I was going to stop doing the LOOK BACK series after the summer, thinking I would have time to create new content. But we all know that real life has a way of changing even the best-laid plans. While fighting off a severe sinus infection thanks to the mold spores that thrive in this damp weather, business picked up. I am ecstatic that my new business is catching on but the infection put a damper on things.
I need a week to catch up. While doing so, I will publish two more LOOK BACK articles and try to finish a few of the new posts I started. For today’s LOOK BACK, I want to remind everyone that numismatics is more than coins. You can satisfy your collecting urges with exonumia as well as with coins.
Although the dominant area of numismatics is the collection and study of legal tender coins, numismatics is more than just coins. Numismatic is the collecting and study of items used in the exchange for goods, resolve debts, and objects used to represent something of monetary value. This opens up numismatic collecting to a wide range of items and topics that could make “the hunt” to put together the collection as much fun as having the collection.
Exonumia is the study and collection of tokens, medals, or other coin-like objects that are not considered legal tender. Exonumia opens numismatics to a wide variety of topics that could not be satisfied by collecting coins alone. An example of exonumia is the collection of transportation tokens. You may be familiar with transportation tokens from your local bus or subway company who used to sell tokens to place into fare boxes. Others may have used tokens to more easily pay in the express lanes at bridges and tunnels. A person who collects transportation tokens is called a Vecturist. For more information on being a Vecturist, visit the website for the American Vecturist Association.
Token collecting can be the ultimate local numismatic collection. Aside from transportation tokens, some states and localities issued tax tokens in order to collect fractions of a cent in sales taxes to allow those trying to get by in during down economic times to stretch their money further. Some communities issued trade tokens that allowed those who used them to use them like cash at selected merchants. Some merchants issued trade tokens that were an early form of coupons that were traded as coupons are traded today.
While tokens are items used to represent monetary value, medals are used to honor, commemorate, or advertizing. The U.S. Mint produces medals that honor people, presidents, and events. Medals produced by the U.S. Mint are those authorized by law as a national commemoration including the medal remembering the attacks of 9/11.
Commemorative medals are not limited to those produced by the U.S. Mint. State and local governments have also authorized the producing medals on their behalf that were produced by private mints. Many organizations also have created medals honoring members or people that have influenced the organization. Companies have produced medals to honor their place in the community or something about the company and their community.
Many medals have designs that can be more beautiful than on coins since they are not limited to governmental mandated details and their smaller production runs allows for more details to be added. Medals can be larger and thicker than coins and made in a higher relief than something that could be manufactured by a government mint.
Exonumia collecting also involves elongated and encased coins. You may have seen the machines in many areas where you pay 50-cents, give it one of your cents, turn the wheel and the cent comes out elongated with a pattern pressed into the coin. Elongated coins have been used as advertisements, calling cards, and as a souvenir.
Encased coins are coin encircled with a ring that has mostly been used as an advertisement. One side will call the coin a lucky coin or provide sage advice with the other side advertising a business. Another form of encased coins are encased stamps. Encased stamps were popular in the second half of the 19th century and used for trade during times when there were coin shortages.
Other exonumia includes badges, counter stamped coins, wooden money, credit cards, and casino tokens. Counter stamped coins are coins that have been circulated in foreign markets that were used in payment for goods. When the coin was accepted in the foreign market, the merchant would examine the coin and impress a counter stamp on the coin proclaiming the coin to be genuine based on their examination. Although coins were counter stamped in many areas of the world, it was prevalent in China where the coins were stamped with the Chinese characters representing the person who examined the coin. These Chinese symbols are commonly referred to as “chop marks.”
One type of counter stamped coins are stickered coins. Stickered coins were popular in the first half of the 20th century; they were used as an advertisement. Merchants would purchase stickers and apply them to their change so that as the coins circulated, the advertising would reach more people. Some stickered coins acted as a coupon to entice the holder to bring the coin into the shop and buy the merchandise.
Remember the saying, “Don’t take any wooden nickels?” If you are a wooden money collector, you want to find the wooden nickels and other wooden denominations. Wooden nickels found popularity in the 1930s as a currency replacement to offer money off for purchases or as an advertisement. Wooden nickels are still being produced today mostly as an advertising mechanism.
We cannot end the discussion of exonumia without mentioning Love Tokens and Hobo Nickels. Love Tokens became popular in the late 19th century when someone, usually a man, would carve one side of a coin, turn it into a charm for a bracelet or necklace, and give it to his loved one. The designed are as varied as the artists who created them. Hobo Nickels are similar in that hobo artists would carve a design into a Buffalo Nickel to sell them as souvenirs. While there are contemporary Love Tokens and Hobo Nickels, collectors have an affection for the classic design that shows the emotion of the period.
Currency collecting, formally called notaphily, is the study and collection of banknotes or legally authorized paper money. Notes can be collected by topic, date or time period, country, paper type, serial number, and even replacement or Star Notes (specific to the United States). Some consider collecting checks part of notaphily. Collectors of older canceled checks are usually interested in collecting them based on the issuing bank, time period, and the signature. For the history of currency and their collecting possibilities, see my previous article, “History of Currency and Collecting”.
