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Spending coins make them more real

Have you ever had the opportunity to go to another country and spend a currency that is not U.S. dollars?

I have been fortunate to be able to spend Canadian dollars, European euros, Costa Rican colones, Panamanian balboas and Nicaraguan cordobas.

This makes money seem more real for me.

There are many other currencies in the world.

I am aware of them.

But they do not cross the line from concept to reality until I actually have a note or coin in my hand and spend it.

Then I feel even more compelled to want to collect it.

I remember spending balboa coins in Panama at a bakery.

I happened to be with Paul Green.

After we stepped out onto the street, a drunk came a long.

He was very friendly. He bent our ears for a good five minutes.

Naturally, he wanted us to go meet his sister.

We declined.

But the simple fact that I can think balboas and have a personal memory of their use puts good red blood into my body of numismatic knowledge.

Then there was the time I was trying to get rid of a bunch of 10 and 20 eurocent coins in a Berlin McDonalds.

I was buying coffee.

The cashier was a bit puzzled.

Apparently this sort of thing doesn’t happen too often.

But it was very early morning.

I needed my coffee.

I wanted to get rid of the coins.

Again, transactions like this make the euro real to me.

Admittedly, I do not have a very broad experience of other currencies, but what I have had is sufficient to add respect for the money other people use.

This is part and parcel of being a collector.

When you were a kid you might have answered an ad offering foreign coins cheaply.

I bought some that way.

I even found a Panamanian five centesimos in a roll of nickels a half century ago.

Little did I know that I would end up by visiting the country of issue.

I still have that five centesimos.

It is a memory for me.

I will keep it.

But that is the nature of collecting generally.

We collectors make memories.

They become part of our hobby reality.

It is who we are.

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

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