Old World, New Ideas
Kevin D. Goldberg began collecting European coins as a Middle School student in suburban Philadelphia. Three decades later, he still collects European coins, but now in suburban Atlanta, where he teaches in the Department of History & Philosophy at Kennesaw State University. He earned his Ph.D. in European History from the University of California, Los Angeles, and was a postdoctoral fellow in the International Humanities at Brown University, 2011-2013. Kevin has been planning on expanding his collection beyond Europe for the past decade, but is only now getting around to it.
A Declaration of Interdependence
To grow as individual collectors, and as a hobby, numismatists must declare interdependence. We must capitalize on the fact that our interests overlap without negating the individuality that each of us treasures in our particular collections. However, recognizing the distinctiveness in each’s pursuit is more of a challenge than would seem, particularly when catch-all terminology and trance-inducing trends rage around us.
In what follows—besides introducing myself—I will stake a position that declares my individuality as a collector while maintaining a sense of belonging to a larger community of numismatists.
I am habitually shy about sharing my “origin” story. For reasons having more to do with paranoia than reality, I sheepishly feel that my story is … well … not “normal.” Despite growing up in the Philadelphia area—a region that is arguably at the epicenter of American numismatics—I never collected American coins. And despite having collected for (cough) 30 years, I have only glanced at the Red Book once, just out of curiosity, and I have certainly never used the Grey Sheet. Yet, I maintain that my passion for numismatics burns as bright as that of anybody who cares enough to be reading this.
In the pejorative jargon of the trade, I am simply a “world coin” collector. To others, I am part of what is known colloquially as the “dark side.” I don’t consider either of these monikers fitting, as both terms fail to capture the spirit of my individual pursuit (or the individual pursuits of other “world coin” collectors).
I am a collector, exclusively, of European coins, but even then, I certainly don’t haphazardly accumulate everything emanating from Europe bearing a denomination. The bulk of my collection consists of coins, mostly minors and fractionals, minted by the thousands of states, cantons, provinces, free cities, duchies, and other territories that constituted “Europe before Europe,” or Europe before the age of 19th century nation building. My collecting resume may look unconventional, but convention is a trait rarely found in the subspecies Homo sapiens numismatica.
There are others out there like me. This I know because of the high prices that I begrudgingly pay for unique specimens! Despite our numbers, we have been largely underserved by the Ameri-centric trade. (Note to trade: There is a lot more to German States coinage than $30,000 Thalers.) But this is where we must declare our interdependence. Although my collecting area may seem arcane to many, I have reveled in learning about the interests of others over the years. In fact, this curiosity about the passions of others has helped me to focus and strengthen my own assemblage of coins.
In this space, I hope to connect with fellow collectors of world coins, particularly European coins, by sharing stories, experiences, and ideas. But just as we all occasionally experiment with other collecting areas, so too will this blog. Stay tuned to this space for what I promise will be a refreshingly human and reflective approach to the hobby; mistakes and all. I certainly hope that collectors of North American numismedia will read along, perhaps indulging some of the things that illuminate the “dark side” of “world coin” collecting.