History is about pocket change

Patrick Fendley proudly displays a $5 note issued in 1929 by the First National Bank of Oneonta.

Patrick Fendley proudly displays a $5 note issued in 1929 by the First National Bank of Oneonta.

Collectors, regardless of what they amass, are by definition enthusiastic about their pastime. They enjoy their hobby, otherwise they would not be a collector. Every now and then though, there comes along one who is not just enthusiastic, but passionate. Patrick Fendley falls into that category.

Fendley is the owner of Oneonta Coin Exchange and has been for almost 25 years, but his zeal started long before he opened his store. In 1969, at the age of five, his father, Charles Fendley, took him to a coin show at the old Birmingham Civic Center. He says his “interest was piqued.” It has never waned. He is currently the vice president of the Alabama Numismatic Society.

A visit to his store can serve a number of purposes. A fellow collector might find something special for a private collection. They could also admire the wide variety of coins Fendley has amassed over the years. They could not only buy and sell, but could also trade.

What they might not expect, though, is a history lesson. Fendley knows something of history. He says his great-great-grandfather was one of the founders of Oneonta. He shows off a $5 note issued in 1929 by the First National Bank of Oneonta. The two he owns are of special importance to him because his grandfather, Jack Fendley, worked for the bank. He says that as far as he knows there are only eight or nine still existing.

Fendley has a collection of coins dating back at least 2,000 years and up to present day. His passion to discuss them is evident in the ready smile that flashes across his face when he does so. He can talk about how a 2,000-year-old coin might have passed through Jesus’ hands, or how a coin minted in the 1860s was possibly in the pocket of a Civil War soldier in a major battle. These stories about coins are part of history and part of Fendley’s story. History, in Fendley’s eyes, is about pocket change, and their worth is more than face value. “It is fascinating to think about who held a coin or whose pocket they were in at one time.”

Fendley is a great supporter of young people interested in coin collecting. He likes to infuse them with his passion. He recommends all young collectors to have a copy of The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins, which will list every U.S. coin ever made, along with its value based on condition and other useful information. He encourages anyone interested to attend the Society’s annual coin show at the Bessemer Civic Center from July 18-21.

Oneonta Coin Exchange is located at 322 1st Avenue East in Oneonta. The phone number is 205-625-5262.