Doug Mattox was a history buff long before he majored in the subject at NC State.
As a boy growing up in Wendell, N.C., he discovered stamp collecting. No one in his immediate family was a stamp aficionado, but Mattox gravitated to it. And just like a stamp, the hobby stuck.
Today, Mattox is the founder and president of Mattox Coins & Stamps, Inc., a Raleigh company that generated $1.5 million in revenue last year.
“It’s just the treasure hunter in me,” he says, when asked what has kept his business going for more than 35 years. “You never know what’s going to come in the door or what you’re going to find in a box of stuff. That’s what keeps it fun.”
As the name implies, the company deals in more than just rare stamps. Mattox and his son, Austin, work as agents and brokers, appraising the value of coins, currency, stamps and envelopes and selling them to auction houses.
The work attracts a variety of clientele, ranging from universities and bank trusts to individuals who inherit items from deceased loved ones and aren’t sure of their value. Other customers come to Mattox with items they purchased for investment and are ready to sell.
But the Internet has fooled many a would-be collector, says Mattox, who graduated from NC State in 1976. People often buy coins that are purported to be rare by advertisers, only to learn that they were duped when they come to Mattox for an appraisal.
One of the most counterfeited items that Mattox comes across are U.S. gold coins. Valuable ones are about 90 percent pure, but Mattox says people often come to him excitedly with some, only to find that their coins are perhaps 50 percent gold, or even just gold-plated brass.
“I tell them just to put it in the bank or give it to a kid,” he says. “You know, on the Antiques Roadshow, everybody gets good news. But here, more people get bad news than good news.”
Over the years, Mattox has encountered many old and unusual items. One day, he might find himself appraising German currency from the 1920s. The next, a $5 American bill from the 1880s. The priciest item sold recently was a set of Tibetan stamps from 1907 for $121,000.
But as a former American history major, Mattox gets the most excited when an American colonial item comes his way.
“That’s always fun because we weren’t very populated – even in big cities – in colonial days,” he says. “So when you run across envelopes or currency, that’s always cool.”