There are times when good people with good intentions do or say something that perpetuates narratives that are more harmful than they think.On Friday, November 9, I received the regular mail from Numismatic News with the usual section for questions that editor Dave Harper uses for community input. This week’s question was “Is collecting Standing Liberty quarters mandatory for successful hobbyists?”
The question appears to have been inspired by the article, “Dateless quarter inspired collector” by Ginger Raspus. The article was about how she was inspired to collect Standing Liberty Quarters after finding a dateless version pulled from change. The article then goes on about to describe the series. There was nothing in Ginger’s story that suggested anyone else collect these coins. She was reporting on her experience.
The problem with Dave’s question is a problem with the people who appear to have significant say in this industry. Their problem is that they say, suggest, or infer that if you don’t collect coins or their particular favorite, you are not a “real collector.”
Or in this case, a successful collector.
What defines a successful collector?
Is a successful collector one that fills up a particular folder or album of coins in a series designed by the publisher?
Is a successful collector one that creates a top-ranked registry set?
Is a successful collector defined by whether their collection meets artificial criteria set by an arcane definition of industry norms?
The problem is that these criteria that create these definitions of industry norms are those some consider the elders of the industry, many of who started collecting before most collectors were born. Other definitions of norms are created by the dealers whose input are more self-serving than encouraging.
There is nothing wrong with dealers earning a living. In recent years I have turned away from the convenience of online auctions except if the auction is sponsored by a dealer. I want the dealers to succeed, but not at the expense of chasing away potential collectors.A successful collector is someone who creates a collecting goal based on a personal interest and works to achieve that goal. That goal does not have to include buying published folders or albums and filling holes—but if that gives you pleasure, by all means, go for it!
Someone came into my shop to search the basket of foreign coins I keep on the counter. After a few moments I provided her with a box to place the coins she looked at while digging through the basket. I asked her why she was looking so carefully at the coins and she said that she was looking for coins from the countries her parents and grandparents were from and the years they were born.
After a while, she finshed looking and wanted to pay for the coins she picked. I looked at the coins and found a 1938 Spanish 25-centimos and 1961 Columbian 5-centavos coins. With a smile, she explained that her father was born in Columbia and his father, her grandfather, was from Spain.
When she said that she did not know what coins where minted and when I showed her en.mumista.com, my favorite website for looking up foreign coins. We searched for the countries and years of her family to show her what was available.
The next time she returned to my shop she carried a list of coins with check marks next to some of them. We then talked about how to store the coins and what to use as albums so that she can keep the coins nicely.
I do not know if she will be able to find all of the coins on her list but I know that she found examples of all the coins that she identified as being in circulation in 1961 Columbia because she brought in the album she created to show me.
I would call my new friend a successful collector.