For Steven Stoltzfus, making change starts with coin collecting.
He’s invested the last 20 years of his life to collecting coins for global relief work through Mennonite Central Committee, a nonprofit organization based in Akron.
But what began as a personal hobby, with loose pennies and silver dollars accumulating over time, has now become a community investment for Stoltzfus, Lancaster County native and Plain sect man.
As a board member for the Pennsylvania Relief Sale for more than 10 years, Stoltzfus continues to take charge of the country and coin auctions, forced to think outside the box after the sale, held in conjunction with Mennonite Central Committee, was canceled this past April due to the coronavirus outbreak.
A joint online and in-person coin auction organized by Stoltzfus is now set for Aug. 14 at Bareville Fire Hall in Leola.
The auction, with 215 lots, will feature a catalog of coins: Morgan dollars and Peace dollars, which Stoltzfus also refers to as silver dollars; Indian Head cents, produced prior to the regular penny; steel pennies from World War II; gold coins and pieces dating back to the mid-1800s.
“It’s a hobby, but it’s also an investment,” he said. “I spend a little money now, trying to purchase with the potential to sell later at a profit.”
For Stoltzfus and his family, supporting Mennonite Central Committee through its fundraising efforts at the Pennsylvania Relief Sale has always been prioritized. In fact, it was Stoltzfus’ mother who first saw the advertisement for the relief sale in the paper years ago and suggested the family volunteer.
Now Stoltzfus is able to marry his interest in coins with his desire to help others, making change in more ways than one.
“It’s interesting to look back at the different historical pieces and think about the stories they [coins] could tell if they could speak,” Stoltzfus said.
The coins are expected to be auctioned off at prices ranging from $1 to $600, according to Stoltzfus.
“The wonderful thing about selling the coins is people at the sale pay more for the coins than they are worth at a coin shop,” said Darrell Yoder, a board member for the Pennsylvania Relief Sale.
One of the four gold pieces for sale this year was previously purchased at the 2018 relief sale but has been donated back to be resold.
“Some of these coins, I don’t know how many times they have actually been sold,” Yoder said. “It isn’t uncommon for coins to be purchased one year, only to be donated back the next year.”
In addition to purchasing coins for the sale, Stoltzfus also keeps his eye out for purchases to complete his own collection.
His personal collection of coins, all of which he keeps stored away at his home, includes several hundred coins — pennies, also referred to as Lincoln cents, and Morgan dollars from the late 1800s.
“A lot of collectors focus on a specific thing ... they would have a specialty,” Stoltzfus said. “I just kind of go for whatever grabs my interest.”
Stoltzfus is a self-taught coin collector, attributing much of his knowledge of coins to books and resources he has read since beginning his coin collection. Both Stoltzfus and his wife had personal coin collections, but upon getting married, they created a joint collection that still grows today.
“There are coin collectors out there enjoying it much longer than I have, but I know enough to get myself into trouble at times,” Stoltzfus said, in reference to purchasing rare coins with the potential of them being counterfeit.
The auction is set to bring anywhere from 40 to 50 people — a majority of them coin collectors.
For David Yoder, a supporter of MCC and longtime attendee at the relief sale coin auction, paying extra for the auctioned coins isn’t a problem, because he knows where the money is going, he said.
Darrell Yoder agrees.
“I am struck with the idea of selling something like an ancient coin in Lancaster County so that a person in a completely different part of the world can eat for a day, or send their child to school, or buy a goat,” he said.
That’s where it all started for Stoltzfus, nearly 20 years ago.
“Having a little bit of an interest is just sort of an added bonus to the investment side of it,” Stoltzfus said.