Scripophily is the study and collection of stock and bond certificates. This is an interesting subset of numismatics because of the wide variety of items to collect. You can collect in the category of common stock, preferred stock, warrants, cumulative preferred stocks, bonds, zero-coupon bonds, and long-term bonds. Scripophily can be collected by industry (telecom, automobile, aviation, etc.); autographs of the officers; or the type of vignettes that appear on the bonds.
Militaria: Honorable Collectibles
Collecting of military-related items may be considered part of exonumia but deserves its own mention. It is popular to collect military medals and awards given to members since the medals themselves are works of art. Families will save medals awarded to relatives and even create museum-like displays to honor or memorialize the loved one.
Militaria includes numismatic-related items that represent the various services. One of the growing areas of collectibles is Challenge Coins. A challenge coin is a small medal, usually no larger than 2-inches in diameter, with the insignia or emblem of the organization. Two-sided challenge coins may have the emblem of the service on the front and the back has the emblem of the division or another representative service. Challenge coins are traditionally given by a commander in recognition of special achievement or can be exchanged as recognition for visiting an organization.
Over the last few years, civilian government agencies and non-government organizations (NGO) have started to create and issue challenge coins. Most of those agencies have ties to the military, but not all. Like their military counterparts, a manager or director can give challenge coins in recognition of special achievement or for visiting an organization.
Another area of military collectibles is Military Payment Certificates (MPC). MPC was a form of currency that was used to pay military personnel in foreign countries. MPC was first issued to troops in Europe after World War II in 1946 to provide a stable currency to help with commerce. MPC evolve from Allied Military Currency (AMC) to control the amounts of U.S. dollars circulating in the war zone and to prevent enemy forces from capturing dollars for their own gain. Prior to World War II, troops were paid in the currency of the country where they were based. With the ever moving fronts and the allies need to control the economies to defeat the Axis powers, AMC was issued to allow the military to control their value.
After the war, MPC replaced APC in order to control the currency and prevent the locals from hoarding U.S. dollars preventing the building of their own economies. When military officials discovered that too many notes were in the circulation, being hoarded, and thriving on the black market, series were demonetized and reissued to military personnel. Those holding MPC notes, not in the military received nothing and were encouraged to circulate their own currency.
MPC were printed using lithography in various colors that changed for each series. From the end of World War II to the end of the Vietnam War there were 15 series printed with only 13 issued. Although the two unissued series were destroyed, some examples have been found in the collections of those involved with the MPC system. Amongst the 13 series that were issued, there are 94 recognized notes available for collectors. Most notes are very affordable and accessible to the interested collector.
“To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Big Mac, McDonald’s unveiled the MacCoin, a limited edition global currency* backed by the internationally iconic Big Mac,” reads a press release issued by McDonald’s.
Although they note that the MacCoin has no cash value but can be redeemed for a Big Mac at participating restaurants, McDonald’s has entered the world of numismatics by issuing a five-coin set highlighting the 50-year history of the iconic Big Mac sandwich. Although each of the five coins has similar designs, with the 50th-anniversary logo on one side, the reverse has an image of the Big Mac in a setting highlighting a theme from each of its decades of existence:
The ‘70s, showcasing the decade’s flower power
The ‘80s alluding to pop art
The ‘90s defined with bold, abstract shapes
The early ‘00s specifically focusing on the technology that was at the forefront of the turn of the century
The ‘10s MacCoin calling attention to the evolution of communication
In order to obtain a MacCoin you have to go to your local participating McDonald’s and purchase a Big Mac. You get one for each purchase while supplies last. More than 6.2 million MacCoins are available from McDonald’s restaurants in 50 countries including more than 14,000 participating restaurants in the United States.
It is not known whether you can ask for a specific coin or it is done by random selection. But here is a new opportunity for trade token collectors to include something new in your collection.
COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich has asked the state Parole Board to hold a hearing on a clemency request for a former Toledo-area coin dealer who raised money for Ohio Republicans before being convicted in a state investment scandal that also ensnared a former governor. → Read more at mariettatimes.com
Rabat – On Throne Day, Morocco’s Bank Al Maghrib announced it will issue a new commemorative coin with a value of MAD 250. The announcement came on the 19th anniversary of King Mohammed VI’s ascension to the throne. → Read more at moroccoworldnews.com
Maritime archaeologists have made an astonishing discovery off the Kent coast in England. While investigating an almost three-hundred-year-old shipwreck they found some coins that had been sewn into clothing. → Read more at ancient-origins.net
"The legendary taste of the Big Mac has helped it achieve universal recognition and a lasting legacy," Susie Stames, a Cleveland-area McDonald's owner-operator, said in a statement. "Over my family's [55-year] tenure with McDonald's, Big Mac fans have enjoyed two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun with a flavor that's just as craveable and delicious today as it was back then." → Read more at cleveland.com
A California firearms instructor's search for a lucky coin missing at Anchorage's airport has left him grieving the loss. Gary Peters carried the Eisenhower dollar in his pocket every day for 34 years — ever since his daughter gave it to him when she was 5. → Read more at adn.com
An IT contractor has been jailed for stealing tens of thousands of dollars in gold bars and coins and smuggling them out of the Perth Mint, in order to fund his lavish lifestyle and "shower his partner with gifts". → Read more at mobile.abc.net.au
One way to consider collecting elongated coins is to collect them based on where you have been. While some people will buy postcards or lapel pins to collect as souvenirs, elongated coins can be less expensive and have even more variety than gift shop fare.
