Marikina-born numismatist is one of New York’s top coin, gold dealers
NEW YORK — When Roman Banting came to the U.S. in the 1990s, he felt inadequately prepared for the American job market.
The only jobs he had held in the Philippines were ticket-taker in a movie house and car salesman. In Florida, his wife Imelda had an in-demand health care job as a physical therapist, while Roman worked part-time at a printing press.
After two years, the young couple moved to New York. While Imelda was in residency training to be a doctor, Roman clerked at a popular boutique, selling ladies shoes. He heard about a Jewish family looking for a driver. Little did he know that his education as a numismatist would begin behind the wheel of a 1999 black Yukon Denali.
Today, after more than 20 years learning the art and trade of coins and currency, Marikina-born Roman is co-owner of Coin Exchange, a leading gold and coin dealer in Westchester, an affluent county in New York State where the annual per capita income in 2011 was $167,813.
“Sa Pilipinas, may jewelry shop ang nanay ko (In the Philippines my mother had a jewelry shop, but that did not prepare me for this job,” said Roman in an interview with The FilAm.
The Jewish family did not like him instantly, recalled Roman. They were looking for a middle-aged driver, a type they presumed to be more cautious on the road. Roman looked boyish for a 32-year-old. “They tried me for a week. They saw that I was a careful driver, polite, and magaling dumiskarte (with finesse).”
One of the family members he drove around New York was a coin collector. He would go to auctions and frequent rare coin galleries, such as Stack’s Bowers Galleries on 57th Street. Roman got curious about the trade and began to ask questions.
“I got curious about the worth of a coin, the metal content, about melting gold, etc. He gave me old magazines and told me to read,” he said. “I read everything.”
In time when he felt he had learned a little bit about pricing, he began to invest in gold and silver coins, spending anywhere from $100 to $200 for each purchase. He bought an early type $20 Gold Double Eagle coin, which was considered vintage because its gold was melted down in 1933.
“It’s a rare coin, there’s few of them in circulation not unless you buy from shipwrecks around the country,” he said.
Roman continued to read and study. “I was self-taught.”
He explained how Mint State Uncirculated Coins have a grade from 60 (lowest) to 70 (highest); although, in reality, old coins only get to grade 68 and never reach the highest grade of 70. Circulated Coins, or those that are used to pay for merchandise in stores, have a grade that starts at Good to Very Good, Fine, Very Fine, Extra Fine to AU or Almost Uncirculated.
As he learned to detect the grades and to spot fakes, he began to trade. “After 10 years, I feel meron na akong alam (I already knew something).”
He has been to auctions all over the U.S. He has traveled the world, such as St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic, on the trail of rare coins and artifacts recovered from shipwrecks.
In 2005, he opened his store and called it Eastchester Coins. He was the only employee. He partnered with two Jewish collectors and formed Coin Exchange in 2012. The store — located on Central Avenue in Hartsdale – is operated by Scott Finkel, the store manager; Ben Tseytlin, head of the Bullion Department; and Roman, the head numismatist.
“I’m in charge of quality control,” he said of his job where he is more in control of his hours.
The shop has five employees. The company also sells on Ebay and runs an e-commerce site.
These days, he has more time for his family: a daughter who studies journalism in Loyola University in Maryland and a son who is a freshman in Eastchester High School. His wife, now a physiatrist and pursuing a career in music, is known as Doc Ime, the “singing doctor.”
His advice to people who have an interest in numismatics? “Start with the cheapest item, buy a book and read well.”
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