13 January 2012

Coin-Collecting Time

Welcome back. Last Friday, while transferring bags from shopping cart to car trunk, I realized I had forgotten to buy bread. After maneuvering the empty cart back across the parking lot into the line of carts waiting patiently for shoppers to free them, I reentered the market, grabbed the forgotten item and, when checking out, did something I hadn’t done anywhere in a very long time: I paid with cash. 
Fortunately, the cashier knew exactly what to do with the five-dollar bill I tendered. She handed me the bagged loaf and, after consulting the cash register, two one-dollar bills and coins. At home, when I removed the coins from my pocket, I again did something I hadn’t done in an even longer time: I checked the dates of the coins. 
Starting a Coin Collection

When I was on the university research staff, a graduate student in our field introduced me to coin collecting. He showed me coin albums, and I rushed out and bought one of each of the more obvious albums as well as books on coin collecting and coin values.

I also bought a book that cataloged U.S. coins with anomalies. For example, a coin might have an overdate, where an older date is stamped or recut, or there might be a double-die shift or double-mint mark, where the impression is doubled or shifted. If I was going to stare at coins, why not go for the really odd ones?
Examples of Warren’s incomplete coin albums.

As time permitted, I and a magnifying glass reviewed the coins I’d deposited in a container on my dresser and coins I’d accumulate daily. I had no difficulty filling slots in each of the penny, nickel, dime, quarter and half dollar albums. In no case, however, did that translate to filling even a single album; and sadly, my coins were as normal and happy as coins can be. 

After a few months, my time got tighter and my interest in coins looser. I pushed my nascent hobby far beyond the back burner--so far, in fact, that it was 20 years before I pulled it forward again.

Restarting a Coin Collection

A colleague working with the federal government collected and was very knowledgeable about coins. He suggested that I resume my coin quest if only to get my son, Noah, not yet 10, involved.

One Saturday, after Noah’s soccer game, I dug out my old coin albums and dragged Noah with me to purchase new albums and a current guide book. On Sunday, we sat at the dining-room table to inventory our holdings and stash of unsorted coins. 

Warren and Noah’s State Quarters Album,
still lacking West Virginia.
Noah really got into it! Well, at least for a day or two. After that he was more, Have you found anything new? I tried to get him going with a State Quarters Album, but how exciting could that be with quarter releases stretched over years? (Somehow we missed West Virginia.)

Spurring me on, my wife, Vicki, happened upon some really cool coins and medals, mostly from the 1800s and early 1900s, when she was rummaging through her Wisconsin home attic. 

Thrown together in a shoebox were souvenirs from the Philadelphia International Exhibition and Chicago World’s Fair in the 1800s; the St Louis World’s Fair and Jamestown Exposition in the early 1900s; Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, including photo campaign tokens; and a variety of isolated, unrelated coins, such as a few Canadian coins from the 1800s and Spanish coin struck before 1550.
1876 U.S. Centennial Exposition Medal.
1907 Jamestown Exposition, Tercentennial Medals.
1860 Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas presidential 
campaign tokens (in holders). Portraits of running mates
Hannibal Hamlin and Herschel Johnson are on the other 
side of the tokens.
Like my first go at coin collecting, the new and improved effort waned over a few months, ending with more unfilled albums. I did, at least, package part of the “Wisconsin” collection in holders that I obtained for the purpose. And I of course planned to follow up after I retired.

Wrap Up

Coin-collecting is a wonderful hobby. Now that I’m retired, I should complete the albums, go to coin shows, learn more about items from the Wisconsin shoebox, and…whew! All this retirement stuff can really wear you out. 

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll write again in about a week.


Whether you’re a new or experienced coin collector, you’ll probably find something of interest at these Amazon links: Coins and Coin Collecting

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