Justin Couch (‘16) has a knack for finding opportunity in an unlikely place, be it a temporary setback or among loose change in the underside of couch cushions. Since launching his own YouTube channel, Couch Collectibles, in 2017, the Northern Kentucky native has amassed the platform’s largest following for a coin-collecting creator, introducing curious viewers to the more lucrative side of his hobby of choice. As of Dec. 2022, his channel has more than 500,000 subscribers and four videos with at least 1 million views, keeping its focus on rare and valuable currency.
An electronic media and broadcasting (EMB) major, Justin attributes his success to his rigorous upload schedule, entrepreneurial instincts and the production skills he picked up while studying at NKU. Every day, he films and edits multiple videos, optimizing each one for multiple other platforms like Facebook and Tik Tok.
“The stuff I learned at NKU pretty much applies to everything I do now with my videos,” Couch says. “It definitely helps to have things like shortcuts that I use in my editing programs every day.”
“I really just want to keep building and turn this into a media empire.”
It was Couch’s grandmother who sparked his early interest in collecting coins, passing down the collection that she and his father accrued over the years. He was fascinated by the connection that these artifacts created between him and the folks from other countries or time periods who had held them in the past.
“If you look at the United States one cent coin, the penny, 1958 was the last year they had the wheat cent reverse, for example,” he says. “I always thought it was cool to collect those because I considered them older at the time. But it was really the history of all of the different coins that originally got me interested in collecting them.”
Couch also had an early interest in YouTube, creating an account in high school shortly after the platform launched in late 2005, but was not yet sure what sort of videos he wanted to create. What he did know is that he had a passion for creativity and entrepreneurship, and sought to pursue a career that combined these two skills when he graduated.
“I grew up always being good at art and things like that, so I knew that I always kind of wanted to go in that direction,” he says. “But I also had the ability to buy and flip things on eBay.”
When Couch first enrolled at NKU out of high school in 2009, he pursued courses in business but initially struggled, taking a two-year break from school after two and a half years. At age 24, he decided to return to school and major in EMB—a perfect fit for Couch.
“I think it helped me, being older,” says Couch. “I had so many things going on in my life when I was 18, and I didn’t really know it was an option to go to school to learn something like video editing. My mind had fully developed then, and I was able to approach school as seriously as I would a job.”
In particular, he found the program’s emphasis on hands-on learning invaluable citing Wes Akers’ Sports Media Production class, in which students helped film and broadcast games on ESPN3, and Chris Strobel’s special topics course that centered around producing live music videos for WNKU, as foundational experiences. Couch also minored in marketing, which he says helped him understand the psychology of consumers and reach his initial audience as a creator.
Shortly after graduating, Couch was able to accrue even more experience producing content—this time, for a YouTuber.
“Around 2009, 2010, I started watching like Roman Atwood and Dennis Roady, who were the original YouTube pranksters,” says Couch. “I saw that they were filming some of their pranks in downtown Cincinnati and I was like, man, I wish I could just run into these guys. Eventually, I did end up becoming an editor for Dennis Roady when I got out of NKU. I emailed him multiple times over the course of a year, and then he happened to respond to the last one I sent him right after I graduated. I became his editor for maybe six months to a year.”
This freelance editing experience taught Couch valuable tools of the trade, giving him the extra income and information necessary to start up a channel of his own.
“I was watching metal detecting videos and I saw that they were finding old silver coins and stuff like that. I thought, ‘Man, this is awesome,’” Couch says. “I wasn’t thinking about making my own metal detecting channel, but I did notice that YouTube was recommending other videos about coins and that’s when the lightbulb went off. I knew that’s what I was going to do.”
His earliest videos were brief tutorials on getting started coin collecting and identifying counterfeit coins, but he quickly began to delve into more specific topics like printing errors that increase coins’ value, tips on organizing your collection and metal detector recommendations'
Couch began to see results almost overnight, garnering thousands of views on multiple videos within two weeks of starting out.
“I thought that was normal at first,” Couch laughs. “I feel like I got really lucky. But I think it just kind of took off from the start because I was uploading daily.”
Within six months, he was earning thousands of dollars per month running his channel—enough money to pursue YouTube full time.
As Couch Collectibles climbs toward half a million subscribers, Justin continues to think of new ways to expand his online presence. He is in the process of moving, and plans to set up an upgraded studio space and office once settled—a means of taking his new podcast, Couch Conversations, to the next level. Thus far, he has interviewed former Bengals offensive lineman Anthony Muñoz, disc golf world champion Ricky Wysocki and pro wrestler Bryan Pillman, Jr.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching podcasts,” Couch says. “I’d like to be the Cincinnati version of some of these bigger podcasts. Instead of being someone that gets A-list celebrities, it’d be a good opportunity to get artists that come in through Riverbend or other local venues. I really just want to keep building and turn this into a media empire.”