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Littleton Coin Company

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Stamps started it all – Littleton Coin Company
Over 70 years of Building Collections via the Mail

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[music]

00:15

Tour Guide:

So when we first buy our money this is where it comes into.

00:19

And they check it all, they grade it,

00:21

they look under the lights to see what the coins look like.

00:23

And then they put it in inventory

00:25

so we can pack it up and ship it to our customers.

00:29

Marianne Adams, Proof Reader, Marketing:

Mr. Sundman built this company on family values

00:34

and the trust of a perfect stranger.

00:37

And that's the way it was when I came here

00:40

to work and that's the way it is today.

00:42

David Sundman, President, Littleton Coin Co.:

This $500 bill, when this was issued in 1929,

00:47

that was enough money, you could buy a house.

00:51

My mother and father started the business in October of 1945.

00:56

My father had just gotten out of the service.

00:59

He was in Italy in World War II.

01:01

My mother was in charge while he was overseas

01:04

to find a new place to start their stamp business.

01:07

My father had started in Connecticut but they knew

01:10

they had to come north to be in a place

01:12

where it is more economic to do business.

01:14

And, my mother picked Littleton.

01:17

So we were selling both stamps and coins.

01:19

So we sold our stamp portion of the business

01:23

to my brother's business.

01:24

And we decided to concentrate on coins and banknotes.

01:29

Butch Caswell, Coin Buyer and Trainer:

What we do is, obviously we buy coins and sell coins.

01:33

And this happens to be from a collection.

01:35

These are Morgan Dollars.

01:37

This is one of the favorites for people because they are a large coin.

01:40

So we have to look at the dates and the grades.

01:43

So we do have a full department that grades all the coins out,

01:46

and price it all out,

01:48

and go to retail to the customers.

01:51

Customer Service Staff:

You're purchasing the 2014 National Park quarters.

01:56

David:

We have many, many families here,

01:59

several generations of staff,

02:02

people who have been with us, you know 30, 40 years.

02:05

Marianne:

When I started in '72, I'm guessing,

02:08

we had between 80 and less than 100 people that worked for Mr. Sundman.

02:15

David:

This is our 70th year in business and we employ 320 people.

02:19

And it's been an important business to Littleton

02:22

and to the northern part of the state.

02:25

Dot Bean and Stephanie Westover, Staff:

I started at the coin company in 1990

02:27

shortly after I got out of college.

02:30

And then my mother joined me.

02:32

How many years later?

02:33

I've been here 18 years.

02:34

I love it.

02:35

It's a good job.

02:36

It's fun being able to hold, you know,

02:39

these coins from ancient times or paper money that's worth $10,000.

02:44

It's exciting.

02:47

Chris Willey, Staff:

What I have here is a group of Morgan's that I graded out.

02:50

Grading has to do with the amount of wear on the coin.

02:54

And the less wear the more valuable it is.

02:57

We're looking in the leaf area on the head.

03:02

Very goods are completely worn.

03:04

Fines have the outline of the leaf.

03:06

Very fines have stem in the leaf

03:08

Extremely fines, all but the high points.

03:12

About, uncirculated, have like almost the full luster.

03:16

David:

We're taking people that know nothing about coins or banknotes

03:20

and really they have the opportunity to learn.

03:23

We have a staff that is traveling all over the US

03:27

buying coins and banknotes and they've, they're really self-taught.

03:32

Tour Guide:

We're coming down to the fun part down here.

03:36

David:

When we built this building 17 years ago

03:39

we decided to put a small shop in.

03:41

But generally what people can do is they can take a tour.

03:46

I think it's good when people get here

03:47

to actually be able to see a little bit of what we sell.

03:51

And some of some things that we don't actually offer but they're very historic.

03:57

It's like a small museum.

03:59

A number of years ago I bought a reverse quarter dye from Carson City Mint.

04:04

And it turned out it was actually used in 1870,

04:08

then later I said,

04:09

gee I wonder if I could find a coin

04:11

that was struck by that dye.

04:13

And I was lucky.

04:15

There are only about 12 known.

04:17

I was able to acquire one.

04:21

We are in the business of putting history you can hold

04:24

in your hands in our customers hands.

04:26

We are sending our inventory out in the mail every day.

04:31

David Wilson, Staff:

We ship about, between 5,000 and 7,000 packages a day.

04:37

Kim, Staff:

Littleton Coin Company, this is Kim.

04:39

It's great to be able to talk to customers, with their collecting needs.

04:44

To hear some of the things that they like to collect,

04:48

why they're clicking them.

04:49

Butch:

We buy tons of bulk coins, Indians, V nickles, buffalo's,

04:54

Merc dimes, Washington quarters, Walkers.

