US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Oct. 19, 2020: Thinking positive thoughts

The past year has been traumatic for most of us, but the hobby remains strong, including in the publication of new numismatic literature, like David F. Fanning’s new book “Ancient Coins in Early American Auctions, 1869–1939.”

Original images courtesy of Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers.

Recent decisions by the United States Mint — raising the prices on its bronze medals and 15 products containing silver, and dropping plans to include an Uncirculated 2020-W Jefferson 5-cent coin with the 2020 Uncirculated Coins set as promised earlier this year — had the expected reaction from collector customers of the Mint. They are ticked, to use a polite term.

After reading the comments at our Facebook page and at our website on stories about the Mint’s recent decisions, one comes away with a feeling that there is a lot of angry and negative feelings out there.

Of course, with the pandemic continuing to worsen and a hotly contested presidential election nearing its last weeks, a lot of negative energy is swirling around. It gets rather tiring, of course.

I would like to focus, instead, on some positives in the coin collecting hobby.

Yes, the pandemic has led to canceled conventions and educational forums, auctions have been moved to new locations with public sessions closed down, and the Mint has mostly abandoned public ceremonies for its America the Beautiful quarter dollar and commemorative coin launches. However, these shutdowns have led collectors, dealers, club officials and others to seek new paradigms. The American Numismatic Association, for example, replaced its canceled Summer Seminar and educational forums that were originally planned for August’s World’s Fair of Money, with e-learning experiences. These digital classes have been well received by participants, many of whom in a normal year would have been unable to attend the traditional events in person anyway, due to cost and distance. Digital learning experiences may never have been tested in this way had the traditional venues remained available.

Another thing to be thankful for is the incredible diversity of new and old coins, notes and medals to collect. The U.S. Mint’s experiment with its colorized coins, criticized by some traditionalists, nonetheless opens new markets for the Mint’s products. Colorized coins have been issued by other world mints for years; it was high time for the U.S. Mint to at least experiment with the concept, to see if future programs might be commercially viable. Older coins remain available if they are what attract you. The hobby is big enough to attract collectors with all tastes.

Publication of numismatic literature — books and auction catalogs, journals, including club journals, online blogs and podcasts — is stronger than ever. A few hours before I began writing this Editorial, a copy of David F. Fanning’s newest book, Ancient Coins in Early American Auctions, 1869–1939, arrived on my desk. It is a gorgeous look at the topic, full of reproductions of plates of coin images from old auction catalogs and information about the auctions themselves. A month or so ago, David Lange sent his latest book on coin folders and albums. Important reference works in these niche collecting areas shows that research continues unabated as researchers continue to explore little-trod areas of numismatics. The hobby can only benefit from the publication of such products.

Collectors are staying connected despite the need to physically distance themselves from others, and some are using the extra time not spent at the mall or a concert or a coin show to look at their coins. John Wexler, author of our monthly “Varieties Notebook” column, says that readers continue to send him their finds, with a number of them reporting new doubled die varieties or the discovery of older known varieties. Some clubs are trying to connect digitally rather than in person. Despite the strains of the horror that has been 2020, many collectors are still finding ways to enjoy this hobby.

It is mid-October as I write this. The future remains cloudy. But our hobby remains vibrant and fun. Let us know how you are coping and enjoying your hobby under these strange circumstances.
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