Rare coins on skid row

LOS ANGELES - Police used to seeing peddlers on skid row hawking counterfeit DVDs, T-shirt rip-offs and other mundane items have been surprised to discover a new object for sale in the impoverished, drug-plagued district: rare coins.

Authorities have come across the small, shiny objects - some bearing dates that would make them nearly as old as Los Angeles itself - at least four times recently. The items have been confiscated and were being examined for their authenticity.

“These coins looked real and authentic,” said police Capt. Andrew Smith, who saw two men on a downtown L.A. sidewalk selling for $20 each 24 silver dollars bearing dates from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.

The LAPD said it hasn’t received any reports of a stolen coin collection, so detectives are trying to work backward, hoping to trace the coins through the skid row denizens who possessed them.

Detectives also found several such coins in August inside the jacket lining of a suspected drug dealer arrested on skid row. In September, officers recovered more coins while searching a parolee in the area.

“They were in collector sleeves. There was 24 silver dollars dating back to 1794,” Officer Stephen Nichols said.

Coin experts said the 18th-century coins would be the most valuable of the batch if they are authentic.

“It’s possible that someone down and out wanting to get a few bucks wouldn’t know what they had,” said Charles I. Carmona, a gem and coin expert.

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