You can find the machines with the cranks that will create elongated coins in a lot of museums, theme parks, and even in on the Disney properties. Most machines charge 51-cents to $1.01 to squish and imprint a design on the one-cent coin you pay for the service. Almost all of the machines are mechanical where you do the work. They also will only elongate cents. There are a few machines that are more automated that can elongate almost any coin.
Having played around with a few of these machines, the best coin to use is one of the copper-plated zinc cents (post-1982) that is red-brown in color with more red than brown. Very shiny coins look too artificial and the design seems to get lost on brown cents. One of the reasons not to use the all-copper cents is that the rich brown that makes those cents attractive does not look as good when squished.
If you start to collect elongated coins you may consider joining The Elongated Collectors (TEC) organization. Considering that elongated coins are fun collectibles, TEC has to be a fun group. Join in and have fun!
By Karen Knapstein You don’t need to have an interest in coin collecting to get started in coin collecting. If you are a traveler, a fun-seeker, a keeper of mementos from family outings or historical events, creating and collecting elongated pennies may be a good fit for you. → Read more at antiquetrader.com
Before you tell me I am cuckoo, allow me to introduce Ian Watt. The 70-year-old from the United Kingdom has made the enormous amount of money in a very peculiar way. Mr Watt’s fortune has come from him never walking past a coin on the ground, with the eagle-eyed dad collecting almost a million of lost coins in his travels. → Read more at news.com.au
Patna: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in view of the coin glut in Bihar, said on Monday that the central government was encouraging use of coins, and it was receiving two to four truckloads of coins daily in Patna to be distributed across the state through banks. → Read more at telegraphindia.com
(Kitco News) – The gold market continues to struggle with weak bullion demand as the Royal Canadian Mint reported a more than 50% drop in sales in the first quarter of 2018. In its first-quarter earnings report, released last week, the Canadian mint said that gold volume dropped to 108.5 thousand ounces in the first quarter, down from 228.2 thousand ounces reported in the first quarter of 2017. → Read more at kitco.com
The Singapore Mint has released a limited-edition set of medallions to commemorate the historic first summit between a sitting U.S. president, Donald Trump, and a North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, scheduled in the island state for June 12. → Read more at newsweek.com
The end of the year comes with a lot of endings. This year will mark the beginning of the end for the last major metropolitan area still using transportation tokens.
Just before Christmas, the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the transit agency serving the Philadelphia metropolitan region, announced that they are removing the token vending machines at El (elevated rail stations) and subway stops. The announcement said that they will continue to sell tokens at some stations and the system will continue to accept them.
SEPTA has seen a 1 million token decline in sales just in the last year as people opt to use a SEPTA Key Card and daily QuickTrip passes. It is a trend experienced nationwide. It is the result of better use of electronic payment systems and the increased cost of handling tokens. The cost of credit card swipe fees is less expensive than the physical handling of metal disks.
Farecard technology has been around for a while. I first encountered it in the early 1990s during a trip to Washington, D.C. The Washington Metro began using fare cards as a pilot in 1989 and rolled them out system-wide in 1990. My hometown of New York launched the MetroCard in 1993 and stopped using tokens in 2003.
One of the benefits of the fare cards to the transit agencies is that they can charge differing rates for different situations. Peak fares can cost more than the non-peak while using an express service can be charged an additional fare without having to carry extra tokens. The Washington Metro not only changes fares between peak and off-peak times but charges a different fare based on distance.
Be prepared Philadelphia, the days of the single fare ride for a token is almost over.
