• 23°

Prairie Profiles: Dean Jirousek

Dean Jirousek lights up when he talks about coins.

After all, as an advanced coin collector, he knows much more than the average person does about the subject. He could tell you anything you’d ever want to know about them.

He could tell you what any coin is made of, how many of them were made in any given year and how to handle them to protect their value.

He could even tell you facts about the currencies that the average person may not have ever known.

How did he get so interested in coins?

From a young age, Jirousek, 54, has had a fascination with coins — items that for many people are just a necessary part of financial transactions.

When he was 5 years old, his grandfather gave him a brand-new nickel for his birthday. Instead of going out and spending the nickel on gum or candy like many children would, he saved it.

And he still has it today, he said.

When he was 5 or 6, his teacher advised all the parents at the country school he attended to start their children in a hobby.

His mother encouraged him to collect pennies and other coins. His parents bought him a blue Whitman coin holder, and that blue felt coin holder spawned a passion.

“I really liked it, and then it expanded and expanded and expanded,” Jirousek said.

When he was a child, he recalled going through his father’s pocket change when he would come home after trips to town.

“If you could find a coin to go in an empty hole, it was like, ‘Wow!’” he said. “That was the only way you could fill the holes. You start with pennies, then nickels, then dimes.”

Today, collecting new coins is as easy as going to the bank, but going back and finding the old coins is a challenge, he said.

It requires much more than just going through old pocket change.

He said he particularly likes coins from around 1800, many of which are rare. The price on rare coins has skyrocketed, he said, which excites him because that means there is an elevated interest in collecting.

The oldest coin he has dates back to 400 B.C., Jirousek said. It’s a Celtic gold coin he purchased in England.

He’s been able to obtain hundreds of coins of all sizes, made of gold, silver and even platinum.

His numismatic hobby even helped him be chosen as one of seven people statewide to give input on the design of Minnesota’s state quarter, minted in 2005.

“To me that was one of the high points,” Jirousek said.

He sat alongside politicians, the director of the Minnesota Historical Society, the executive director of the state arts board, and the commissioner of education for the process.

As his passion for the subject grew, he took his simple hobby to a new level with the opening of Dean’s Coins in Owatonna, where he usually dedicates his afternoons.

There, people can bring him their coin collections to find out how much coins are worth and to seek other advice. He keeps an up-to-date price guide for coins in his office.

Because he’s a Numismatic Guaranty Corp. dealer, he also can submit coins to be graded.

“I take my coin business very seriously, so I provide all the services that you’d want — the buying, the appraising, the grading,” Jirousek said. “This thing is just constantly growing all the time.”

He said some of the hottest commodities right now are gold and silver bullion.

Jirousek encouraged people to call in advance before coming to his office. Projects sometimes take twice as long to do, so it’s difficult for him to take a walk-in customer, he said.

For people who want to take up the hobby of coin collecting, Jirousek gave some tips for how to get started.

He said the first tool a person needs is an inexpensive magnifier. That will help them be able to see things on the coin that they can’t see with the naked eye.

The magnifier is a tool numismatists have in their hands all the time.

When collecting new coins, Jirousek said people should also always remember to handle the coins by the edge.

19th Annual Tiger City Farm Toy Truck & Collectibles Show

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Northbridge Mall, Albert Lea

Info: Call 373-6973 after 5 p.m.

People can buy protective covers for their coins that keep chemicals away.

If people want to discover other tips, they can speak to Jirousek at the Tiger City Farm Toy Truck & Collectibles Show at Northbridge Mall on Saturday and Sunday. He will be one of several exhibitors at the show.

The show, which is in its 19th year, is put on by Don Gross.

“Don puts on a first-rate show; no question about it,” Jirousek said. “If you’re serious about buying something or just want to browse, I can’t say enough good about it.”

The coin collector said he’s been going to the show for at least 15 years because he has collected a few farm toys. Since the show was opened to also include collectibles, Jirousek has been exhibiting too.

“It’s an excellent show,” he said. “The show comes at the dead of winter when people have had enough and want something to do.”

The show also includes Tonka parts, sports cards, cast-iron toys, Hot Wheels, antiques and trains to name a few.

There will be 80 dealers with more than 260 tables.