In the June issue of The American Philatelist, the journal of the
American Philatelic Association, President Wade Saadi wrote:
“In today’s milieu of e-mails and texting, the mere mention of
letter writing draws haunting stares and anxious twitches. Many people
in their twenties have never written a letter and mailed it in an
envelope with a stamp on it, albeit some have remitted payments in
that manner. Just fifty years ago, letter writing was the predominant
method of personal communication. Today it is more uncommon than an
“Even before the effluence of ‘Forever’ stamps, I asked about a
dozen people in my office how much it cost to mail a letter (ten of
the twelve have graduated college, with an average age of thirty
years). Only two of the twelve knew (it was 42 cents at the time I
inquired), with the bulk of the others off a penny or two, except for
three not having any idea. Responses included, ‘Is mailing a letter
the same cost as paying a bill?’; ‘Who mails letters, anyway?’; and
‘The last time I mailed something was for my mother, and she put the
stamp on it.’ ”
Does any of this relate to coins?
First of all, you can hardly go a month without reading that coins
will become obsolete, if they are not already. The Lincoln cent won’t
buy anything on its own, costs more than a cent to produce, and some
businesses give them away. The 5-cent coins cost more than face value
to make as well. Dimes seem to be OK, at least for now.
Quarter dollars are the dominant coins of the realm.
I have never received a small dollar coin in change. It has been
decades since I have received a Kennedy half dollar.
Whether coins will go the way of the dodo and woolly mammoth I
know not. If they do disappear, I imagine numismatics will continue
its merry course. It has been centuries since 1652 Pine Tree shillings
were seen in pocket change, yet they are as hot as a firecracker in
the coin market today.
As to Saadi’s comments about intelligent people being clueless
about current stamps, you can count me in a related group as relating
to today’s coins. Ask me to give a talk on Pine Tree shillings and I
could discourse for a half hour or more. Ask me to give a talk on all
the commemorative coins issued in the past five years and I would have
to scratch my head! I could name a few, but that’s about it! Ask me to
name the past and present America the Beautiful quarter dollars and I
could say Yellowstone and Yosemite, then a blank stare. I know nothing
about Chaco Culture.
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.