CAIRO, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) — Egyptian security at the Cairo International Airport has thwarted an attempt to smuggle 329 ancient coins to France, the Ministry of Antiquities said on Sunday. The coins, seized from an Egyptian passenger travelling to France, date back to the Byzantine and Ptolemy eras, the ministry said in a statement. → Read more at xinhuanet.com
The Currency Museum shows how diverse our units of commerce have been THE BANK of Japan’s Currency Museum in Tokyo exhibits mainly currencies that have been circulated in Japan, including fuhonsen coins said to be the first ever used in this country, toraisen coins imported from China during the medieval period, and oban and koban (large and small gold coins). → Read more at nationmultimedia.com
The first ever English gold coin that had to be scrapped after a banking blunder meant is was worth less than its weight in gold, is now tipped to sell for £500,000. Some 52,000 of the King Henry III gold pennies were struck nearly 800 years ago before it was realised they were too heavy. → Read more at dailymail.co.uk
BACOLOD CITY— The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) urged consumers in Negros Occidental to thoroughly check the features of the new PHP5 coins already circulating in the province. “We urge Negrenses to check the features, mainly the appearance of the coins they have, to ensure that they spend the right amount,” said Job Nepomuceno, deputy director of BSP-Bacolod. → Read more at canadianinquirer.net
Coin proof set from the reign of William IV and dated 1831 which sold for £65,000 at London auction house Dix Noonan Webb on December 13-15. Three excellent 19th century examples sold in the Coins, Historical Medals and Paper Money auction held by London saleroom Dix Noonan Webb in London on December 13-15. → Read more at antiquestradegazette.com
One way to make collecting more fun is to combine interests. One of the members of my local coin club loves cats and has always had one around his house. To help enhance his collecting experience, he collects coins, medals, and tokens with images of cats.
I recently learned that the family of another club member was from Rhodesia. He is working on a collection of Rhodesian coins from before they became Zimbabwe.
Just to complete a thought, a friend’s family came to the United States and 1876 from Eastern Europe. After he traced his family’s history and their path to the United States, he collects coins that were struck in 1876 from the countries his family stopped in during their trip.
My interest is cars. I love the muscle cars of my youth, particular the Mopar muscle. But I love all of the older cars. I think that their designs through the muscle car era had depth and style. Other than the 1959 Cadillac with the biggest fins ever produced in Detroit, I find the Art Deco look of the pre-war cars very appealing.
Recently, I was able to add to my cars and numismatics collection by finding one gram silver ingots with images of vintage cars.
While searching online auctions looking for holiday-related one grams silver ingots to use as gifts, I stumbled across a seller with about two dozen of the ingots with images of classic cars including an 1879 Benz, largely considered the first commercially available automobile. I systematically placed a minimum bid on each of the ingots and decided not to pay any more than one dollar per ingot. When the auctions were over, I won 16 of the 24 that were for sale.
When they arrived, I examined them closely looking for something to indicate who might have made them. Aside from the image of the automobile on the front and the manufacturer on the reverse, there is a sequence number and a copyright that says “476” on the bottom right. The numbers are so small that I needed a 16x loupe to see them.
Each ingot contains 1 gram of .999 silver. At the current price of $16.99 per Troy ounce, each ingot contains 55-cents worth of silver. Since I paid 99-cents for each ingot I think I did pretty well on this deal. They will fit nicely with my Somalia classic cars and motorcycle coins.
If anyone has information as to who created these ingots, please comment below or contact me with the information.
I do not believe there should be a problem with this.
Previously, I wrote about something I called “numismentos,” mementos created from numismatic items. It was prompted when NGC announced they struck a deal with Edmund C. Moy, the 38th Director of the U.S. Mint and currently the last full-time director, to autograph labels. I also noted that NGC also had autograph deals with Elizabeth Jones and John Mercanti, the 11th and 12th Cheif Engravers of the U.S. Mint, respectively.
You can see the list of available NGC Signature Labels here.
But NGC is not the only one in this game. Professional Coin Grading Service has had similar promotions including Philip Diehl, another former Director of the U.S. Mint and a long list of Baseball Hall of Fame inductees who signed labels used in the encapsulation of the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins.
A Goodacre Dollar encapsulated by ICG
Famously, Glenna Goodacre, who was paid $5,000 for her design of the Sacagawea dollar, asked to be paid in the new dollar coin. She sent the coins to Independent Coin Graders to be encapsulated with special labels. Goodacre then sold the coins at a premium. She did not sell out of these coins. Later, about 2,000 coins were acquired by Jeff Garrett who submitted them to PCGS. The coins were encapsulated with a special attribution on the PCGS label and included an insert with an autographed by Philip Diehl.
ICG also had some of the designers of the State Quarters autograph labels.
Does anyone else remember when the original PCI was still in business and they hired J.T. Stanton as company president and they had him autograph labels of coins he graded?
Although all of the grading services include special attribution for coins, NGC and PCGS have special labels that they use for certain coins.
In all cases, these grading services are creating these numismentos for customers interested in having the label be significant to their collection.
The only problem I have with the label designation is the “First Strike” or “First Strike” labels. There are questions as to the validity of these designations that causes an unnecessary premium to be added to these coins.
Besides, If I took any other stance, I could be accused of hypocrisy. In a few cases, I have purchased numismentos. My collection includes a pair of ICG holders with 2001-P and 2001-D New York State quarters autographed by designer David Carr that is part of my New York collection.
2000-P New York quarter with Daniel Carr’s autograph on ICG label
2000-D New York quarter with Daniel Carr’s autograph on ICG label
As part of my Bicentennial Collections, I own a Bicentennial PCGS Signature set. The set consists of the three proof coins with the special bicentennial reverse in PCGS slabs with the autographs of Jack L. Ahr, Seth Huntington, and Dennis R. Williams, the designer of the coins. There is a business strike version of this set but I find the proof coins more appealing.
