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When will our coins talk to people?


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How many times have you heard the statement that kids don’t collect coins anymore because with all the computer games, iPhones and iPads out there coins are not interesting to them?

Perhaps we should broaden this statement to include adults of collecting age. They are as mesmerized as kids by the ever changing technology that can provide entertainment and education. The only difference is adults might not have grown up with it.

Coins have to be attractive to potential 21st century collectors in their own right and perhaps even as an adjunct to technology.

The old ways of looking at coins received in circulation and putting the keepers in a Whitman album are gone for all practical purposes. Variety and error collectors keep the circulation finds torch alive because there will always be new errors to look for as long as minting technology falls short of absolutely perfect.

The 1909 Lincoln cent that fired my imagination when I was eight years old just doesn’t cut it now. Then I was captivated by the notion that I had something that was 54 years old, which was much older than me and even older than my parents – which made it seem ancient.

To a modern eight-year-old it is chump change that just sits there and does nothing. What’s the point?

That’s the key. What is the point? To be receptive to collecting, coins have to touch the imaginations of potential collectors. That’s tough in the 21st century and it is not something we adults can force feed. When I was a kid, anything that adults thought I should do for fun was immediately suspect.

Nobody that I know of has found an answer to this question of what brings in new collectors. We thought we had found something with the state quarters, but that seems to have fizzled out.

Mints are experimenting. They sell sets packaged in handsome cases with tie-ins to movies and other commercial themes. They sell non-traditional coins with color on them. They make coins in funny shapes and sizes, from coins that fit together like puzzle pieces to kilogram (32 ounces) and larger investment pieces.

The Mints do not have the answer to the question. That is why they are trying everything they can think of to see what captures attention.

The Dutch Mint issued a coin in 2011 with a QR code on it that was scannable and would take you to a Mint website. That’s interactive. That has possibilities. Kids can’t claim it just sits there. But what we don’t know is whether it is enough.

Mints and organized numismatics must experiment to see what works. If we do not, it all comes down to a calculation I made this morning. The Mint’s new Civil Rights commemorative silver dollar is priced at $44.95 in uncirculated and $49.95 in proof. That’s 2.9 times silver value and 3.2 times silver value, respectively. That seems expensive.

Now if the coins could talk to me or lead me to a video, those prices would be cheap.


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