The best thing about writing about shipwrecks and buried treasure is that it’s an accessible topic.
What makes something accessible? It could mean that it’s affordable (as many coins that have come from hoards are). It could also mean that the story behind it is easy to share. Or, it could provide an entry point to our hobby.
Coins can serve as a form of highly accessible communication. They convey economic value and the ideals of the country that issues them.
In this month’s issue we look at a painting by Norman Rockwell, America’s leading illustrator in the mid-20th century, that will be offered for auction at Christie’s in the end of May.
Rockwell is best known for his covers for the Saturday Evening Post magazine that served to convey national ideals, not unlike coins. As elegantly summarized by Bob Greene in a May 12 opinion piece in the Wall St. Journal, these covers provided “America’s most egalitarian art galleries — available for public viewing everywhere at all hours of the day and night, absolutely free for anyone who wanted to stroll past and take a look, ever-changing in their inventive offerings.”
The article goes on to discuss the demise of single-copy sales of magazines on newsstands, which have declined by more than 11 percent during the second half of 2013.
In the 20th century, newsstands were among the greatest vehicles for artists to have their work seen by masses of people. Like coins, magazines provided an accessible window into a given time.
Magazines provide a way to travel back in time to learn what mattered to people at a given time.
It is in that window of time that examining shipwrecks and buried treasure becomes especially meaningful.
Take the SS Central America. The ship went down off the coast of South Carolina on Sept. 12, 1857. The ship was carrying coins minted in San Francisco earlier that year. The ship’s sinking was cemented in a moment in time, only to have the story resume in the 1980s with the recovery.