Boulder’s Tebo Coin Company Celebrates 50 Years
Tebo Coin Company, a coin and jewelry shop founded in 1968 by one of Boulder’s most prominent developers and property owners, is celebrating its golden anniversary this fall.
Stephen Tebo, owner of Tebo Properties, opened the coin shop, which was originally located on Spruce Street, soon after arriving in Boulder.
Tebo said coin collecting was one his main hobbies growing up in Kansas — a hobby he’d eventually turn into a successful business.
“I became a collector when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I was very interested in the challenge of finding and building complete collections,” he said. “By the time I was 12 or 13 I was out buying, bartering, and trading for coins I needed to complete my collections.”
In college in Hays, Kan., Tebo started attending collector conventions on the weekends and was able to make enough money selling coins to pay his rent.
“I rented a little tiny room in a house for $35, so I didn’t really need a whole lot,” he said.
Tebo went on to operate a coin shop in Hays before going to graduate school in Missouri and ultimately landing in Boulder.
He launched the coin shop and a showcase distribution operation out of a small Spruce Street storefront, which he soon outgrew. The coin shop relocated a couple of times, ultimately settling in its current 28th Street location.
Enter Daryl Mercer, a fellow coin enthusiast who frequented Tebo Coin Company.
“I thought he was very, very sharp and he seemed to love coins as much as I did,” Tebo said.
Mercer, a University of Colorado student, was hired by Tebo in 1973. Initially his job was simply to stand outside of the former coin shop location and inform customers that the establishment had moved down the street.
Like Tebo, Mercer’s love of coin collecting started early in life.
“When I was 6 years old, my great-aunt gave all the grandnieces and nephews a Lincoln penny folder,” he said. “Of the seven of us, I was the only one who was really interested in it, and I’ve been interested in coins ever since.”
“Once I got one coin in a collection, I just had this drive to complete the set,” Mercer said. “At that point, it was just about the fun of finding something that I didn’t have.”
Mercer spent much of his undergraduate tenure at CU working part-time for Tebo Coin. Upon graduating, he planned to head to law school.
But in 1978, when Mercer was 24 years old, Tebo “came to me and said he was going to sell the coin store and wanted to sell it to me,” he said. “We had quite a few discussions over a period of a few months and by July of 1978, I was the new owner.”
The deal was settled with nothing more than handshake and a healthy dose of mutual trust, Mercer said. “We didn’t have anything formalized or in writing for almost two months.”
Forty years later, Mercer still owns and operates the shop, which has maintained the Tebo name.
“Over the years, people have asked quite a few times: ‘Why didn’t you change the name?’” Mercer said.
“It was an existing store with a good name and good reputation. I didn’t want to lose too much of our customer base,” he said. ”(Tebo) was OK with it, so we hung onto the name. We try not to embarrass him too much.”
While Mercer said he can’t commit to running the business for another four or five decades, he has no plans to stop any time soon.
“Would I ever have thought 40 years ago that I’d still be doing this? Probably not, but that’s just because I wasn’t thinking that far forward,” he said. “But my health is good and I have a great staff here. I still enjoy it and don’t have plans to make any big changes.”
Lucas High: 303-684-5310, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/lucashigh