Coin collecting is a hobby of dreams.
Would I have filled Whitman albums with cents if I had not had the dream of finding a 1909-S VDB in the bank rolls an change I was searching?
The closest I ever got was to talk to a fellow on my paper route who had claimed to have found one, though I never saw it.
It is also a hobby where we form some indescribable attachment to an inanimate object.
I thought the silver Maria Theresa taler that I bought in 1967 for $2 (actually $1.95) was the neatest coin in the world during the week I bought it.
Sure, I knew it was a restrike. I knew the 1780 date was not when it was made, but it was just part of the design.
But somehow or other I felt connected to the sweep of European history by holding a portrait of a great empress in my hand.
I could dream of both learning more and finding other coins that truly were from that period.
Had I found a 1909-S VDB to my mind it would have been the greatest find ever no matter what condition it would be in. I wouldn’t have cast a brutal eye on it to accurately grade it so much as wave it as a trophy of circulation finds triumph.
That’s the dream part of numismatics triumphing over the reality part.
But sooner or later every collector also has to face reality.
Whatever coin I have in my hand, whatever dream I might associate with it, when the time comes to sell, it will be a coldly financial transaction. The grade will matter. Market conditions will matter.
You can’t put a price on a dream, which is why so many collectors resist selling things they should have gotten rid of years ago.
Don’t be afraid to dream. Dreams will always be a part of every collector’s life, but don’t let that get in the way of your development as a knowledgeable collector.
But keep a coin or two in that untouchable part of your past when all things seemed possible.
I still have that silver taler.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”