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Look before you miss it all

A couple of days ago, Tom Michael and I were talking about the numismatic hobby 50 years in the future.

He is editor of the Standard Catalog series of world coin books.

Both of us have been to the World Money Fair in Berlin on a number of occasions since 2008 as part of the team that presents the Coin of the Year Awards.

These visits allow us to see the many new ideas percolating among the various mints, banks, supply firms and collectors.

This morning I noted that someone has commented about the news story that we had posted online announcing that the U.S. Mint had won in two COTY Award categories for two of the three 2014 cupped baseball coins.

The comment declared that these are not even real coins.

I expect the buyers of the 50,000 cupped gold pieces, 400,000 cupped silver dollars and the similar number of cupped clad half dollars would beg to differ, but nevertheless there are many opinions in numismatics.

This comment is relevant to my recent discussion with Tom.

We observed together that in 50 years time, the collectors of the day will be looking to find the first coin that was ever colorized, the first to have a hologram, the first cupped coin, the first coin to release a scent when in contact with human body warmth as well as other firsts that we had seen in Berlin and elsewhere over the years.

Collectors of the future are going to be regretful that they were not around when all this creativity was unleashed.

They will regret that they could not buy the coins at issue price.

In short, they will be envious of those of us who have been witnesses to these many innovations and who have had the chance to buy them when they first appeared on the market.

When I first started collecting coins in the 1960s it was a half century after the issuance of the Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter and Walking Liberty half dollar in 1916. I received them in change. I spent them. I collected them.

We collectors of a half century ago were envious of the collectors who had come 50 years before us.

Oh, we wondered what it would have been like to have been able to see that burst of numismatic creativity in 1916.

Research by Q. David Bowers since then has shown that the coin dealers of the day didn’t even think enough of the new designs to stock them.


Well, the usual reason is that they believed they could not sell them to collectors.

I expect the collectors of 1916 were mooning over missing the introduction of the Indian cent, the nickel three-cent piece and the nickel 5-cent piece.

Oh, to have personally experienced those many changes to coinage, they probably thought.

While it is important to collect what you like and to avoid what you don’t – be they cupped coins or something else – don’t be foolish enough to think that it was better 50 years ago and completely miss all the new opportunities offered in the present day.

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