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The COLLECTOR



Greg Harding

A lifelong lover of stamps and coins, Greg Harding turned his hobby into a successful business and opened Blue Water Coins in 1995. ANTHONY INSWASTY

BY DEBRA MAGRANN

Like many young boys and girls growing up in the Midwest in the 1960s, Greg Harding took up stamp collecting as a hobby, which led to coins. How his hobby became a lucrative business almost 50 years later is the result of a flame kindled when he began hanging out at coin and stamp shops in Chicago.

“If you lived in Chicago, there was essentially a coin and stamp shop on every corner,” he says. “In those days it was safe to roam around the neighborhood.”

The heyday of stamp collectors, like comic book aficionados, arose before the invention of television and radio broadcasts. This global pastime, philately (the study of stamps), predates the U.S. Postal Service. As a world of stamps emerged, there was an endless stream of new and interesting stories hidden within one tiny piece of artwork.

And for Harding, he was hooked. At 6 years old, he became a member of a local stamp club. By 10, he was actively trading and selling coins at a neighborhood coin shop. And by 11, he was president of the stamp club.

“As a child I just loved this stuff,” he says. “My father and grandfather collected coins.”

Harding would help the coin shop owners sort items that came in.

“That is what launched my career,” he says. “Here I was, a 7-year-old, learning how to cut a deal. Those same men sponsored the stamp club at my school.”

Moving to the the Treasure Coast in 1974, he realized there were no outlets for his love of collecting. Relocating from the snow and ice of Chicago, his dad, a union plumber, opened an air-conditioning business. For years, Harding worked part time while dealing coins and stamps full time.

After the business sold, he decided to follow his instinct. From the age of 20, he had a presence in the coin and stamp circles. Having the dedication and necessary experience, he set out on his own.

For 10 years, he traveled around the country, learning all he could by doing the coin show circuit, which included the Florida United Numismatists annual convention in January. The Orlando event, which is the world’s largest bellwether show, includes auctions and is open to the public.

The study of numismatics is educational. It includes paper currency, tokens and medals and covers aspects of money pertaining to archeology, history, art, design, banking and economics.

In the early 1970s, the science of counterfeit detection was in its infancy. The American Numismatist Association realized the severe threat from counterfeit and altered coins and what it would do to the integrity of the coin industry as a hobby and business. The ANA certification service began with a staff of two experts in Washington, D.C., where it is near the Smithsonian numismatic collection, the Treasury Department and the Secret Service.

In 1995, Harding opened Blue Water Coins.

“I owned a brick-and-mortar shop,” he says. “I was being called to Indian River County and as far as West Palm Beach and everywhere in between. It made no sense to keep an office. Now, I am a freelance, by-appointment-only coin and stamp buyer.”

Harding is passionate about his trade and spares no time or effort giving clientele accurate appraisals and fair market value for estate collections. Since its inception, the business has given customers beyond the Treasure Coast expert advice.

As a premier precious metals and scrap gold and silver dealer, Harding uses precision scales, loops and testing kits. He is a lifetime member of the ANA, FUN Inc. and a member in good standing with several other professional associations, including a prominent grading service.

As one of the area’s most dependable and reputable coin dealers, Harding’s major advantage over digital competitors like eBay is his ability to recognize fakes and provide genuine valuations.

“It’s a common occurrence,” Harding says. “I have a lifetime of experience but sometimes even I need to have things sent out to be authenticated by a certification house before I make an offer on it.”

Harding takes pride in his customer satisfaction. He has been sent to scout out rare stamps and gold coins by customers who implicitly trust his expertise and honesty. Not a 9-to-5er, Harding makes his own schedule and is on the go at a moment’s notice. “It doesn’t make sense for me to sit in a building all day,” he says.

And his reputation is solid; his business is mostly by word-of-mouth. He has had the opportunity to handle some of the rarest coins in the world and dispose of vast collections of considerable value.

“You would never believe what’s out there,” he says. “I buy ancient coins all the time.”

Since 1985, Harding has been buying, selling, and collecting American and International coins; gold, silver and platinum bullion; diamonds; fine jewelry (new, used or broken); stamps; Rolex watches; vintage pocket watches and paper money. He buys from individuals, estate sales, coin shops and collectors across the country and is able to go anywhere to accommodate your schedule.

“I want my clients to feel comfortable and secure. Their satisfaction is my main concern,” Harding says.



GREG HARDING

Age: 54
Lives in: Port St. Lucie
Occupation: owner, Blue Water Coins
Education: School of Hard Knocks and member of numismatic associations; lifetime member of FUN – Florida United Numismatists and the American Numismatists Association
Hobbies: Fishing and boating
Who/what inspires me: “Buying cool coins and postage stamps (early issue of U.S. coins, late 1700s and early 1800s and stamps from the 1840s to 1880s).
Something most people don’t know about me: “I love to scuba dive for lobster.”