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Few will doubt that a numismatist is a special sort of person.

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Few will doubt that a numismatist is a special sort of person.


Sure, a numismatist cares about and persistently seeks the finest coins, tokens, medals and collectible paper money available to those who pursue the king of hobbies, but there’s more.

A numismatist tends to be inquisitive, discerning and is rarely unsophisticated. A numismatist commonly possesses an interest in history and the people who made and lived that history.

A numismatist knows that when he looks at a deep mirror proof-like 1913 Liberty Head nickel, he’s actually looking at a beautiful mansion in the fanciest part of town.

A numismatist knows that the bank note he received in change that possesses a $10 face side and $5 back is worth more than just $5 or $10.

But a numismatist is so much more than all these things, so let me list a few additional points that will tell you definitively whether or not you are truly a numismatist.

You’re a numismatist if your wife’s name is Penny but you stubbornly insist on calling her “Cent.”

You’re a numismatist if while vacationing in Wyoming you spot a huge herd of buffalo, but the only one in the herd to which you pay the slightest attention is the one with full horn and three legs.

You’re a numismatist if you’re seeing the sights in Philadelphia and while beholding the grandeur of the historic Liberty Bell, you’re the only tourist in the crowd who notices that the actual, original Liberty Bell lacks full bell lines.

You’re a numismatist if when you first met your future wife you were instantly drawn to her because she had the face of a goddess, was wearing a pretty Liberty cap and had cute wings on the sides of her head.

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You’re a numismatist if the car you drive is a 1909 Lincoln with a front license plate reading “S” and a rear license plate reading “VDB.”

You’re a numismatist if you’re at a pizzeria and you tell the guy behind the counter to only handle your pizza by its edge and to slice a little more sausage onto the pizza’s “obverse.”

On the negative side, you’re not a numismatist if the president of your coin club asks you to define “Mint State” and you answer “Wisconsin.”

You’re a numismatist if when you saw singer Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” on TV it reminded you of the lady on the obverse of the 1916 Standing Liberty quarter.

You’re a numismatist if you turned your uncle into both a numismatist and a teetotaler by sternly telling him that he needed “more Proof 70 and less 70 Proof.”

You’re a numismatist if you doggie-bag one of your breakfast waffles out of your favorite restaurant after noticing on that waffle’s checkerboard pattern unmistakable signs of a rare and possibly unique doubled-die error.

And, no, it wasn’t merely strike doubling. That doubling had to be in the cooking dies of the waffle iron itself, before the batter was poured. Your wife gives you an odd look when you tell her you’re going to have this special waffle professionally graded and slabbed. But what does she know? Get ready, world. We’ll just see if the auction houses of New York and London can find a way to laugh this one off.

On another more negative note, I should tell you that you are not a numismatist if you can watch the old movie, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and see Marlon Brando therein screaming “Stella” without thinking of an 1879 or 1880 U.S. $4 gold coin. I must say, though, that this movie would appear to prove that Marlon Brando was a numismatist.

You’re a show-off if your wife asks you to decide something by flipping a coin and you grab a manhole cover.

Your wife’s a numismatist if she eyes that same manhole cover and admires the lovely rainbow tinting on its rim, the spectacular red and turquoise toning cascading daintily across its reverse, and the incredibly strong strike on the manhole cover’s “Newark” mintmark.

You may or may not be a numismatist if you spell the word dime, “dime.” But you’re a snobbish numismatist specializing in 18th century coinage of the United States if you spell dime, “disme.” Sure, the word is spelled “disme” on the rare 1792 U.S. half disme, but all U.S. coins after 1792 spell the word as “dime.” Spell the word that way unless you look at a clock to check the “tisme” and flavor your drinks with a twist of “lisme.” This sort of silly affectation is a crisme.

You’re a numismatist if, like me, your wife looks at your angrily and tells you that if you don’t stop calling her “Cent” she’s going to start calling you “Penny.” This would be extraordinarily embarrassing for me at the meetings of my coin club since my wife Penny is the club’s president.

Incidentally, at this moment I happen to be vacationing in Las Vegas, and I’ve just decided that when I get home I’m going to auction off my 1913 Liberty Head nickel, provided I can figure some way to get it out of this stupid slot machine.

Curt Wood is a numismatist from Van Nuys, Calif. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send e-mail to

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