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.
Many collectors cherish sets. Whether it’s the relatively “easy” Peace Dollar series, the extensive yet budget-friendly Soviet commemoratives, or any of the other countless possibilities, having a standardized target in mind offers the collector a gratifying, obtainable goal.
But sets can also come about unexpectedly, as I recently found out. One of my earliest German States coins was a Baden 1871 copper 1 Kreuzer commemorating the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War; a short but bloody conflict that would catapult the modern German state onto the historical stage. There are two varieties of this coin—the only difference being the wording of the denomination on the obverse—and I would not be satisfied until I had both.
It turns out that the Southwest German state of Baden had been in a commemorating mood following the restoration of peace with France. The above-mentioned Kreuzers were accompanied by three city issues (Buehl, Karlsruhe, and Offenburg), each a copper 1 Kreuzer coin. The Karlsruhe issue is the easiest to find of the lot, and I had no hesitation adding it to my collection.
Internet research revealed that Baden had a history of striking commemorative minors, something normally reserved only for Thalers or other large silver pieces (for those with bigger budgets, Baden issued several of these stunning coins, too). An 1844 1 Kreuzer commemorating the erection of a statue honoring Karl Friedrich, former Grand Duke of Baden, is an attractive yet fairly common coin. Other copper Kreuzers followed in 1857 (birth of an heir), 1861 (memorial to former Grand Duke Leopold I), 1868 (50th Anniversary of Baden’s Constitution), and 1869 (construction of a Protestant church in Seckenheim). Only the 1869 issue is truly rare, with a meager 1,000 coins struck, and it has, for now, evaded me.
My fascination with this unexpected set was renewed when I recently came across a non-circulating Baden Kreuzer (Medallic Issue) dated 1832, commemorating Grand Duchess Sophie Wilhelmine’s recovery after giving birth. This exquisite issue adds depth to an unconventional series distinguished by its beauty, rarity, and historical curiosity; all things that many collectors relish.
The example of Baden is not an anomaly. There are more opportunities for unexpected sets than there are Whitman folders. Sometimes coincidence leads the collector to new discoveries. In addition to uncovering magnificent stories, we find our individual identities as collectors. To paraphrase Robert Frost, numismatics can reward those who take the road less traveled by.