05:00

Our customers are all different and we try to tailor our service

05:04

to their individual needs.

05:06

And the fun is holding the coin in your hand.

05:09

That's, you know, it's palpable.

05:12

It's like the Kodak moment.

05:15

Tour Guide:

Take your magnifier and zoom right in

05:18

and see if you can see somebody in there.

05:19

Do you know that is?

05:20

Abraham Lincoln.

05:21

Yes, it's the Lincoln Memorial.

05:22

David:

I think most collectors start when they are kids.

05:25

And I started out collecting pennies and nickels.

05:30

Some people become very advanced.

05:31

They're collecting all the different US coins series

05:35

from half cents all the way up through $20 gold pieces.

05:41

You know the whole history of the country

05:42

is really laid out for you in terms of money.

05:47

This really dates back to just after the Civil War.

05:50

This is Amoskeag National Bank.

05:52

It's a $1 bill signed by Moody Currier,

05:55

later Governor of New Hampshire and

05:57

famous now because of his donation of the Currier Art Gallery.

06:02

Tour Guide:

This particular stone would buy you

06:05

800 coconuts or one small pig.

06:08

That's what this was worth.

06:10

Can you believe that?

06:11

How would you like to go to school clothes shopping

06:13

with something like that, huh?

06:15

Marianne:

I think Mr. Sundman would be very proud to see

06:19

that we've kept his dream alive like we have.

[music]

Refer to caption
Maynard Sundman
“I was absolutely astonished when I saw that collection. Collecting stamps… that was the beginning.”
—Maynard Sundman, reflecting upon seeing his friend’s stamp collection in 1927.

For over 70 years, Littleton Coin Company has brought the excitement of collecting by sending stamps, coins and paper money to customers through the mail. Since 1945, from our Littleton, New Hampshire headquarters, we’ve provided customers with friendly, knowledgeable and dependable service. Today, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service, thousands of collectors across the country have shopped at Littleton Coin to begin collections, add to existing ones or to find unusual items to share with their friends and families. But Littleton’s history of bringing the “coin store to a customer’s door” via packages in the mail, goes back even earlier than that.

It all began in 1927, when rain forced 12-year-old Maynard Sundman and his friend inside. Billy showed him his stamp collection. From then on, Maynard was hooked. Although he received stamps through the mail from businesses far away, he spent hours studying ads offered by various companies. The same year the stock market crashed in 1929, setting off the Great Depression, Maynard turned 14. That year he noticed an ad for a free H.E. Harris stamp catalog and sent away for it. Inside he found an article: The Future of the Stamp Business. He had been selling penny stamps to other student collectors for a few years, and that article fueled the dream of starting his own business.

1935-41 The Maynard Sundman Stamp Company
After graduating from high school in the summer of 1935, he opened the Maynard Sundman Stamp Company with a $400 order he made from H.E. Harris. (Later Harris would serve as his mentor, teaching him key lessons about the mail order business.) Working from a table in his parents’ kitchen in Bristol, CT, he sent stamps on approval through the mail to customers across the country. With stamps on approval, he placed his trust in his customers, believing that if they saw the stamps to “approve” before they paid for them, they would be happier with their purchase in the long run. Maynard’s business blossomed that first year, even during the depression, and he hired four neighbors to help fill orders.

The Army Calls
About a year later, he met his future wife, Fannie Kasper, and they married in April 1941. WWII was in the news and the expected draft letter arrived, which eventually sent him overseas. With that, Maynard put his business on hold while he was away.

Refer to caption
Littleton Coin founders Maynard and Fannie Sundman as newlyweds.

Although he served with the 5th Army in Italy, he still dreamed about his future business, and asked Fannie to scout for locations in northern New England to reopen it after the war ended. In 1944, she visited towns in New Hampshire, looking for spots to relocate the company and raise a family. Littleton’s friendly people and large post office won her over.

Fannie Kasper Sundman Interview

Fannie: And I picked the town, Littleton, for after he came back from active service, because it was addressed on the flyer and I knew all of the salesmen. And I described his business and I said, “Where in New England would you, you know, start a mail order business?” And they all told me about Littleton, New Hampshire. First they said, ah…

Maynard: Well they said two places, Littleton or Keene.

Kasper: Keene. And Keene, I knew, from having gone there to church camp. And it made me think it was too citified for me because I came from Perryville, Connecticut, a very small village. And so I thought I’d look at Littleton. And I stayed at a hotel across the street from the post office in Littleton. And I got in at night, in whatever way you get there. And when I opened that hotel door and saw that post office… I was also a Sunday school teacher and had a lot of faith in god that things were going to work out right for me. And I thought, “god sent me here, and this is the place.” It was so elaborate, so beautiful. And I thought, oh, this is the town. And you know that I stayed there two weeks. And I couldn’t wait until Maynard got back. Where were you?

