Athens Teen Matt Draiss’ Epic Rare Coin Collection
In the money: A Green County teenager deals in rare currency through his business, Matt Draiss Numismatics and Galleries
Rare coin and bill collector, Matt Draiss
Most 17-year-olds spend their free time on their cell phones or hanging out at the mall. But Athens teenager Matt Draiss uses his spare hours to run his rare coin business.
Draiss’ love of numismatics all began with his grandfather, who owned a small coin collection. He passed away when Draiss was 11 and bequeathed his grandson the coins. “There was this one silver dollar from the 1970s — I didn’t know it was only worth a buck — but my mom said ‘Oh that’s rare.’ I was curious and it all snowballed from there,” Draiss says.
By age 14, Draiss had expanded that collection and launched his own business, Matt Draiss Numismatics and Galleries. Primarily, he buys wholesale and sells interesting pieces for other dealers and coin shops. His dealings with the general public occur when he sets up his own table at the Capital District Coin Dealers’ Association Coin Show in Albany. At these fairs, he often conducts on the spot appraisals for other coin enthusiasts wondering what their stash is worth.
Despite the fact that he is the youngest numismatic dealer in the area, he says people do take him and his work seriously. “I have very good strong relationships with all the dealers,” he says. “They’ve helped me out quite a bit and backed me up on deals.”
The teen plans on attending Columbia-Greene Community College to pursue a degree in business. This way he can turn his company into his full-time employment. Currently, he spends about 10 hours each week among coins at various shops and antique auctions. “It does take time away from being able to hang out with friends and it sometimes conflicts with school, but in the end it is well worth it,” he says.
But it’s not all work and no play. Draiss still adds items to his own 1000-piece collection. Though some of his collectables are worth quite a bit of cash, the 1970s silver dollar that once belonged to his grandfather still has the highest value in his eyes.
Much of his stash consists of Civil War tokens (currency used by private merchants during gold and silver shortages) and New York State coins and bank notes — including a few from the Valley. One of his rarest items is a mid-19th-century 15-cent note from a Coxsackie bank (at right). “It’s actually not that hard to find old money from this area. The City of Kingston issued notes, Poughkeepsie issued notes, Newburgh issued notes. Now, you can pick them up for as little as $20, or they can be worth several thousand,” says Draiss.
Collecting will definitely be a lifelong passion for Draiss, whose goal is to amass the finest collection of New York bank notes and tokens ever assembled. “That takes a very large budget and probably my entire life,” he says with a laugh. “But I love currency, their history, and the fact that some of the coins and the notes are things you might never see again.”
Click on the gallery below to see a few items from Draiss’ collection.