US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for May 17, 2021: Leaving treasure behind

Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker left a1976 Bicentennial Thomas Jefferson medal at the scenic promontory of a local lake, in hopes someone curious will find it and become a new collector.

Image provided by Dennis Tucker.

A few years ago, I encountered a small painted rock while walking in a local park. It was pretty and small and intriguing. I searched online when I got home and found an explanation.

Artists were painting the rocks and leaving them in public places for other to find and enjoy as small works of art. In the words of one Ohio artist, “This is all about creating smiles.”

Dennis Tucker, publisher for Whitman Publishing, is doing something similar with a numismatic angle. As he writes in his feature this week (exclusive to our print and digital editions), he is taking inexpensive medals and coins from storage and leaving them in public areas for noncollectors to find.

He began some 15 years ago with Indian Head 5-cent coins, an issue recognized by noncollectors as “Buffalo nickels” and one of the most popular U.S. coin designs.

“I’ve spent, tipped, and circulated the coins, sometimes dropping them randomly at airports, on sidewalks, at playgrounds, and other places with enough foot traffic to guarantee they’ll be found,” he writes.

After dropping more than a thousand such pieces, his inventory ran dry, so he turned to another numismatic category — inexpensive modern medals.

His goal is to spark an interest in coins in someone who maybe never thought of coins or medals in the way we collectors do.

“Some are encased in plastic capsules or fancy packaging; some are bare,” he writes “I seek high-traffic areas on dry, sunny days so they’re not sitting in the elements for long.”

This is a neat idea. Two years ago, a group of dealers and collectors did something similar by placing thousands of low-cost collectible coins into circulation in the hopes that the finders would keep them and take them to a local coin shop to learn more about them. A similar program planned for 2020 was derailed by the pandemic.

Both of these efforts are great, but the hobby needs additional innovative ways to attract noncollectors and maybe entice them in becoming collectors. Attracting noncollectors to join the ranks of collectors is challenging but is worth the effort.

What have you done to encourage others to collect? Let us know.

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