Steve Roach

The Art of Collecting

Steve Roach

Steve Roach, Coin World’s editor-at-large, has been deeply involved with numismatics for more than 20 years, starting as a young coin collector in Michigan. Two years spent as a coin grader, nearly three years at a major coin wholesaler and a stint as a paintings specialist at an international auction house have given Steve a rich understanding of the hobby, its market and the unique personalities and exceptional objects that make collecting meaningful. He joined Coin World in 2006 as a columnist, and has served as associate editor and editor-in-chief. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan, a juris doctorate from the Ohio State University and is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers.

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Entering our hobby through the side entrance

What do you hope to get from collecting? 

Is it a connection to history?

Perhaps it is because you enjoy objects?

Or, are you in it for potential profits?

Those who put together the best collections — and have the most fun doing it — put these three elements together. 

Collecting doesn’t have to be expensive. This month’s world coins feature by Rita Laws highlights sets of Canadian and Mexican coins that can be put together inexpensively. Our venerable columnist Q. David Bowers points out that thousands of varieties of copper tokens, fractional currency notes, Confederate notes, encased postage stamps and more issued during the Civil War can be purchased at reasonable prices.

He has a great point: some collecting areas are ripe for discoveries. Take carved coins that combine art and numismatics. Artists today are taking as a model the traditional “Hobo nickels” that were first carved as the Indian Head 5-cent piece, 1913 to 1938, was circulating. These artists are applying their creativity to create small sculptures on a variety of different coins. Depending on the skill involved in the carving, carved coins can be found for as little as $5 or $10, while the most skilled pieces can be priced in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. 

Nor does coin collecting have to be dull.

Our October cover feature ties coin collecting in with the macabre as depicted on coins, medals and paper money. Skeletons, skulls and the like. Rita extends the seasonal theme in her monthly column “Going Topical” where she looks at creepy, crawly critters depicted on coins. 

Our interview subject this month, Thomas Hockenhull of the British Museum said that he entered his role as curator of modern coins “through the side entrance,” meaning he didn’t initially set out to be a numismatic curator. Instead, his interest in coins and paper money grew over time.

Our paper money editor, Michele Orzano, pointed out in a conversation as we were editing the issue that, in his answers, he gave great advice that’s applicable to situations beyond numismatics. Keep your eyes open, be flexible, and opportunities appear. 

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