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Bit by bit it adds up

One of my routine tasks each month is to update the foreign exchange table for World Coin News, sister publication to Numismatic News.

Collectors of foreign coins need to know what the conversion rates are to keep abreast of coin values.

For an American collector it is not much help to know what the prices realized figures are at a British auction if they don’t also have an exchange rate to make the value calculation in dollars.

With the ability to Google information online, you would think that tables like this might be obsolete, yet in the months where there is a pinch on available space in World Coin News and I drop it, I hear from collectors who say they rely on it.

They tell me it is both handy for current values and is especially useful to have saved these tables over the years so that they can make value comparisons over long periods of time.

I have to admit that I am happy that readers find this table useful. I know I have over many years.

On the other hand, the values of world currencies change very, very slowly for the most part.

This makes the process of entering data very, very boring even though I am interested.

Sudden movements usually indicate problems. The Ukrainian hryvnia has declined quite sharply in the aftermath of Russia’s taking the Crimea away from it.

The exchange rate went from 9.39 to the dollar, or 10.65 cents apiece, to 11.6 to the dollar, or 8.6 cents each. That’s a decline of 19 percent.

But for the most part, the movements are so tiny, that as I said, they are boring.

The British pound went from 0.602 to the dollar to 0.603 this month. Put another way that is $1.661 to $1.658. Unless you are bidding on a million dollar coin, that is insignificant.

But updating the foreign exchange chart keeps me aware of broad trends and feeds my memory with tidbits.

In 1967 as I began to read numismatic periodicals the British pound was devalued from $2.80 to $2.40.

By 1985 the pound touched a low of $1.05.

Just prior to the world financial crisis when the banks wobbled, the pound was $2.

If you have a long enough perspective, foreign exchange movements are dramatic. That’s why some readers save the tables and why it is necessary to record tiny changes month by month.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."