1976-S Silver Proof Bicentennial Autograph Set
The only reason that there appears to be some umbrage taken with the autograph by Rick Harrison is that he is a relentless self-promoter whose style is not welcome by everyone. Harrison is not the first non-numismatic-related celebrity to autograph inserts but may be the most controversial to some people.
As I have previously suggested, we can call these types of numismatic-related collectibles numismentos. Numismento is a portmanteau of numismatic + memento.
I suggest the name to distinguish collecting the coins from collecting the slabs, show-related ephemera, buttons, or anything else that is not numismatics.
If collecting numismentos makes you happy? Enjoy yourself!
Although I owe you my impressions of the U.S. Mint’s Numismatic Forum, giving it the proper treatment I think it deserves has taken longer than expected. Rather, let me jump ahead to a recurring theme that takes over the conversation on the state of the hobby: Numismatics is a dying hobby of the old.
MYTH: Electronic transactions have taken over and hard currency is being used less.
FACT: Electronic transactions make up only 13-percent of retail purchases in the United States and 7.1-percent worldwide. Although the pundits like to point out that trillions of dollars change hands electronically, this includes non-consumer-related transactions such as bank transfers from one account to the other using the Automated Clearing House (ACH). If your paycheck is deposited directly into your account, it is transferred using the ACH system.
In real money, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the total costs for all goods and services, to be $18,561,934,000,000 ($18.561 trillion). If 13-percent of that is electronic retail purchases, that means that $2,413,051,420,000 ($2.413 trillion) is made not using cash. What about the other $16.1 trillion dollars?
Depending on which report you read, electronic transactions should grow at a rate of 8-10 percent annually. Even if the U.S. GDP is on a pace to grow by only 1.4-percent, adding about $250 billion in electronic transactions will not make a significant dent in the rate of electronic transactions.
Of course, the U.S. are not spending $16 trillion in cash transactions, but both the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are on course for record production years. Year-to-date, the U.S. Mint has produced $870,133,500 in circulating coins (not including half-dollar, dollar, and commemorative coins). For Fiscal Year 2015 (October 2014-September 2015) the BEP produced $166,302,000,000 ($166.302 trillion) in currency (not including $2 notes). Although some of the currency does replace worn notes (the BEP reports that 90-percent of $1 notes replace damaged notes) and a significant portion of the $100 notes are shipped to banks overseas, which represents quite a number of transactions.
Although electronic payment options make up 13-percent of all cashless transactions you have to remember that this market barely existed a few years ago. Even as banks and large retailers push to increase the number cashless transaction, there are problems that society faces when moving to a cashless retail system. The biggest problem is one of scale. The United States makes more money, spends more money, trades more money, and has more economic impact than any other country in the world. It is the world’s single largest economy with a strong capitalistic culture where most of the commerce is done with small businesses. Amongst all business, 55-percent of retail merchants are cash-only enterprises. They are too small to consider paying the 3-to-5 percent fees for using a credit card, known as the “swipe fee.” Of those that do take credit cards, at least 36-percent require a minimum purchase.
MYTH: The sharing economy is turning the economic world upside down changing the way we will pay for goods and services.
FACT: Human beings have been sharing and trading goods and services from the dawn of time. You killed an ox and have the hide left over. I have a lot of fruit I picked that I cannot eat. I will give you an amount of fruit and you give me the hide. Money was created as a medium of exchange when I did not want your fruit but wanted some of the goods someone else had. It was the pre-historic version of the three-way trade.
Some of us grew up trading. I remember trading a Mickey Mantle baseball card for a Jerry Koosman and two Donn Clendenon cards —one from Houston and the other from Montreal, just after the Mets traded for Clendenon. I thought I gave the kid a deal because 1969 turned out to be Mantle ’s last year.
What has changed since I made the trade? There has been a tremendous change in technology. While we set the price for the baseball cards we traded, now there are price guides, electronic markets, auctions, and online trading sites. Even in other categories, you might place a classified ad in a newspaper or an advertising rag like PennySaver or something like Uncle Henry’s in Maine. Now there are sites like Craigslist, AirBnB, Uber and Lyft that expands the market.
Pundits like to point to the sharing economy’s growth. The problem with the reports is that this version of the sharing economy has gone from nothing to something with a lot of press coverage. Anytime there is something shiny and new it grabs the attention of the public before they move on to the next distraction.
We share numismatics all of the time. We go to shows and display our collections for competitions. We enter registry sets to try to create a nice collection or even worst collection with the advent of “low ball” sets of coins of very low grades. We blog and read about other’s collections. We post finds to public forums and sometimes bring our collections to show off at club meetings.
Sometimes we even trade. Have you traded a few Barber dimes for a Barber half because you needed the half for your collection? How about three Morgan dollars for an elusive 1921-S Walking Liberty half-dollar?
