While thinking about how to grow the hobby, I was reading the numismatic-related news from around the world. What do other people consider when they are collecting coins?
Stories about buried coins or hoards of ancient coins generate a lot of interest. Whether it is builders and archeologists digging in the Middle East or metal detectorists hunting the British countryside, the stories about these finds make for exciting reading.Unfortunately, the United States is a young nation compared to Europe and the Middle East. While it is possible to unearth coins in the United States, most metal detectorists report finding other artifacts and common coins. On the east coast, it is common to find bullets, buttons, and other metal objects from the colonial period to the Civil War. Although these finds are fascinating, it is not like finding a hoard of fused copper Roman coins.
Modern error coins seem to be of interest. News outlets in Great Britain and Australia regularly publish stories about an error someone found or sold online. Although these stories cause people to become treasure hunters, there have been reports that some have turned into collectors.Interestingly, the United States experienced something similar with the discovery of the “extra leaf” error on the Wisconsin state quarter. People were already looking at the quarters in their pocket change. The possibility of finding the error increased interest.
Finally, when a mint issues a coin with a different, the interest grows. Both Royal Mint and the Royal Australian Mint issued coins with letters of the alphabet and an image of something that begins with that letter. The news created a buzz and new collectors in both countries.The Royal Mint continues to use the 50 pence coin to create circulating commemoratives for significant milestones of British culture. Whether it is a coin celebrating the anniversary of Paddington Bear or the new dinosaur collection, British collectors appear to grow.
Recently, the U.S. Mint issued the quarter honoring the National Park of American Samoa with the reverse image of a fruit bat mother hanging in a tree with her pup. It is such an unusual design for a United States coin that it made the news.
It also has people talking about the coin. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I quickly looked at my change to see if anything was unusual. The cashier, whose accent suggested she was not a native of the area, asked if I was looking for “coins with the bat?” She was looking for one for her young son after a neighbor showed him the coin.
Through 2019, there were 50 coins released as part of the America the Beautiful Quarters program. Before the American Samoa quarter, these quarters only generated local interest, as the Fort McHenry quarter did in Maryland.
The only other coin that I can recall generating national interest was the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin. Aside from baseball’s popularity, the curved coin was something different.Coins with bats. Paddington Bear. The alphabet. A curved baseball coin. What do these have in common? Each coin has a different theme and design that is appealing to the general public.
The purist will argue that these are gimmicks. I will counter that if you want to grow the hobby, you need to give the people something that will interest them.
It is not enough to push the collecting of every Morgan Dollar varieties in the VAM catalog. Some people do not have that kind of patience. And you cannot blame that on younger collectors since I am one of those people. I find the study of VAM fascinating but not something I want to do.
However, if you release coins honoring the rock band Queen, I will order as soon as possible. I will watch with interest to see who else the Royal Mint honors. I am looking forward to coins honoring bands like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and The Rolling Stones. I own their vinyl, why not own their coins!
Unfortunately, the U.S. Mint is bound by the whims of congress. They cannot create programs that could generate interest in the general public without permission. Someday, if congress could get its act together, maybe they will allow the U.S. Mint to create a yearly program around a theme.
Think about the possibilities. One year the U.S. Mint can have a five-quarter series of dinosaurs. Another year would be for great discoveries. Whatever themes are selected, make it something that will generate enthusiasm, and allow the U.S. Mint the freedom to produce coins that would generate interest. Even if it means introducing colored coins into circulation, it has not hurt Canadian coins!
If we are to grow the hobby, congress has to be encouraged to let the U.S. Mint pursue new markets. Hopefully, those who think that their way is the only way to collect will either accept new ideas to increase the hobby or step away and let the rest of us enjoy what we collect, even if it is not Barber coins.
A few months ago, a pastor friend of mine moved to another state. I wanted.to give him a going away present. US Mint coins did not appeal. I found an appealing coin sold by the Canadian Mint with different colors. So I bought that and gave it to him.
That is my cynical view of the US Mint.