Like most people, Tom Wood likes money – coins in particular.
If you gave him a choice between a bill and a coin, he’d take the coin, or at least choose the bill to buy a coin.
But it’s not because coins can bring him such luxuries as a high-end car or a mansion in a trendy ZIP code.
“It’s the history of coins that (is) appealing to me,” said Wood, a full-time engineer but a weekend coin dealer specializing in biblical-era coins.
Wood was one of 150 coin dealers and collectors who set up tables Feb. 7-9 for the Carolina Coin & Currency Show. Sponsored by the Charlotte Coin Club, the annual event, now in its 44th year, was held at the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo on Statesville Road in University City.
Each year, the show attracts between 2,500 and 3,000 visitors, from seasoned collectors to those new to coin collecting.
There’s even a scavenger hunt for young collectors, who travel from table to table gathering clues to a puzzle. Large brown paper sacks filled with coins, currency and used coin manuals donated by collectors await each child who has answered correctly.
Dealers generally come from all over the Southeast. Some specialize in paper currency, while others focus on ancient coins. A few dabble in foreign coins. Many run the gamut, collecting whatever they find interesting at the time.
For most, the show is an opportunity not only to purchase coins and have them professionally graded by one of the authenticators on the premises but to swap stories from the year with old friends.
Wood’s collection began 20 years ago, when as a youth minister he discovered how accessible and reasonably priced coins from the biblical era were.
“People think because of the age of it, the antiquity of it, that it should be worth hundreds, if not millions (of dollars), but that’s not necessarily the case,” said Wood.
“It takes two things to have value in a marketplace. One is the demand, and there’s not a lot of people collecting.
“The other is the supply, and there are a lot more of these than people realize.”
For collectors and dealers of biblical-era coins, the value has always been in the connection they make with the past.
Wood picked up a silver coin from his collection and flipped it head-up into his palm.
“This coin was in circulation in Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s ministry,” Wood said of the coin, known as a shekel of Tyre. “Christ was probably around 23 or 24 years old at this point.”
He set it down and picked up another, pointing to the image on the coin’s head.
“That’s Artaxerxes. This coin was struck by the king in the Old Testament story Nehemiah,” Wood said of the coin, which he estimated would have represented a day’s pay in silver at that time.
“These coins can help people understand, in this time period, what they’re reading in their Bibles every day,” Wood said. “This is truly biblical history that you can hold in your hand.”