Reinvigorate your collecting passion by checking out TAMS

Guest Commentary from the March 23, 2015, issue of Coin World
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Published : 03/11/15
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William D. Hyder is president of the Token and Medal Society.

When asked, I tell people I collect coins, when in fact my primary interests are tokens and medals. Sure, I collect ancient and medieval coins from France and modern coins that I find interesting, but I lost interest in coins when slabbing and high prices began to place a greater emphasis on investment than on the history and aesthetic appreciation that attracted me to them in the first place.

Longtime token and medal collector R.W. Colbert recommended I join the Token and Medal Society after reading a brief article I wrote for The Numismatist in 1971. We became lifelong friends, eventually co-authoring articles and a book. I followed Ray’s advice, joined TAMS, and my interest in numismatics has not wavered since.

Tokens and medals have always been important components of serious collections. In 1915, Thomas Elder delivered an impassioned “Plea for American Token Collecting,” urging both seasoned and young collectors to collect them. Fifty-five years later, the Token and Medal Society was organized at the Michigan State Numismatic convention in Detroit on Nov. 19, 1960. Forty-five people attended the first general meeting at the American Numismatic Association convention in Atlanta in August 1961. The importance of TAMS can be measured by the fact that two founding members (among others) became presidents of the ANA and five founders are among those named to the ANA Numismatic Hall of Fame.

One of our founding members, Russell Rulau, coined the term “exonumia” to define the study of tokens and medals. Exonumists, as we like to call ourselves, pursue local history, economics, people, and customs to bring early trade tokens and merchant store cards to life. Medal specialists turn more to significant events, memorable people, and artistic expression. Transportation tokens, so-called dollars, Civil War tokens, foreign tokens, saloon tokens — the list of interests can be extended to just about any topic you can image and TAMS has likely published one or more articles on the topic.

TAMS encourages and facilitates research pertaining to tokens and medals. Over the past 55 years, we have published 16 books cataloging tokens and medals, including our most recent release, The Token and Medal Society Guide to U.S. Shell Cards 1867–1880 by Q. David Bowers. Specialized series are cataloged in another dozen plus supplements to the TAMS Journal, bridging the gap between book-length manuscripts and journal length articles. 

The TAMS Journal enters its 55th year of continuous publication presenting the best of members’ research in the field. The latest issues of the Journal feature a study of trade token denominations, “Collecting by the Numbers,” written by David Schenkman. Where else might you learn that a billiard parlor found the need to issue a token good for 1 2/3 cents, or a Michigan merchant found the need for a 3/10 of a cent token?

Whether you are a seasoned collector or looking for new collecting opportunities, TAMS can enhance your collecting experience. I never regretted following my friend’s advice so many years ago. To learn more about joining our distinguished organization, visit www.tokenandmedal.org or write our secretary at TAMS, P.O. Box 195, Mayville, MI 48744. You can reach me at bsktmkr@pacbell.net.


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