By Brendan Tupa
I am a 35-year-old who recently returned to the hobby of my childhood after rummaging through boxes in my garage that my wife deems junk.
I came across the collection of coins, stamps and bank notes from my grade school days, which was spawned by my grandfather, father and Boy’s Life magazine. I remembered why I loved the hobby, the history, nostalgia, investment potential and yearning to share knowledge with my friends and family.
My coin collection consisted of Eisenhower dollars I received from my grandfather as birthday gifts, wheat pennies my father told me to save, Buffalo nickels I saved from rolls purchased from local coin shops and a few silver ounce rounds I purchased as an investment.
Quick to evaluate my petty childhood collection, I immediately realized the silver ounce rounds I had purchased turned out to have the greatest return on any investment I ever made. I bought them in the late 1980s for about $4 an ounce.
Of course, in junior high, high school and college, my means were limited and any discretionary income had a loftier purpose such as impressing girls, putting gas in my car and finding beer to make everything a little more fun.
Now, with a real occupation and greater discretionary funds, I take great pleasure in revisiting and regaining the passion I had as kid. Now, I can afford to buy coins for investment and nostalgia with the hope of sharing my passion with my daughters. Meanwhile, I found a dedicated coin club that shares my passion.
I write to you because I believe I am not alone. More significantly, I write to you because I believe that I am representative of the next demographic to propagate this hobby from one generation to the next.
At 35, I am one of the youngest members in my coin club. My peers have several other hobbies and investments and the numismatic value of coins does not rank very high considering opportunity cost.
I want to share with you my personal take on what interests me in the hobby and why some items scare me.
For me, personally, I love older coins that have been circulated, coins that are old and odd to me and my father’s generation, coins that have a story and coins of bullion value.
For example, I love the strangeness of half cents, large cents, 3-cent pieces and 20-cent pieces because they seem weird or bizarre to me and my generation. I love the nostalgia of circulated Bust halves, chop-marked Trade dollars and Carson City Morgan dollars, because these coins were used by someone in actual commerce for who knows what.
I love coins with stories, such as the Standing Liberty quarter with an exposed breast, the no cents nickel, the VDB penny, steel pennies and hobo nickels. Of course, I also include the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle, but I understand I may only purchase a copy. Personally, superior coins of only the highest grades scare me. They scare me because they are generally expensive, graded arbitrarily and subject to counterfeiting. Cost aside, I am personally disturbed that we rely on third-party grading services who grade a coin and slab it with the grade printed on the slab. If the owner does not like the grade they can break the slab and resend the coin with the hope of a higher grade.
You cannot do this with currency because each note carries a unique serial number.
Also, fraud and counterfeiting is rampant, and it is an extreme burden for an individual to go through all the training to detect counterfeits, replicas and copies. Fellow numismatists balk, but I would rather purchase a copy of a rarity to have a sample or a lower grade specimen at bullion value than take a risk of making a mistake.
I am fine with the unusual, nostalgic and bullion aspect of the hobby. To the enthusiast with a collection of circulated, less than perfect coins, with a story and a history of use in commerce, I am your market. Such coins are easier to obtain and help propagate the hobby.
To those of you purchasing new proof coins that have never touched a person’s hand, I mean no offense, but what is the history in that?
This Viewpoint was written by Brendan Tupa of Minneapolis. Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News.
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