Maynard: And I had just arrived then.

Fannie: And, you know, he was just as thrilled about it as I was. And so, there we are. Still there.

Refer to caption
The stately post office in downtown was one of the reasons the company was located in Littleton. A large post office was needed to handle the volume of mail shipped daily from the company. Mail order was and is Littleton's primary way it connects with its customers.

Refer to caption
Maynard and Fannie Sundman prior to Maynard heading overseas during the war years.

“Thank you for all you are doing to help me. I am very happy with all the coins I have received.
It is like waiting for Christmas morning every time I get a package from you.”

—A.B.,
St. Augustine, FL

1945 – 1954 Littleton Stamp Company New Beginnings
New beginnings in Littleton, New Hampshire

After receiving an honorable discharge in October 1945, Maynard returned home. Several weeks later the couple journeyed north from Bristol, CT, and in early December, that same year, Littleton Stamp Company opened. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he decided to advertise in non-trade hobby publications – offering 10 free Hitler stamps from Bohemia-Moravia. These bold ad campaigns fueled an increase in business and growth.

1954 Littleton Stamp & Coin is Born
The coin and stamp hobbies were very popular in the ’50s and ’60s, so drawing inspiration from the Tatham Stamp Company, based in Springfield, MA, Maynard decided to send coins on approval through the mail. Littleton’s mail-order business continued to grow, and by 1972, Maynard’s eldest son David joined the company full time. A few years later, Littleton sent out its first direct mail piece.

1974 Mystic Stamp Company is Purchased
In 1974, Maynard decided to purchase Mystic Stamp Company and his youngest son, Don, agreed to oversee operations. By the end of the 1980s, Littleton moved its entire stamp inventory to Mystic. Now Littleton would focus on selling only coins, and when Maynard stepped aside, David became president.

Today under David’s guidance and a talented management team, Littleton Coin is an American success story, serving collectors across the nation through the help of the U.S. Postal Service. Under his leadership, the company’s product line continues to grow and expand. As one of the foremost providers of quality coins, bank notes and collector merchandise, the company continues to bring the excitement of collecting to a wide audience via the mail, making the coin hobby fun and easy.

Timeline

1930: The articles of H. E. Harris, founder of The World's Largest Stamp Firm, inspired Maynard through his high school years. 1935: These are some of the original approval selections and price lists that Maynard sent out to his early customers from 1935-1941.
1930 and 1935

1945: In October 1945, Maynard, shown earlier with his mom and dad, is discharged from the military. He and Fannie relocate to Littleton, N.H. and on December 3, 1945, Littleton Stamp Company begins.
1945

circa 1954: Bartlett ‘Bart’ McKinney, in charge of operations, was a key figure at Littleton for over 30 years. Customers who spoke with spirited customer service representative Rena Hood (top center) often ended up sending her fan mail.
circa 1954

circa 1960: Ever since copywriter John Gayton launched this unique rewards program in 1954, customers have welcomed 10 Profit Shares for each $1 spent. This mid-1960s photo captures Littleton’s warm camaraderie at the retirement party for Ruth Pearce (seated), one of the first employees.
circa 1960

1978: During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, this ad caught the interest of everyone who saw it. 1979: Don Sundman, shown here with his mother in 1979, proved to be the right man for the presidency of Mystic Stamp Company.
1978 and 1979

1996: Littleton Coin purchased the Vermont Yankee Hoard. Found under floorboards in an old farm property, it yielded rare merchant 1okens, hundreds of Morgan and Peace silver dollars, and more. Maynard, shown here with son David, remained characteristically modest about the current large scale of his initial two-room operation.
1996 and 2005

Over 320 Littleton Coin Company employees standing in front of the New Hampshire headquarters.
Littleton Coin Company employs over 320 at their New Hampshire headquarters.

Littleton coin club materials
Littleton offers a wide variety of coin clubs to make collecting fun and easy.

Ad: Free! 212 Stamps!
Ads, like these offered a way to get new customers to collect stamps through the mail.

Littleton Coin Company Showcase publication
Littleton Coin Company offers rare and unusal finds for coin and currency collectors.

Littleton catalog
Littleton Coin is one of the nation's leading suppliers of coins, paper money and collecting supplies.

Littleton catalog
Today, Littleton sends catalogs nationwide.

Stamps sheet, circa 1945
Stamps sheets like these circa 1945, were sent through the mail to customers "on approval".

Littleton Stamp Company ad
Littleton Stamp Company gained customers by placing ads in popular magazines.

America’s Mailing Industry