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Rogue valley coin & jewelry exchange

What do you do and how long have you been doing it?

We buy and sell rare coins ' all types of U.S. and foreign ' gold, silver and platinum; mostly coins and occasionally bars. We sell new and estate jewelry, diamonds and wedding sets. We also have an in-house goldsmith. I opened my first store in 1970 and then moved here and operated a store on Central Avenue, across from the Craterian Theater, from 1986 to 1990. We have been here since 1990. My wife was a nurse and she started helping out in the 1980s, when we were getting swamped. That's when gold was moving up to &

36;850 an ounce and silver was &

36;52 an ounce. But over the next 20 years, it got lower and lower until it bottomed out in December of 2000.

— How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?

We moved here in 1984.

What inspired you to go into this line of work?

It just started as a boyhood hobby and progressed a little bit at a time. When I was 18 and my brother was 16, we set up a coin shop at a market in San Luis Obispo (Calif.). We were making pretty good money for kids. We made maybe &

36;250 or &

36;300 and that was pretty impressive to us. My brother dropped out when he turned 18 or 19 and I kept at it. I joined the Air Force and when I got out I was 24. I had a friend moving back to the Philippines in 1970 and he wanted to sell his coin shop in San Mateo, so I bought it.

What's the toughest business decision you've made?

I've only had to let one person go and having to let them go was the hardest decision. Hiring is much easier than letting somebody go.

Who are your competitors?

There is one other coin shop in town, Alexander Coin & Stamp Shop. There's Ashland Money and Metals, and in Grants Pass there's Burton's Rare Coins. In jewelry, there are 25 or 30 shops, they're almost like gas stations. But jewelry is a bigger market.

How do you define success for your business?

Staying in business and keeping ahead of everything and the way the economy has been. Keeping customers coming back is pretty important and you get to know them well. We don't try to sell something as a one-time sale. We want to make customers that last.

What are your goals?

I've expanded about as far as I'm going to expand. We originally had 2,500 square feet here and now we have 5,000 and that's as big as I want. If you get bigger, there's more you have to take care of and more headaches.

What training or education did you need?

You can learn so much more on the job in this business by going to shows and learning from older dealers. You can learn business concepts in college and things like business management. But the actual buying and selling of coins you can't learn that in school, you have to learn from people who have been in business for years. Eventually you get good at it, notice little imperfections in coins or jewelry; you just have to develop a pretty good eye.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

It depends on what type of business you're going into. It's really hard starting your own business these days. The guy I bought from took most of his inventory. You used to be able to go in with maybe &

36;10,000. Now, in this business, you would need a quarter-million dollars of inventory and (be) just barely getting by. Unless you're pretty good at what you do, it would probably be cheaper to start by finding a guy in business with a track record.

Owner

Mike Cotta

Age

57

Address

41 S. Grape St., Medford

Phone number

541-772-2766

Number of employees

9

Mike Cotta of Rogue Valley Coin & Jewelry Exchange says it would be tough to break into his line of work these days because of the huge inventory expense. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli