. Marshall said while some of his customers might be precious metal investors, he is not an investment adviser.
“I’m just a collectibles dealer,” he explained.
Sifting through his collection in the display cabinets, Marshall scooped up two coins.
“Now these are pirate coins,” he said, laying down a gold and a silver coin protected by plastic cases. “That’s an original piece of eight. The contemporaries at this time in history would cut this coin into eight pieces, and so one of the pieces became a piece of eight.”
Few things in life can top holding real pirate treasure, but Marshall wasn’t done. Stepping into his backroom, he retrieved his oldest coin — a tetradrachm like the one that started him down the coin collecting path.
“This is a tetradrachm of Alexander the Great from roughly the year 300 B.C.,” Marshall said, pulling the oblong silver coin minted with an effigy not altogether different than a 21st century nickel. “This is Hellenistic artwork from ancient Greece. And there’s a stamp on here that is unusual.”
Turning the coin over in his hand, he pointed to an indentation in Alexander’s head.
“Wherever this coin was, at some point in its life, the city state it was in got conquered and the conquering entity put their stamp on the coin,” he said, eyes alight with the possible history contained in the palm of his hand.
After owning businesses in Laramie for more than two decades, Marshall said he was ready to do things a little differently.
“Most of our lives, we did what we needed to,” he explained. “And now, we get to do what we want to do. I think we’re pretty lucky.”
Cowboy Gold and Silver Exchange is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays. Call Steve Marshall at 460-2667 for more information about the shop.