Counterfeiting numismatic items saps pleasure from hobby

Published : 09/30/11
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I’m afraid there are some evils in the numismatic hobby. Some are glaring, others are subtle, but we should try to identify them. My therapist — I mean, therapists in general — suggest we discuss what irritates us so it doesn’t fester into complete madness.

Counterfeiting, in any form, has a distinct measure of evil, and we know counterfeiting of numismatic items is the crème de la crème of all evil. It takes the normal everyday pleasure of our hobby and floods it with unimaginable aggravation.

Of course, there are lesser forms of counterfeiting, those that irritate but don’t necessarily rock us to the core. Imposters, or impersonators, fall into that category and can be quite irritating. For example, Elvis impersonators abound. Some are adequate, some are terrible, but all are somewhat irritating. Then there are imposters, like the one who stole Frank Shorter’s thunder in the 1972 Olympic Marathon. Shorter was way out in front when the imposter ran into the stadium and absorbed the roar of the crowd just before Shorter entered! Now that’s an Olympic-sized irritant!

And don’t get me started about the proliferation of brand-name product knockoffs — purses, watches, shoes, computers, you name it and someone, somewhere will make a cheaper copy of it. My wife has a closet full of that junk she never uses! She says she saved us money cause she didn’t buy the real product she didn’t use!! (Most of the stuff happens to come from China. Does this ring a bell?)

Another thing that drives me nuts are those pencils made out of that fake wood. What is it anyway? Plastic? The kind of plastic you can sharpen? The whole pencil bends when you try to write with the blasted thing! What could be more irritating?

I’ll tell you what is more irritating: hearing another classic American standard song being gurgled out by Rod Stewart. If I hear another one of those, I will retch. How many songs can a guy counterfeit in one lifetime? (OK, maybe it’s not technically counterfeiting. I’m sure some lawyers have secured some sort of ridiculous licensing agreement so Rod can record every song ever written in the history of the world. Hey, China doesn’t believe they are technically counterfeiting either. That doesn’t make it right; it just makes it more irritating.) Make no mistake, I love the rock ‘n’ roll, and Stewart had his share of good rock tunes, but he should either try to make new rock ’n’ roll or retire peacefully with “Maggie Mae” and “Hot Legs.” Leave “Mona Lisa” and “The Girl from Ipanema” alone. Hearing his knockoffs are like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. At this moment in time, dare I say, Rod Stewart is to music as China is to numismatics — irritating to the point of unimaginable aggravation.

And I’ll tell you what else nudges my imbalance; it’s bourse table height. Speaking strictly from a collector’s point of view, wouldn’t it be nice if bourse tables were higher? Like maybe bar-height? (Personally, I don’t know what bar-height is, but I can imagine it’s about bar-height.) Just think of not having to bend over to look in dealer cases. Sometimes we are walking around coin shows for hours, constantly bending over looking in cases. In the evening we collectors file out of the bourse like a line-up of Darwinian primates, bent over with aching backs and necks.

Dealers, convention hall managers, bourse floor chairmen, would it kill you to raise the tables and tilt them 15 degrees toward us? If we want to sit down to examine a coin more closely, install a simple hydraulic lift so the table floats down like it’s on a cushion of air. Now we can lean back in the ergonomically engineered message chair, tilt the attached gooseneck lighted magnifier into the proper position, order a mai tai, and we are well on our way to comfortable day of coining! I guarantee, that first dealer with raised tables will have customers stacked five deep in the aisles!

There is more evil out there! So much more! But I must rest now.

Jeff Reichenberger, of Wisconsin, collects U.S. coins, ancient coins, medals, paper money and numismatic literature. He enjoys history, research and writing. His “Low Relief” column is dedicated to low-stress discussions of insignificant numismatic subjects, written from the angle of a “regular guy.” Comments are welcomed at

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