The only difference between this and the new sharing economy is the lack of computer interface. Sometimes that human interaction is more fun than hiding behind a screen.
MYTH: People, especially millennials are not interested in collecting anything.
New Zealand Mint produces Monopoly coins for the Island nation of Niue. Did you pass Go?
FACT: The Hobby and Toy industry is estimated to be a $20 billion business with an estimated growth of 1.6-percent over 2015. Not all of the emphasis is on electronic games and gadgets. One study found that more money is pledged for projects on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter than any other category.
Numismatics has never been a welcoming hobby for the mid-to-lower level collector. Dealers who are older may have a difficult time relating to younger and, frankly, a non-white demographic (see my post about one such incident here). It has created a culture of cranky older Caucasian collectors who think that their way is the only way to collect.
It is not just the dealers. Mainstream publishers put a lot of effort into creating references and collecting supplies that satisfy the market as being pushed by the dealers. Even worse, while the American Numismatic Association does recognize other aspects of numismatics, the fact that most of the Board of Governors are in the coin business with years of experiences in the coin business, that becomes the focus of the ANA.
It is time for the industry and its representative organization, the ANA, to remember that numismatics is more than coins. Currency, exonumia, scripophily, and even military medals are all part of numismatics. Concentrating on coins, especially coverage of high-value sales scares off many novices who may be willing to look at coins as a hobby. When I go out to schools in the Washington, D.C. metro area, I will bring enough Metro (the local transit system) tokens for everyone in the class. After buying a bulk bag of tokens, I have plenty to give away along with the story of how they were once used. But it allows me to show the students that numismatics is more than coins. I explain how I sit at junk boxes and at the tables of token dealers to find items from my hometown of New York. When I show them four pages of 2x2s with tokens and medals from New York and say that in three years I may have spent as much as $200, they seem to understand that you can have fun without spending a lot of money.
MYTH: We lost those who collected the state quarters forever.
FACT: We also retained a lot of those collectors. Unfortunately, we damaged many others.
What made the state quarter program popular was that the way it was administered made everyone a stakeholder. Rather than dictating the design, states were encouraged to allow public participation to help decide on their quarter’s design. Contests and state pride went into the quarters that allowed each state to celebrate their home state. Ordinary people were brought into the process and ceremonies held in each state announcing the designs and on the release of the quarters.
Of course, the state quarters were also the hobby’s demise as television hucksters sold overpriced junk surrounding the sets. Colored coins and “special” sets were sold at high prices with the hint that they would only increase in value. When these people tried to cash in on their “investment” they found they overpaid, became angry, and may not come back. During this time, the ANA was nearly non-existent in the education process as it was undergoing its own internal political battles. Without someone to help stand up for the hobby to help educate the public, the industry suffered.
Although the ANA has improved in many areas, it continues to be about coins with a slant toward classic (pre-1965) and rare coins. The only modern coins that seem to get any amount of respect from the community are commemoratives, bullion, and errors. With the so-called modern era being 52 years old, it is time for the old and crusty of the numismatics industry to either get on board with that it is new to the new collectors or maybe it is time to consider retirement.
The lesson I have learned in numismatics as well in my business of buying and selling collectibles is that in order to expand any hobby it has to be made into something personal. Sports collectibles sell memories of your heroes. Space collectibles sell the mystique of outer space. Automobilia seems to have a fascination for a lot of people even as what was considered modern nameplates like Plymouth and Pontiac have gone the way of DeSoto and American Motors.
Hobbies have to also be interesting. Is it really interesting to collect a series of all of the same coins where the only difference is the date or mintmark? Again, why does a collection have to be biased for coins? Can someone have fun collecting So-called dollars, transportation tokens, or even unusual coins? I think about how much fun Charmy Harker might have had to put together her award-winning exhibit Penny Potpourri with things made out of pennies. If you have not seen her exhibit, you can find images here. It has to be one of the best exhibits I have ever seen because it is unusual. I like things that are different.
In order to get people interested in the hobby, you cannot introduce it to them by showing a 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent or a 1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo nickel as an example. Not only are these coins difficult to find and less affordable, but not everyone may be interested. I like to use my two-pages of 2×2 holders with a set of transportation tokens with every letter of the alphabet cut out of the center, except “Q” and “Z,” along with some that have shapes. When I tell someone I paid around $50 for the initial investment and can buy most tokens for less than $5 each, they want to know how they could get started.
Here are some ideas to help you start a new collection. You can only use these if you do so by recruiting a friend or relative who is not currently part of the hobby:
If you want to start with coins, go find a folder of currently circulating coins and see who can fill their folder first only from pocket change. I recommend either Lincoln Memorial cents, which can be interesting finding S-mint circulating cents on the east coast, or Jefferson nickels (for fun, use Whitman Jefferson Nickel folder #2).
Another idea for collecting coins is to make a collection based on a theme. Ideas for themes can be the year you were born, coins with an animal like buffalos, or create a type set that represents some of the subtle changes in a long series like Lincoln cents.
