Leaving Paradise for Waupaca
New coin shop opens on Main Street
by James Card
This isn’t the first time Bill Anderson has been featured in the Waupaca County Post.
In 1964 when the Kennedy half dollar came out, he was the first person in line at First National Bank to get a 1964-D Kennedy half dollar. He was 15 years old and his picture appeared in the paper.
Anderson owns Paradise Coin and Gift on 215 S. Main St. He recently put up new signage outside his building.
In July 2021, Anderson rented the Waupaca building sight unseen while living in California.
He did not realize that Main Street in front of his building was under construction.
Initially, Anderson focused on online sales and once Main Street reopened he gradually opened the store to the public.
He grew up in Waupaca and was born in the old Mirror Lake Hospital which is now a private residence on Lake Street.
Anderson’s interest in coins was spurred by a neighbor he knew as “Mr. Luther,” who was president of First National Bank. Anderson shoveled his snow, raked his leaves and was paid in silver dollars.
“That got my attention and got me started,” he said.
When Anderson was 15, Mr. Luther let him visit the bank while it was closed on Saturday mornings. While Mr. Luther reconciled the books, Anderson would hunt through the walk-in safe and buy any interesting coins at face value.
After studying at UW-Oshkosh, Anderson spent some time in Colorado and Arizona and then landed in Paradise, California. He sluiced and dredged the canyons of the Feather River and came up with some small gold flakes.
Anderson took a lesson from history: prospecting for gold was a lot of work for little reward but a sure bet was selling other prospectors supplies and buying their gold.
At a local flea market he did just that and he bought and sold mining equipment, placer gold and rare coins.
With his wife Penny, he opened a coin shop in Paradise in 1980 right after the Hunt brothers cornered and then crashed the silver market. He also sold mining books and books about California history that were popular. With that clue of consumer interest, he founded and published The California Territorial Quarterly, a history magazine.
His coin shop was a thriving business for 42 years until a wildfire burned down the town.
The deadliest and most destructive fire in California history was the Camp Fire of 2018. Within the first four hours it burned down 18,000 structures, 85 people were killed and 95% of the town was destroyed. Anderson’s home was spared because he had concrete and gravel surrounding his house and he kept his property clear of dead leaves. The fire came within 100 yards.
His business also survived. It was in a shopping center with a big parking lot.
“That’s what saved us,” said Anderson.
The fire was started from a transmission line malfunction. Pacific Gas and Electric Company was found at fault. The utility declared bankruptcy, owes billions in liabilities and settlements and pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
As far as Anderson knows, none of his old neighbors have yet to receive any compensation for their losses caused by the wildfire.
Fearful of future fires, the utility cuts power to its customers when the humidity and wind might create hazardous fire conditions. In 2019, Anderson experienced blackouts 16 times that would last for 1-4 days at a time.
“It’s like living in the third-world country. The crime is rampant. They don’t do anything about the crime. People can walk into a store, steal $950 worth of stuff and walk out the door and the police won’t do a damn thing,” said Anderson. “I had a guy come to my store last April and he wanted to look at gold rings. I brought a tray out and all of sudden he grabbed the whole tray and out the door he ran. He was wearing a mask because of the pandemic. Although the bank next door had a picture of him running away and me chasing him, I couldn’t catch the guy. That was one of the things that finally did it for me, especially when they didn’t do anything about it.”
Anderson and his wife decided they had enough of California.
“We looked all over the Midwest and we decided on Waupaca because I was born and raised here,” said Anderson.
He still has family in the area and that was another reason for his relocation.
His father, Shadow Anderson, was a local accountant and a big baseball fan. He passed away in 1988 and his ashes were spread on Lakemen Field.
“Business is booming. I can’t believe I’m doing the volume that I’m doing. I didn’t expect it. Waupaca is a much smaller town that Paradise was. It was 28,000 people.
“Especially once the new signs went up – that’s when it started really taking off with getting people in here,” he said.
Anderson specializes in buying and selling American coins and also gold and silver.
His shop is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. He can be contacted at 715-942-2642 and www.paradisecoin.com.