Little shop of coppers: Slope rare-coin dealer keeps old-timey hobby rolling

Little shop of coppers: Slope rare-coin dealer keeps old-timey hobby rolling
Got change?: Lou DiLauro appraises and deals in rare coins from his Park Slope shop on Seventh Avenue.
Photo by Colin Mixson

This shop will always embrace change!

A dealer of coins from around the world is now hawking the collectible tokens from a Seventh Avenue storefront in Park Slope, where he appraises and trades ancient relics of great value that — yes — you’re more than welcome to touch.

“They’re coins, they’re metal, you’re not going to hurt them,” said numismatist Louis DiLauro, before casually chucking a 2,169-year-old Greek coin against his wooden desk.

DiLauro opened Lou’s Coin Shop between 15th and 16th streets in September, after high commercial rents forced him to flee Manhattan, where he ran the business since opening it in 2002, he said.

His Brooklyn store receives about to or three walk-in clients a day, many of whom stop by to check the value of some choice item from grandpa’s collection, according to the dealer.

The expert determines prices based on a coin’s rarity and condition, sometimes surprising would-be sellers with appraisals that exceed their wildest expectations. But there are no hard feelings if customers want to think twice about trading a coin after learning it could command thousands at auction, he said.

“My attitude is this, I don’t need to steal anything,” DiLauro said. “If anybody comes in with a rarity, I’ll tell them.”

DiLauro’s services come with his expertise learned from traveling the world collecting tokens dating back to some of the earliest civilizations, and from decades working with various rare-and-antique-coin dealers, including the British firm Spink and Son, which was established back in 1666.

His shop’s shelves, for example, feature numerous Roman coins engraved with the faces of renown emperors, including Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, and others bearing likenesses of the once-powerful Empire’s not-so-famous rulers, including Macrinus — whose year-long reign didn’t leave much time to produce a ton of tokens with his face, making those few that exist today quite valuable.

But DiLauro regards a silver disk minted in the ancient-Grecian colony of Syracuse, called the Demareteion, as the greatest coin he’s ever held.

The commemorative token, which depicts the goddess Nike crowning a four-horse chariot and dates to 479 BC, was bestowed as a prize to champions of the early Olympic Games, and can go for tens of thousands of dollars today. (Sorry, serious collectors, but he’s currently out of stock.)

And although a waning interest in coin collecting has made stores like DiLauro’s nearly as rare as some of their inventory, the hobby is still popular enough that Lou’s Coin Shop isn’t Kings County’s sole place to find tokens of the past. The dealer counts the Brooklyn Gallery of Coins and Stamps, on Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge, as his local competitor in the change business.

Plus, DiLauro — who called his move to Park Slope a “retirement” — doesn’t mind if his shop isn’t always bustling, because he doesn’t surround himself with coins for the money, he said.

“I do it out of pleasure,” he said. “I do it to pass the time.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixs[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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