There are more to exonumia than transportation tokens. If your state issued tax tokens in the early part of the 20th century then how about finding examples for a collection. Tokens are still being created for gaming, casino chips, parking tokens, or store tokens the pre-cursor to paper coupons. Advertising tokens can be a fun way to collect your hometown. Tokens with themes, shapes, and cutouts can be a lot of fun.
Go beyond tokens to encased coins. Encased coins have been used as a private commemorative, advertising, and I even found one for an electric supply company that promised money off if you returned it to their store.
You can collect elongated cents, also called squished pennies, from almost anywhere. Recently, I found a machine in the Philadelphia Mint’s gift shop. For 51-cents, each I was able to buy two souvenirs. Collecting elongateds also helps you keep the record of where you have been.
And I didn’t mention currency or scripophily. One cool idea would be to collect stock certificates representing what you might find on a Monopoly game board.
If you have other suggestions, send it as a comment!
Now go out and start a collection. Recruit a friend and do it together.
Selection of my New York collection
1936 Long Island Tercentenary Half-Dollar
1983 Brooklyn Bridge Centennial Medal issued by Brooklyn Union Gas
Medal from the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883
1956-D Encased Cent from the Chase Money Museum
A check from the First National Bank of Inwood (NY)
50th Anniversary medal from the Inwood Country Club.
1938 Encased Cent from the First National Bank of Inwood (NY)
1984 LIRR Sesquicentennial Bronze Medal
TBTA Toll Token
Reverse of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Rockaways resident token.
New York City Type 2 Subway Token error. It’s missing the punched out “Y”
2000-P New York quarter with Daniel Carr’s autograph on ICG label
2000-D New York quarter with Daniel Carr’s autograph on ICG label
Series 2003 $2 Star Note from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Rosario Marin/John Snow signatures.
Series 2013 Uncirculated $1 Federal Reserve Note from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Could this Looney Tunes Silver Kilo coin be on your list?
Before it became a thing, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving that is usually the biggest shopping day of the year and where retailers become profitable for the year, or being in the black. When online sales began to pick up and most people were connected to the Internet by slow connections, usually by a modem, people would go their offices on Monday and use the company’s faster Internet to place their online orders. In 2005, the National Retail Federation started calling it Cyber Monday.
The meaning of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has been dulled over the last few years except as an alleged barometer for the shopping season it is still something that becomes an event where the worst behaviors can be seen on the evening news. In 2013, the U.S. Mint did their part in the Black Friday hype by offering free standard shipping for the first week of the holiday shopping season.
All this means that it is the time for gift giving and gift receiving. While we are searching for the holiday deals, what is on your wish list this year? If you want to provide details, add it to the comments below!
What are your 2015 gift plans?
I have coins on my wish list. (54%, 37 Votes)
I plan to give someone a numismatic gift. (14%, 10 Votes)
I am not planning on giving a numismatic gift. (13%, 9 Votes)
I have currency on my wish list. (12%, 8 Votes)
I have exonumia or other numismatics on my wish list. (6%, 4 Votes)
Bah Humbug! (1%, 1 Votes)
I do not have any numismatics on my wish list. (0%, 0 Votes)
In the 1960s when my parents’ first child was becoming old enough to be enrolled in school, they decided it was time to move out of Brooklyn for the better schools of Long Island. One day, my father found an advertisement in the newspaper for some new homes being built in an old hamlet on Long Island called Inwood. In New York-speak, a hamlet is not an official location but a section of a larger village or township named for jurisdictional purposes. Hamlets are very much like any other area but without its own formal government.
Inwood was one of the Five Towns along with Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, and Hewlett. Each had its own character, divisions, points of interest but were together geographically, socially, and and as a larger community. Some of that has changed over the years, but the Five Towns still exists as a central part of life in that area. Although identified as a hamlet, Inwood had its own identity from the rest of the Five Towns. Inwood was more working class than the rest of the Five Towns. It is the home to two schools that were part of the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Public Schools (now just the Lawrence Public Schools), P.S. #4 was the kindergarten and P.S. #2 was the elementary school (then Grades 1-6). There was some industry in an area we called “the factories” and some offices. Not too far was a bowling alley, a few gas stations, and the A&P. A few churches, a synagogue (that no longer exists), the VFW Hall, and the volunteer fire department was all part of daily life.
Many of us have gone in own directions but we cannot forget what made Inwood home for us. One of the ubiquitous parts of Inwood was the golf course. Officially, it is called the Inwood Country Club. Aside from being a private club where many of us were not allowed to enter, it dominated the entire length of Donahue Avenue that was our major route when we walked to school. There were no sidewalks on that side of the street. Trees hung over the shoulder and in the spring and fall you can see and hear the men playing golf.
The last time I visited Inwood, I noticed that the road was better paved and the shoulder that we walked along was no longer available. The fence line came to the edge of the road and a distinct curb was added. The trees were thinner and he shrubbery that dominated the fence when I walked that road was gone. You can now see the golf course from the street.
