MARIETTA — When asked whether it was right for Jews to pay taxes to Rome, Jesus held up a Roman coin and said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s; render unto God that which is God’s.”
Historians say that coin may have been a Roman denarius with an engraving of Tiberius Caesar, who ruled during the time.
Coin collectors from all over the South had the chance to render an authentic Tiberius denarius unto themselves Sunday at the monthly Greater Atlanta Coin Show in Marietta, along with an endless assortment of other historic coins.
Dozens of collectors lined the Joe Mack Wilson Ballroom at Marietta’s Hilton Hotel and Conference Center to buy, sell and trade their tiny treasures, which they housed in glass cases under bright display lights. Among the coin enthusiasts was Steve Damron, who sells rare coins out of Martinez.
“People collect them for a number of reasons,” he said about his Tiberius denarius. “He’s one of the 12 Caesars, but he’s also at the time of Christ’s death. Augustus Caesar was at the time of Christ’s birth. So you just get people who collect different things because they’re historically interesting.”
Damron said the oldest coin he had on hand features the Greek goddess Athena and was made around 400 BC. That’s only about 300 years after coins were invented.
Damron sported a pair of spectacles with two adjustable magnifying glasses attached as he showed off a collection of silver Roman silaqua, which he said were discovered remarkably well-preserved in a clay pot in 1887 when workers in England were digging a well.
Beyond the treasure-hunting aspect, Damron said collectors get excited thinking about the histories of their hoards.
“What could they have bought with it? What did they buy with it? Who actually held it? Did anybody important ever hold it? That’s really neat,” he said.
Many of the pieces Claudette Ryall was showing off were relatively modern compared with the ancient coins, but still steeped in history.
One coin she is particularly fond of is an 1858 flying eagle penny, which shows a soaring American eagle on the front.
“Is it not gorgeous? The way it looks, it’s like a 3D coin. That sells for $2,100,” she said.
Ryall said she caught the coin collecting bug from her boyfriend, Jim.
“When I first started with him with this, I called it the flying buzzard,” she said with a laugh. “Or a duck, I used to call it a duck. It’s an eagle. I think it’s pretty. It’s my favorite.”
Though Ryall can tell you the history behind the coins, she said for many collectors, it comes down to personal tastes.
“It’s all in what you see, I think, all in the beholder,” she said. “There’s different coins, and people like different styles, different three-cent pieces, five- or 10-cent coins, older pieces. It just depends on what you like. There’s just all kinds to see in here.”
Seven-year-old Sam Quillian of Blairsville was eagerly taking in all the sights of the show, poring over display cases and chatting with more seasoned collectors.
Typically when a 7-year-old has some spending money, he might buy a new toy or video game, but Sam wanted coins.
“I didn’t have a hobby and I wanted an expensive one because I had so much money and nothing to do with it,” he said. “I wanted to collect coins because they go up in value and I might actually be making money. I got two bags of coins for $51.”
Beyond coins, the sellers offer jewelry and other valuables for sale.
Rick Locke, who operates out of Augusta, displayed hand-made decorative pieces that feature historic coins and other antique artifacts like arrowheads, centered around specific aspects of American history.
He said this is his first time at the Greater Atlanta Coin Show, but his displays have been fast sellers at other events he has brought them to.
The coin show has been going on for 30 years and comes to town every month. Show promoter Bob O’Brien said it brings in buyers and sellers from all over the region.
“We’ve got them from Chattanooga, we’ve got them from Alabama, Tennessee,” he said. “Dealers come from all over the south.”
O’Brien said there’s no telling what kinds of items will show up. Last month, a seller came in with 90 ounces of gold. Before that, someone brought a set of Dahlonega gold coins worth a quarter of a million dollars.
Next month’s show will be held on May 7 at the Marietta Hilton, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Organizers say to arrive before mid-afternoon, as many dealers with long drives home pack up before the end of the event.
For more information, visit www.coinatl.com.