At some point in March 2010, I was contacted by a representative of ZOOM, the Berlin Children’s Museum. They were planning to organise an exhibition on money that was suitable for children. One subject was to be a huge safe with many compartments and countless forms of money inside. The budget was limited, very limited, and I was supposed to work miracles with this marginal budget and purchase some iconic coins, banknotes and commodity money. At that time, I called all the dealers who had large stores. But I didn’t have much success. At some point I came across Jürgen Ritter. I described him what the project was. He answered: “I support everything that promotes numismatics. We’ll see what we’ve got, and of course the museum gets it for free.”
That’s how Jürgen Ritter was. He supported what was good for numismatics – by the way, also CoinsWeekly. He was the third dealer who helped financing CoinsWeekly by means of advertising. Not because he expected a great advertising success from it at the beginning, but because he promoted good ideas on how to inform an interested audience about numismatics as a matter of principle. To him, collecting was much more than a safe investment. He wanted to sell a piece of history to his clients.
Setting Up the Company in Recklinghausen
In 1968 Jürgen Ritter founded his coin shop in Recklinghausen, in the middle of the Ruhr area. Back then, there was an increasing interest in alternative investment products among the population. Whereas only the bourgeoisie had collected coins before, at the peak of the post-war economic boom in Germany, the general public started to collect numismatic items. The mintage numbers of German commemorative coins issued back then illustrate how quickly the number of potential collectors was growing at the time. Whereas 500,000 pieces were enough in 1964/5, in 1966 and 1967 2 million commemorative coins were issued. In 1968 mintage numbers exploded to over 10 million pieces. It should be briefly mentioned here that a huge part of the costs of the 1972 Olympics was covered thanks to the sale of German commemorative coins.
Back then, clever coin dealers did good business. And Jürgen Ritter was clever. So clever, in fact, that he moved his business to bustling Düsseldorf at the peak of the coin boom, and to this day, Münzhandlung Ritter is still located there.
We Do Not Only Sell Coins, We Sell Their History
His idea was to not only sell coins but their history. Customers could buy entire collections from him by means of a subscription. At a monthly fixed-price, he did not only provide them with the coins but also with historical information. He took his “We won’t leave you alone with your coins!” to heart: the material collectors received together with their coins explained everything there was to know about a piece – and in such a way that even someone who hadn’t learned Latin in school could understand it. Especially for people who weren’t familiar with antiquity, complete collections with accompanying materials were a wonderful introduction to the colourful world of coins.
Of course, Jürgen Ritter wasn’t a philanthropist but a shrewd businessman. No one could drive such a hard bargain as he did. He never cared about the condition of a piece, however, on every coin the legend needed to be complete and clear to see including all mint marks so that the ladies at home could identify the coins in a reasonable amount of time. His system of selling entire collections was efficiently organised according to the principle of division of labour.
In addition, there was obviously also the “normal” coin trade including the purchase and sale of items. Jürgen Ritter never took the step to sell numismatic pieces at auction. To this day, Münzhandlung Ritter issues its popular fixed-price lists.
More Than 30 Years as a Sworn Expert
Coins were not only a passion for Jürgen Ritter, they were also something one had to study. He had an extensive specialist library, also sold literature to his customers and had enough knowledge to provide expert opinions for court in the service of the public as a sworn expert of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for more than 30 years.
IAPN, VddM, BddM
Jürgen Ritter laid emphasis on collaboration – on the national and international level. That’s why he was a member of the IAPN, the International Association of Professional Numismatist, and of the two German associations, the VddM (Association of German Coin Dealers) and the BddM (Professional Association of German Coin Retailers).
He liked to take part in the conferences, not only because he wanted to have a say in what happened but also to be with his colleagues and to foster a network that connected them all.
A Harley Davidson and Chickens
At the same time, Jürgen Ritter was a person who refused to be identified solely by his job. His freedom was sacred to him. He loved to ride his motorbike. On his Harley Davidson, he conquered the world. The counterpart to this wild side of him were his beloved chickens, which he bred with enthusiasm.
Jürgen Ritter was a generous person who came up with ideas and implemented them with passion. He was someone with whom you had a tough negotiation, and with whom you could go and grab a beer afterwards. He was always open to new ideas and wanted to support others.
He also had the rare gift of letting go and delegate responsibility to others. Therefore, his succession at Münzhandlung Ritter has been arranged years ago. His life’s work will be continued according to his wishes and in his name by employees chosen by him, who display the same motivation and passion for coins.
In normal times, many coin dealers and collectors would meet at Jürgen Ritter’s grave to pay their last respects. We would like to say to all bereaved that it is hard for us to refrain from paying tribute to him due to the current situation.
Jürgen Ritter was an important part of the numismatic world. We will miss him!