Coin collecting is often a solitary hobby. Historically, doctors, lawyers and other professionals worked in their studies alone night after night to learn the ins and outs of whatever niche they happened to have an interest in.
If there is a popular conception of what a coin collector looks like, this is it.
It is not glamorous and we certainly won’t find a TV show called “Collecting with the Stars.”
Though, perhaps like a game show, collectors do have a choice. They can walk through Door No. 1 into their own studies and carry on this longtime solitary hobby tradition.
However, there is also a Door No. 2 to this game show. If you walk through this door, you choose the path of meeting other collectors and taking advantage of being able to learn from a wide variety of hobbyists. This is often both a quicker way to learn and is more fun. But relatively few seem to take advantage of this method of learning.
That is a shame.
The country is full of local coin clubs that meet on a regular basis. Their members are actively involved and learning to be better collectors together. They would love to see an increase in membership.
There are also state, regional and national organizations to join if you don’t have a local club to turn to, or if you want to reach beyond what you have learned there.
I had an email this morning from a hobbyist who spotted a 20th century Wisconsin tavern token online and wondered if I could offer information about it. I responded that the one active collector I knew in this specific field had died last year. There are probably others, but I just don’t happen to know who. A good place to look for this information would be in the various clubs around the state. There are bound to be members who can lend a hand in researching it, or pointing to the person or place where the information might be found. Nationally, there is the Token and Medal Society. This group has a website at http://www.tokenandmedal.org. They might not have the answer for this specific token, but TAMS members have been active as a group for over 50 years. Joining with like-minded hobbyists in person or online is a great way to leverage our collective hobby knowledge.
Working for a firm that produces periodicals and books, I am aware of what information is generally available and what is not. The simple fact is there is much about numismatics that is still a work in progress. We know more now than we ever have before, but we still do not know everything. Tomorrow we will know more than today, but this is thanks to the combined efforts of many people around the country and around the world.
Numismatic pioneers still break new ground in the quiet of their studies, but without connections to other hobbyists, what they learn is of little benefit to numismatics as a whole.
If you haven’t found a group to become a part of, you might consider opening this door to a richer hobby experience.