The April 7 issue of The Economist included a startling article on
military spending by the top 10 countries in the world: United States:
$739.2 billion equal to 45 percent of the world’s share with China
next at $89.8 billion.
We are devoting a tremendous amount of our national assets to this
area. And, of course, it is very desirable that America continue to be
the land of the free and to help others in need.
At the same time, I hope that funds can be found to create what
might be called a Golden Era for America. In recent years, many
aspects of science, art, education, recreation, music, literature and
other elements of “the good life” have taken strong hits. The old
popular saying, “You can have guns or butter, but not both” is
interesting but does not square with reality.
And yet it is the enjoyment of hobbies, recreation, learning about
the strange moons of Saturn and enjoying the music of symphony
orchestras that adds much to life.
Today, the Smithsonian Institution has to struggle to raise money.
Give it $5 billion and watch miracles happen. The National Numismatic
Collection is in storage except for a small number of pieces now on
display in a nice little gallery on the first floor.
Tens of thousands of other coins, tokens, medals and paper bills
could be showcased for everyone to see and enjoy.
In a discussion the other day with the director of a well-known
museum in the Northeast, we agreed that two topics that are surefire
hot tickets to draw attention are sex and money. Sex can be dismissed,
but exhibits on money are interesting and draw a lot of visitors. I
remember that at an American Numismatic Association summer convention
in 1975 we had a 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin on exhibit. Some
attention to it had been given in the Los Angeles papers and on
television, and a long line of visitors came to see it. Probably, some
lingered to learn more and are Coin World readers today.
Returning to the Smithsonian, curator Dick Doty and the staff have
mounted many exhibits at ANA conventions and elsewhere to share
treasures such as the unique 1849 Coronet gold $20 double eagle. How
nice it would be if the Smithsonian could set up a dozen regional
museums with government support to rotate coins and other items in and
out of display.
If another reason is needed, coins are educational. An hour spent
with coins is an hour spent learning the U.S. social, political,
military and financial history.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.