At the Louisville Coin Club meeting on Sunday, a gentleman who was sitting in front of me struck up a conversation. He asked me what I was interested in—that’s the general ice-breaker question among coin collectors. What do you collect? What do you focus on? It’s a question that’s a little awkward for me to answer, because I have little money to spend on collecting, and my interests are so varied. I’m not much on being a completist, like many numismatists. Key dates—those coins that are rarest in a series—are usually well outside my price range. I don’t have a key date of anything. But this is actually a digression.
My answer to that question now is that I’m most interested in the detective work. My favorite thing about coins is when I get something that sort of stumps me, and I have to look it up to identify it. I find it a lot of fun to find a coin and have little or no idea what it is, and then have to hunt around for information on it. This always ends in some new little window opening for me on some other culture or bit of history. Ancient Roman coins bore plenty of political propaganda. That Indonesian coin I have depicts a congklak game board, which is a version of mancala. The four small pictures on Icelandic coins are depictions of Iceland’s four guardian spirits—dragon, bull, vulture, and giant.
In regards to being a completist, I have almost finished a complete set of business-strike Kennedy half dollars. I’ve been pulling them from circulation, so that means that they each cost me fifty cents. The only one I still need is a 1988-P, which is ridiculous, because it’s not a rarity at all. It had a huge mintage, but for some reason none of the hundreds of coins I’ve searched in the past year has been that one. The only coins of the series that I had to spend money on were the 1987-P and 1987-D, which were available only in mint sets and not released into circulation. I bought those a couple of years ago. Besides finding that one coin I’m lacking, I need to keep searching for better examples of the ones I have that are pretty beat-up.
At the coin club meetings there is always an auction at the end. Last weekend I noticed an old Whitman folder of Lincoln cents, 1909-1940, missing only key date coins. All the coins were worn; I doubt any would grade higher than Fine. But there were many coins there that I needed for my collection. I decided that I’d gladly buy that if I could get it for less than $8.00. Unfortunately for me, one of the club members brings his young son (or maybe grandson, I don’t know.) Nobody really wants to get in a bidding war with a five-year-old. He got the Lincoln cents for $6.50. A little sad for me, sure, but also very cute.
If you’ve read all of this post, you are either crazy or interested in coins. Not that the two are in any way mutually exclusive. Why don’t you just go read the sports scores or the blog of someone totally hot? Obviously, I just write this for myself. And that one guy someplace who Googles the terms “congklak” and “guardian spirits.”