US Coins

Columnist's suggestion to collect what you like resonates

One of my favorite Coin World columns is “The Joys of Collecting” by Q. David Bowers. He seems to catch the heart and soul of the average collector and provides an insight into the hobby that arises from his passion for numismatics.

His column is never self-serving or commercially motivated. Even if his topic doesn’t deal with my collecting specialty, it usually contains a pearl of wisdom that I can apply.

I just read his column in the Dec. 10 issue, and was amazed at how closely his collecting methodology resembled how my approach to collecting has evolved over the decades. His “I like it” philosophy of collecting describes my current collecting mentality.

When I was an 11-year-old working for the Boy Scout Coin Collecting Merit Badge, my father started me collecting with those blue Whitman folders for cents, 5-cent coins and dimes. In adult life, I entered the wonderful world of collecting large cents before making the lateral move to collecting Colonials. My first exposure to colonials was with the William Walker consignment to the Bowers and Merena Mann and Smedley auction of 1988.

My beginning approach to collecting colonials was to obtain as many different die varieties of New Jersey copper coinage as I could. This is a pursuit that is impossible to complete (even for Bill Gates) because, of the 145 known varieties, many are unique or nearly so.

As I approached, and eventually reached, 90 different varieties, I started developing an interest in collecting “Red Book” Colonial type coins — those pieces listed in A Guide Book of United States Coins.

This is where the “I like it” approach to collecting came into play for me. The main reason for adding something to my collection is what I call the “coolness factor.” It can be a very pretty coin, struck on an unusual planchet, or have an interesting pedigree or an interesting story. The front section of the Red Book contains so many fun and historic coins to collect and study.

But there is more to Colonial numismatics that what is in the Red Book! The innumerable foreign coins that circulated in the Colonies are very collectible, along with the trade and barter items used in the very early days of America. Because of the coolness factor, I’ve added wampum, lead musket balls, trade beads, a beaver pelt and other early items of numismatic importance.

Whether you fill those holes in an album, use the “I like it” approach, or form a collection based on the coolness factor, the important thing is to have fun. This is a hobby and should have a positive effect on the quality of your life.

Thanksgiving was just a few days ago as I write this, and I shared with hobby friends, on two Colonial chat groups, a little history about the evolution of the holiday. I ended that post with a thought I’d like to share with Coin World readers:

If we are reading this publication, we have much to be thankful for. Our needs in life are met to an extent where we have enough excess to enjoy this wonderful hobby. Numismatics, and the friendships resulting from it, has added so much to the quality of my life; I hope it has done the same for you.

Ray Williams is an electronic technician from Trenton, N.J., and past president of the Colonial Coin Collectors Club —

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