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Collectors share a beautiful mind


Sixty years ago, a carpenter named Chet Krause was publishing “Numismatic News” from Iola, Wis.

After I write this column, I will get in a car and travel to the Michigan State Numismatic Society convention in Warren to help celebrate the organization’s 60th anniversary.

I was invited to be the after-dinner speaker at the banquet.

Looking back over the past six decades we collectors can marvel at how much is still the same.

The Red Book is still the respected price guide it was in 1956. A carpenter named Chet Krause was publishing “Numismatic News” from Iola, Wis. Coin shows were the place to go to see your favorite dealer and dozens of others in the same room. Collectors around the nation were actively founding clubs and other organizations to help support them in their hobby pursuits. The American Numismatic Association was important, but then as now, it could not do all things in all places.

Collectors were optimists. How else could you justify looking through hundreds or thousands of coins at a sitting to fill holes in a Whitman album? Then as now, that company was providing collectors with the tools they needed to get ahead.

But because there is much in that world of 1956 that is familiar to collectors of 2016, it does not mean there haven’t been a lot of changes.

Gold in 1956 was $35 an ounce. It was boring. The price hadn’t changed since 1934. Silver was about 91 cents an ounce. Its price wasn’t fixed like that of gold, but the Treasury controlled it. In fact it was the same as in 1946.

Proof sets were issued by the Mint for $2.10 each. The last commemoratives had been issued in 1954. The San Francisco Mint had closed in 1955. These latter two events might have been interpreted to mean the good old days were gone for good. Hobbyists of the time were chasing those last “S” mintmarked coins in hopes of making a killing selling them to future collectors who would not have known the pleasure of seeing the “S” coins in change. The investment action was in buying bags and rolls.

Gold now is over $1,200 and silver is almost $17. Proof sets are $31.95. For the great rarities like the 1913 Liberty Head nickel and 1804 silver dollar, a number of zeroes have been added to their prices.

When I joined in seriously collecting in the 1960s, why did I not simply put all my money into silver and gold? It is not like I was ignorant of the possibilities that existed.

The simple fact is metals were and are boring. The trick is to buy them and put them away for a very long time. That leaves a lot of free time for the mind. Coins capture the mind’s attention. Finding out what each is, its history, grade and value is so much fun I wanted to do it again and again. I am still doing it.

It is that basic impulse that today motivates the many buyers on eBay and in online auctions.

Collectors now might not recognize a future 60 years hence, but they would recognize the collector mind of that time as their own. This is why I am optimistic even if all that was in 1956 will no longer exist.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today

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