The Joys of Collecting column from the Dec. 5, 2016, issue of
For nearly all of my numismatic life I have been deeply interested
in tokens and medals.
In 1961 I was one of the founders of the Token and Medal Society.
Dynamic today, the society publishes the TAMS Journal under the
editorship of William Hyder. (Visit the TAMS website here.)
Connect with Coin World:
Sign up for our free eNewsletter
Follow us on Twitter
Quite apart from certain aspects of federal coinage that attract
thousands of investors, whose basic interest in the art and science of
numismatics is slight if any at all, tokens and medals have always
attracted, shall I say, the cognoscenti and literati of the hobby.
There are no single sources for updated rarity and price information
for medals and tokens. Accordingly, you are on your own. This yields
marvelous, indeed ideal, advantages:
1. Prices are often very inexpensive. In some series great
rarities including unique pieces can be purchased for less than $100.
One of my favorite series is nickel-size tokens from the early 20th
century with inscriptions referring to coin-operated music, such as
GOOD FOR ONE TUNE or GOOD FOR ONE TUNE IN THE PIANO.
I have several hundred different, including unique pieces, most of
which cost me less than $20 each. My study of these, “A Tune for a
Token,” won an award from TAMS in 1975. I am thinking about updating it.
Other tokens with wider audiences, such as Hard Times tokens and
Civil War tokens, can be expensive, but they still cost tiny fractions
of the prices of federal coins of comparable rarity and grade. Check
the TAMS website, and while you are at it, check Medal Collectors of
America as well, at http://www.medalcollectors.org/.
2. Most pieces have very interesting histories. Stories and
illustrations can add to the enjoyment of collecting them.
3. Over the long term, prices for nearly all tokens and medals
have increased. Although I have never met anyone who collected these
strictly as an investment, most collections if carefully formed and
held over the long term have done superbly well in this regard.
4. There are no boom-and-bust investment cycles, so the market
has never been soft or in a slump. Today in December 2016 it is as
strong as ever, and I predict this will continue.
The above said, one nice thing about tokens and medals is that the
bar to entry is reading and study. This keeps the collector population
small. Otherwise, prices would be 10 to 100 times higher than they are!
In the slideshow above I illustrate a selection and their