Coins and Coin Collecting

  People have collected coins since the beginning of coinage about 2,600 years ago. They're more than just money.

Coins are political propaganda, messages rulers sent to subjects and enemies alike. Coins are historical documents, windows through which you can see the people who bought and sold with them and the times in which they lived. And coins are works of art, miniature sculptures on a typically circular metallic surface considered by some a minor art form, considered by others a popular art form that can by stunningly evocative.

As a culturally enriching pastime, coin collecting offers six main pleasures, which might be described as the six Ls: looking, landing, leering, learning, 'luminating, and liquidating.

You look for coins you want, thrilling to the hunt, seeking out that specimen or deal, perhaps a coin that through its beauty, history, or rarity can stand alone, perhaps a coin that's desirability comes from being part of a set with other coins.

You land your prize, reveling in the satisfaction of buying or trading for what you've sought.

You leer at what you now have, glomming the coin's physicality, the beauty or quirkiness of its design, strike, and state of preservation, following the coin's lines and curves, its raised devices and depressed fields, tilting the coin for different perspectives on the pristine or worn surfaces, marveling at the light's aesthetic revelations of how the metal was shaped and how it has interacted with its environment, and you periodically pull the coin out later to look at it afresh, seeing what originally attracted you to the piece and possibly new things as well based on what else you've seen and learned.

You learn about the coin, its context, and its history, the story it tells about itself, its relationship to other coins, its age, its maker, the times when it served as money, the people whose hands touched it, and sometimes the previous collectors in whose custodial care the coin basked before yours.

You illuminate the coin and other coins by showing them to other people, highlighting their attractions through informal mutual show-and-tells, formal exhibits at coin shows, presentations to coin clubs and school classrooms, Web sites and online discussions, articles in numismatic publications, and books you write yourself or have others write for you.

And you liquidate, selling to upgrade to better specimens of the same type when you've seen enough, or for profit.

Coins can be fascinating objects in themselves. And they can be portals to the past and to issues that are very much relevant today.

Coin Collecting: Consumer Protection Guide
Glomming: Coin Connoisseurship
Bogos: Counterfeit Coins

© 2013 Reid Goldsborough

Note: Any of the items illustrated on these pages that are in my possession are stored off site.

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