Although I never went into the Inwood Country Club until I found someone to invite me in the 1980s, its presence looms large in my memory. Our backyard backed up into a swamp-like area owned by the club that would flood when Jamaica Bay overflowed. It was a buffer between the bay and the golf course. The only other landmark in the area that dominated as much as the Inwood Country Club was Kennedy Airport across the bay.
Inwood Country Club was opened in 1901 by Jacob Wertheim because there were few places to play golf on Long Island. Its claim to fame for the golf world is that it was the host to the 1921 PGA Championship that was won by Walter Hagen and the 1923 U.S. Open Championship won by Bobby Jones. The 1923 U.S. Open was Jonse’s first major championship of his professional career. Jones won with what was then considered one of the finest shots on the 18th hole of the playoff that was then called “the shot heard around the world.”
Whenever I find something about Inwood that finds its way for sale I usually try to buy it. Souvenirs from Inwood are not plentiful and numismatic-related souvenirs are even rarer. But when a token honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Inwood Country Club came along, I was a strong bidder. I might have overbid, but I had to make this token part of my collection.
It looks like it is made of a white metal, maybe zinc, coated with copper based on the wearing on the reverse. It is 16.75 mm in diameter making it smaller than a dime, which is 17.9 mm in diameter. But it has survived well for being that small and 64 years old.
This goes to show that you do not have to collect coins to have fun in numismatics!
Inwood Country Club clubhouse image courtesy of the Inwood Country Club.
One of the things I noticed over the last few years are the proliferation of local coin shows in Maryland. Part of the reason is an ambitious dealer finding areas to put on shows and do what it takes to make them successful.
The idea is simple: you have inventory that is not making money for you if it is sitting on the shelf. Rent a hall either in a local hotel or an organization’s building, set up the room so that each dealer has a space, provide a couple of chairs per dealer space, rent the dealer space, have a greeter at the door, and security which can be an off-duty police officer from the area. All that is left is the advertising.
Advertising is a key factor because without it, I would not have stumbled over a coin show this past weekend in Frederick, Maryland. After travelling to Frederick from the closer-in Washington suburbs for other business, I remembered reading that there was a coin show in the area. A quick search using my smartphone helped me find the address and my in-vehicle GPS helped me get there.
When I arrived I walked into the room with about a dozen dealers and a few empty tables. I was not concerned with the empty tables but the ones where dealers sat. Since this was a local show, I knew many of the dealers and spoke with those who were not otherwise busy. Since going to this show was a last minute decision, I did not have my want list with me but I looked around anyway.
While looking at some tokens, I heard one gentleman say that he is getting back into collecting after finding the coins he collected as a child. It is a typical story that many of us can relate. When I heard he was lived near where our local coin club met, I approached him, introduced myself as the coin club’s president, and invited him to our next meeting in March.
Finally, I did have a chance to look at some items. For the times I do not bring my lists, I can fall back on searching the tokens for anything from New York City or anything unusual. During this search, I did find two tokens that I thought were worth buying. The first is a token from the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA). For the non-New York readers, the TBTA is an affiliate agency of New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority that manages the bridges and tunnels that have at least one end in Brooklyn or Queen plus the Henry Hudson Bridge which crosses the East River between the Bronx and Manhattan.
The token I found were issued for residents of the Rockaways, Queens for crossing the Cross Bay and Marine Park bridges at a reduced price. The Rockaway Peninsula is off southern Long Island in Queens that is very residential and used to be a very popular summer destination with areas of cabins only used during the summer. The TBTA made the tokens available to residents to help lower their commuting costs. Nowadays, the residents use the EZPass electronic toll collecting system for their discount.
The TBTA issued a few different residential tokens in various areas of the city to provide residents with discounts. While I have some of the others, including the one for Staten Island for use on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, this is the first one I found for the Rockaways. After all, these tokens were issued to be used by the residents. Most used the tokens they purchased and did not save them.
Obverse of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Rockaways resident token.
Reverse of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Rockaways resident token.
The other token I found was a souvenir from the Empire State Building. While I have a few tokens from the iconic building, this one not only looks newer but is also holed for use as jewelry. This is one of the better looking medals I have found since it look like it was minimally handled.
Obverse of the holed Empire State Building medal.
Reverse of the Empire State Building medal
One of the ways to make collecting more fun and personal is to collect exonumia that means something. Being from New York, I once used some of these items not thinking that I would be collecting them years later. Subway tokens were ubiquitous in New York life. I used to use TBTA tokens a lot, especially crossing the Verrazano Bridge for a daily commute to Piscataway. Later, when I moved to New Jersey, I had used tokens for the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) and was excited to find tokens from its predecessor, Hudson Railway.
Coins are still a lot of fun, but I am really having fun looking for various hometown-related tokens and medals. Aside from being a reminder of my past, it is also a look back on the history of my hometown New York, New York, a city so nice they named it twice!