US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Aug. 27, 2018

The Lilly Collection used to be on physical display at the National Museum of American History, but today most is locked away. Soon, the collection can be viewed online.

Image courtesy of Smithsonian Institution.

The creation of the internet and the World Wide Web, and the development of social media, have revolutionized how we as humans communicate and interact, for good or worse, and how we learn and research our interests.

In olden times (before we all went online), one visited a museum by actually going to the physical location of the museum and going inside to view the exhibits. Today, though, museums are placing more and more of their collections online so they can be viewed and enjoyed remotely. That is great.


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As Paul Gilkes reports this week, the Smithsonian Institution is placing the Lilly Collection — a core holding in the National Numismatic Collection — online for collectors and others to enjoy from their home or office.

The National Numismatic Collection is so huge that it is economically not feasible to place all of it on physical display in the Smithsonian’s many museums. Years ago, the Lilly Collection was on exhibit virtually in its entirety, but changing needs meant that most of the collection had to be locked away in the Smithsonian vaults, unavailable to the public except under special arrangement.

However, with the objects in the collection being photographed and placed online, soon all of us with online access can view the gold coins, medals  and ingots that make the Lilly Collection so amazing.

Similarly, the United States Mint is considering digitizing its vast heritage assets — hubs, dies, models, patterns and more — and making those available online. Mint officials should do that.

While for some, viewing a coin or note in person is preferable to viewing the same object in a high-resolution image, the ability to view a collection from afar makes it available to a much wider audience than could view it in person, especially if the physical objects are actually locked away in a vault somewhere.

This is a movement that everyone in the collector community should embrace.

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