US Coins

The fountain of youth

Fort Worth, Texas, dealer B. Max Mehl is shown in his office in 1915, to the right, giving dictation. He started as a rare coin dealer in 1900 and kept with the profession until he died in 1957, enjoying numismatics all along the way.

Image courtesy of Q. David Bowers.

My recent column about the dangers of retiring has inspired several readers. I quoted the old saying, "Retirement has killed more people than hard work ever did." In order to add some facts to this week’s column I tried to get information on life expectancy in 2011.

Although statistics differ, in general I learned that if you want to live the longest you should move to Monaco, where the life expectancy (at birth) is 89.73 years. Don’t move to Swaziland, where you die at an average of 31.9 years.

In the United States the best place is Hawaii with 81.7 years, and the worst is the District of Columbia at 73.8 years. Overall our national average is about 78.3 years.

Very little was found in the way of explanation. However, I assume that most residents of Monaco live well and have excellent medical and other care and a low crime rate, while just the opposite is true in Swaziland.

I also expect that the general standard of living is better in Hawaii than in our national capital.

Anyway, if we assume that at age 65 you have 13 or more years to go, what are you going to do? Actually, if you are already 65, your expectancy is more than that. Go fishing every day? Watch television? Or just be bored?

Of course, you may have much longer to live, as with my fine friend, Eric P. Newman, who celebrated his 100th birthday on May 25. I called him that afternoon and found out — always something unexpected — that he was huddled in the basement of his St. Louis home waiting out a tornado watch. Fortunately, the danger passed.

The common theme from my Coin World correspondents is that in retirement, numismatics can be a life saver, literally. New elements of excitement, discovery, and interests arise, new friends are made, and the result is a lot of happy campers — with no bored collectors in sight! Numismatics is a fountain of youth, it seems!

Perhaps this is why Henry Chapman, who became a coin dealer in Philadelphia in 1877, never retired — and kept at numismatics until his passing in 1935, or why dealer B. Max Mehl, who began in 1900 kept everlastingly at it until he died in 1957.

As for me at age 72, having written for Coin World since 1961 (that’s 50 years ago!), I hope to continue researching and writing about coins, tokens, medals and paper money for a long, long time.

I have enjoyed coins and coin people so much that I consider myself gifted.

Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached at his private email,, or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.

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