A passion for coins opens the door to biblical times

Miscellany/Christina Knauss: This Byzantine-era coin called a follis depicts Christ on the front of it. This is Damron’s favorite coin because it shows that Christianity was at the heart of society.

COLUMBIA—Wayne Damron is a man you can count on to bring the Bible to life — through coins. 

Since 1993, the Columbia resident has been offering “Coins of the Bible” classes to church and club groups in South Carolina and Georgia, and to date he has given his presentation about 400 times. 

Damron started collecting coins when he was just a child, and at one time he owned two coin shops in Augusta, Ga. He started offering his classes after a revelation while teaching Sunday school at his Presbyterian church.

“I discovered that nearly every Bible reading I was teaching about ended up having something to do with coins, and someone pointed out that I got so excited when describing the coins that were used at that time,” Damron said. “I first offered a class on Biblical coins at that church and then word got out, and I’ve been doing them ever since. The Lord has blessed me with the chance to be able to share this with thousands of people over the years.” 

Wayne Damron of Columbia holds some of the ancient coins that he shares with participants in his “Coins of the Bible” classes, which he offers for church and civic groups.

During classes, he lets participants pass around and hold actual coins that were in circulation during biblical times. 

These include silver shekels and half-shekels, gold pieces, tribute pennies and the “widow’s mite,” a simple bronze coin that was commonly held by the poorest in society. Jesus mentions it in two of the Gospels (Mark 12: 41-44 and Luke 21: 1-4) as an example of how a poor widow gave all she had to the temple in Jerusalem. 

“I read the passage that mentions a certain coin directly from the Bible, and you can see people’s eyes light up when they hold that coin in their hands,” Damron said. “It really means something to them to be able to hold a coin that was in circulation when Jesus walked the earth.” 

A simple childhood event sparked Damron’s interest. He was sliding down a hill with some friends when one of them unearthed a few unusual foreign coins. The buried loot wasn’t worth anything, he said, but he has loved coins ever since. 

During his classes, Damron also shows participants his favorite ancient piece, a Byzantine-era coin called a follis. About the size of a quarter, the coin bears an image of Jesus on the front and Greek letters reading “Jesus Christ, King of Kings” on the back. Coins like this were in circulation for hundreds of years during the Byzantine era. 

“People are shocked to see that there were coins in general circulation with Jesus on them, because that is something we would never see in our culture today,” he said. 

Damron, who was born in Massachusetts, attended the University of South Carolina after completing a stint in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne. He met his wife Barbara at school and the couple eventually returned to the Midlands after spending many years living in other states while he worked in the insurance field. 

While living in Augusta, Damron  ran two locations of Clein’s Rare Coins, until his retirement in 2004. He sold one of the stores and his son, Steven, who shares his father’s passion, now runs the other. 

Damron said he obtains some of his Biblical coins from people who bring them to the store to sell, while his son locates others on annual trips to a major coin show in London. 

If you are interested in having Damron offer his “Coins of the Bible” class for your parish or organization, contact him at 803-781-8623 or wdamron@bellsouth.net.