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Collecting Because You Don’t Know


Why should anyone pursue a hobby? The answers to this question certainly apply to numismatists.

There are many potential answers as to why someone might collect money. Some might take an interest because they think it might be a way to earn extra income. Others do so because of the social aspects of sharing the hobby with family or friends.

But, I suspect that one of the attractions of collecting coins, currency and related items is that doing so allows you to discover and learn things you didn’t already know.

Think about that for a minute. As a collector, don’t you enjoy learning more details about your hobby? I’m not talking about the accumulator who just throws change in a jar. Instead, what I’m referring to is the numismatist who sorts and organizes his or her holdings, who studies details about some or all of the pieces, and seeks information. Here are just a few of the subjects a collector could learn:

Why was this coin or note issued at all? Why from this country? Why in this denomination? Why with this shape, color, metal or paper content? Why was the particular design selected and who created the image?

More questions include how many were issued and how many survive now? What state of preservation are the pieces I own and what happened from the time it was made until I acquired it? How long were these coins or notes issued? Why were changes later made?

The list of questions you could ask about coins and currency are endless.

Each of us probably knows at least one numismatist who studies just about everything they can find out about the money they own. They may even do some original research themselves.

I have taught a number of classes to children about coin and currency collecting. One of my favorite ways to start the topic is by giving each of them a Bicentennial Eisenhower dollar to keep, then go around the room to ask each of them to name one feature or detail they learn upon examining the coins. I think you can find up to 17 different aspects of this coin. As the children closely inspect the coins to discover a feature not yet named by someone else (along with the reason or purpose for it being there), they are learning something they didn’t already know. Invariably, they are astounded by how much information they can gain just by looking at a single coin.

Did you become a coin or currency collector because you wanted to learn much more than you already knew?

Patrick A. Heller was honored as a 2019 FUN Numismatic Ambassador. He is also the recipient of the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award, 2012 Harry Forman National Dealer of the Year Award and 2008 Presidential Award. Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including twice in 2020), Professional Numismatists Guild, Industry Council for Tangible Assets and the Michigan State Numismatic Society. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio archives posted at