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Kevin Goldberg

Old World, New Ideas

Kevin Goldberg

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.   

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Archive for 'August 2015'

    Beating the Chicago Blues

    August 23, 2015 4:04 PM by Kevin Goldberg

    It’s that time of year; school is back in session, traffic is trending heavier, days are trending shorter, and summer vacations are coming to an end. To add insult to injury, many of us had to watch from the sidelines as the hobby gathered in Chicago last weekend for the World’s Fair of Money, perhaps the busiest coin show on the yearly circuit.

    If ever a shot in the arm was needed for a bad case of numismatic envy, it was this past week. Fortunately for collectors in the Southeast, the antidote was available in the form of the 56th Blue Ridge Numismatic Association (BRNA) show, held in Dalton, GA, August 21-23.

    Dalton, an easy daytrip from Atlanta, Nashville, and Birmingham, is an ideal location for the show’s 300+ dealers to cast a wide net. The show this year—on Saturday at least—seemed less-well attended by collectors than in years past, but this hardly dampened the mood. Entering the showroom reminded me of walking through a bleacher tunnel at a football stadium. Just like when seeing the freshly painted white lines atop the lush green grass and hearing the intoxicating roar of the crowd, I was overawed with the enticing task of scrutinizing a few hundred tables.

    Although the BRNA show is geared more towards collectors of U.S. coins than world coins, there were enough well-stocked dealers in foreign types to make the trip worthwhile. I didn’t find anything on my “want” list, but I was happy to leave with a 1622 Nuremberg 15 Kreuzer, a relatively large denomination from the “Kipper and Wipper” period, a time when rulers in Central Europe debased their currencies in an effort to pay for the wars then engulfing the continent.

    As always seems to happen, I regretted passing on a few coins as soon as I pulled out of the parking lot. And as usual, I considered turning around until about 20 minutes into the drive. Alas, a pristine 5 Batzen from the Swiss Canton of Aargau that should have been riding shotgun with me likely will by this point have traveled home on the same horse that it rode in on.  

    Despite the fact that I struck out with my want list, and that I was cautious to a fault when faced with spontaneous purchasing decisions, the Blue Ridge show did what I had hoped; it injected a dose of fun into an otherwise busy time of year and cured a nasty case of World’s Fair of Money envy. I’m already looking forward to getting sick with envy again next year.    

    Orders, Decorations, and Medals

    August 15, 2015 11:32 AM by Kevin Goldberg

    Living in a popular convention city like Atlanta has its privileges. I was reminded of this as the annual gathering of the Orders and Medals Society of America (OMSA) descended upon the leafy confines of suburban Dunwoody last weekend.

    Though I’ve picked up a few table medals here and there, I don’t consider myself an avid—or even casual—medals collector. This weekend may have changed that. Frank Draskovic, 45-year member of the ANA, co-author of the Standard Price Guide to World Crowns & Talers, President of the California Orders & Medals Society, and super-sharp guy,was kind enough to spend an hour with me, sharing his passion for medals and introducing me to the OMSA domain.

    Frank was quick to clear up someterminological matters. “Medal” is too broad a term. What most numismatists refer to as medals (including myself) are not actually part of the repertoire of a medals and decorations collector at all. Nor is this exonumia, or the various tokens, chips, badges, wooden nickels, elongated coins, etc., that many coin collectors dabble in. OMSA members collect so-called portable medals and decorations, often issued by various orders, militaries, and governments. The sources and types of these medals are vast. They can include, for example, aUS-government issued lapel piece, complete with ribbon, commemorating a soldier’s service in the Spanish-American War, or a pin issued by the RoyalOrder of Vasa for service to state and society in Sweden. Thousands of beautiful and collectable orders, medals, and decorations were on display this weekend inAtlanta.

    It was fun and enlightening tocompare and contrast numismatists and OMSA collectors. Things that we place areal premium on, including toning, condition, and metal content are incidentalto orders, medals, and decorations collectors. On the other hand, they tak every seriously some things that we hardly consider, including attribution, or being able to identify the original recipient of a decoration or medal. Another difference is geographic. At the risk of trumpeting American exceptionalism, I think it’s fair to say that while worldwide numismatics is centered in theUnited States, the global hobby of orders, medals, and decorations is clearly anchored in Great Britain.  

    For all of the differences between the hobbies, there is much that unites us. We all share a passion for history, and we revel in nuance. There is an element of artistic appreciation in both hobbies, though I would venture to say that orders, medals, and decorations are even more aesthetically appealing than coins. Even though it was my first time walking the bourse floor at the OMSA convention, this was not an unfamiliar experience. Passionate collectors, many of whom were long-time friends, joyfully discussed the latest trends and news. The only missing pieces were the coins.

    I encourage any numismatist to give this sibling hobby a look. The path is well-trodden by former coin collectors, including Frank Draskovic.  

    I came to the show armed with an old adage in coin collecting (“buy the book before the coin”) and left with a pair of hefty catalogs on German and British medals. I don’t think it will be too long before I put these books to work.  

    You can learn more about theOrders and Medals Society of America here:  http://www.omsa.org/

    Reader Mailbag

    August 3, 2015 4:21 PM by Kevin Goldberg

    It has been a great privilege blogging on Coinworld.com these past few months. An occasional reader email with a comment or question makes it even more worthwhile. In the spirit of community, I’d like to share two recent inquiries, as I think they are relevant for many people in the hobby.

    Eli from Texas asks “How important is [condition] in collecting world coins? It seems like only U.S. coins get graded.”

    While there are certainly more U.S. coins being sent to grading companies than world coins, there is a growing number of world collectors who are willing to pay more for the assurance of third-party authentication and grading. Even more important is that condition is essential whether coins are slabbed and graded or not. I have often purchased coins in worn condition that I otherwise could not afford in extra fine or uncirculated condition. While I’m happy to own these coins, I admit that I don’t often “enjoy” them as much as I do pristine coins, despite their rarity. 

    However, I would never suggest to any collector that she only seek out uncirculated coins. There are in fact many reasons why worn coins are collectible. In addition to being less expensive, they can feel more “real,” as they were once part of the great mass of circulating issues used to purchase bread, clothing, and beer. Condition is important in determining value, but it’s not essential for deriving pleasure from the hobby. 

    Luca from Washington wants to know if coins are good investments.

    We all wonder about this. Coins can be good investments, but they could also be dogs. In other words, they are not much different than stocks, bullion, and real estate. While I personally don’t collect with investing principles in mind, I don’t disparage those who do.

    Certain truisms hold water when it comes to investing in world coins. East Asia and the Middle East probably  have a greater upside than Europe (in fact, I consider several of my core areas to be risky long-term investments). Of course, more is at play here than crude geography, as condition, rarity, and eye appeal all matter considerably.

    Coins have been great investments for those smart or lucky enough to have bought and held. Imagine having stashed away rolls of Morgan dollars or certain U.S. commemorative halves. But even selective purchases at the top of the market can yield sizable long-term gains. This requires careful research and considerable liquidity. Although opportunities abound for those willing to put in the time and effort, I find myself satisfied by simply collecting the coins that I like at prices that seem fair.

    Here’s a cheers to those who have sent inquiries in the past and an invitation for others to do so in the future. Let’s remember that we are a community of collectors.    

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