I had a telephone call from a very nice fellow yesterday. He was concerned about the possibility that somebody was breaking the law. He had a newspaper clipping that he was reading to me. It all sounded very ordinary. I was wondering what his point was going to be.
The person who was the subject of the article was selling modern $5 commemorative gold coins from the Statue of Liberty, Constitution and other modern programs to a bullion smelter. It was just something that someone who needed money might do after sitting on the common dates for 20 years or more.
Since the topic was law breaking, I was waiting for the clincher. The coins were fake. The coins were stolen. The buyer skipped town. None of these things were the case.
It all hinged on a half remembered bit of information. The caller remembered that the Treasury secretary had made it illegal to melt cents and nickels. Though he couldn?t remember it, this ban was invoked in December 2006 to preserve these denominations for circulation.
In the caller?s mind, this ban had grown to include all U.S. coins and what was being described in the newspaper article therefore could not be legal.
I assured him that what was being described was legal. With that, he was satisfied and he hung up the phone.
Had there been no general newspaper article at all, the caller would not have given the ban a thought.
More and more we are all finding ourselves being confronted by stories in the nonhobby news media that claim to be about the hobby. Some of these stories are very good. Some of them are not, but the important thing to remember is they all put coin collecting in the limelight and that is generally a good thing for us.
Many collectors do not discover the field through hobby publications or even other hobbyists. They just stumble onto something that catches their eye.
I was startled by my 75-year-old mother not long ago when on a visit she asked me about Presidential dollars. I had lived in my parents? household for many years growing up when she was decidedly indifferent to numismatic topics. She generally encouraged me, but only because it interested me, not because she cared about it.
I remember a flicker of her interest in Buffalo nickels when I came to them as a child, because they prompted her memories of certain things, including getting twice as much Pepsi as Coke for a nickel.
Her question was prompted by an advertisement in the Sunday paper. I am sure you have seen similar ones yourself.
These ads are well written and are certainly effective. My mother was rather intent on Presidential dollars until I told her it would be easy to get her all she wanted either at her bank or at mine.
That unfortunately popped the bubble of interest. Something that can be so easily acquired apparently loses its allure.
However, for many individuals these ads and stories are the entry point into a rewarding hobby. I still remember the comic book ad back in 1963 that got me all fired up. We should thank the general news media. They do our work for us.