Recently, I commented that coins are in transition. What will
happen if our lovable Lincoln cent goes the way of the passenger
pigeon and dodo? I suggested that numismatists would soldier on — as
enthusiastic as ever, collecting old things and contemplating the new.
In 1965, silver was removed from the dime and quarter dollar and
reduced in the half dollar. Predictions were rife that this would
spell the end of coin collecting as we knew it. Nobody but nobody
liked the idea of copper-nickel and silver-copper “clad” coins, and
they were widely ignored. Clad Eisenhower dollars introduced in 1971
were a nonevent.
Some years later Ken Bressett, editor of A Guide Book of
United States Coins, commented that many once-silver
denominations minted in copper-nickel clad metal in the late 1960s and
early 1970s were indeed scarce in Mint State as few people saved them.
Today, of course, clad coins of several different compositions are the
name of the game and they are very popular. Just think of the State
In The Manuscript Society News, Scott Peterson, collector of
autographs, lamented that in a recent month he received only four
handwritten notes, all from the same friend. Nearly everything has
gone electronic. The editor said: “Peterson’s post raises some
critical questions for collectors. Will the value of handwritten
documents rise as their scarcity increases? Will computer printouts
with electronic signatures find their way to the auction block? Will
the original Word file of an important document ever be collectible?
Tell us what you think — and keep those cards and letters coming!”
Now, there’s a problem, at least in comparison to numismatics.
While we all keep adding now-appreciated clad coins to our
collections, it is hard to disagree with Peterson about the
collectibility of emails. I would guess that the era of hand-written
or even typed letters is kaput. An autograph collector interested in
the letters of Harry S. Truman can find a lot with great content — the
atomic era, threats from foreign countries, and more. I daresay that
President Barack Obama has written and mailed few traditional letters
on paper addressing the major issues of his era.
I’ll place my bet on the future of collecting current coins, but
not collecting current emails!
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, email@example.com,
or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.