A mission to capture the uniqueness of Montana turned a Kalispell resident’s interest in coins into the beginning of a timeless series of unique coins portraying the historic landmarks and natural wonders of the “last best place.”
Over his last 43 years as a Realtor, Jim Sappington, 83, has taken countless Montana back roads in his travels between cities. The landscape, he said, was never the same on any two roads.
He’s always taken an interest in different coins, but when he decided three years ago that he wanted to create something to honor Montana, he began to make his first significant investment in one of his own.
“It’s different. It’s something of lasting value,” Sappington said.
The process was slow.
After discovering a style of coin with a frosted, shining contrast produced by a mint in Indiana, he set to work culminating a theme for the series and designing the first coin.
He went through photos and ideas, refining the design into one that he felt represented his home.
Once his submission gained approval from the mint, he began another waiting process as the mint went through its list of orders before coming to his.
The makers created a mock version of the design and stamped it into a piece of lead to show Sappington how the completed coin would look.
Once he approved the coin, a stronger template was made to imprint the design onto 1-ounce silver coins with gleaming results.
Flathead County Courthouse circa 1910 shines on the head of the coin, while tails depicts the scenic Flathead Lake and surrounding valley.
The first batch of the limited edition coins arrived about a week ago, and of the 300 Sappington ordered, he’s already sold more than a third.
He said he will order more over the coming weeks, but will limit the coins’ production to 2,500 total.
That, he said, will make the first edition coin of his planned series worth a pretty penny in years to come.
By the end of the year, Sappington said he plans to release the second in the series, a coin with the same depiction of the courthouse on the front, but with Whitefish’s Big Mountain displayed on the back.
Over the next several years, Sappington said his ultimate goal is to create at least one coin for all 56 counties in Montana, completing two or three a year with each coin showcasing a different historical site or geographic feature that captures the spirit of its county.
Sappington said his hope is to build a collection of hundreds of different coins to illustrate the soul of the state through a product that will retain its value.
The price and rarity, Sappington said, will vary depending on the fluctuations of the silver market and the population and interest of the coin’s county.
Many people, Sappington said, have already approached him, curious about the venture that seems so outside his field of expertise.
“Everyone thinks you’re crazy when you do something different,” he said.
But, he added, “the state has stories to tell,” and he intends to spend as much of his remaining years as possible telling them.
To contact Sappington about ordering one or more coins, call (406) 253-7736 or visit the Creston Country Store at 3955A Highway 35 in the Creston Plaza.