Jeff Rock posted an interesting story on the Colonial Coins Yahoo Group this week, and with his permission I'm republishing it here. We bibliomaniacs and numismatists are a funny breed, inflicted with a collecting bug that non-collectors (like most of our spouses) will never, ever "get". But one can hope, and every now and then a new collector is born.
I think ANY type of collecting, once it reaches a certain level, is really an addiction -- but unlike being addicted to drugs or alcohol, the money that we spend on the coin addiction is not gone once we get our "fix" -- those coins will probably be sold for a profit somewhere down the road, and we will have years or decades of enjoying them!
One of my oldest friends, an ER physician with a real scientific turn of mind could never understand collecting coins. Trying to explain why this variety was rare and worth $10,000 but this variety, which it looks an awful lot like, is common and worth $25 was just something he couldn't grasp. Nor could he understand stretching to buy a coin you really wanted, even if it meant cutting back on something else in life in order to do so.
About 10 years ago we were in England together and went to an antique show at my insistence because there were supposed to be some coin dealers in attendance. While we walked around I saw a dealer that had a cool old, large skeleton key and a neat old corkscrew, both kind of rusty, both priced at 10 Pounds apiece. A perfect souvenir, I decided I would buy one and that he should buy the other.
He hemmed and hawed and said he didn't want a rusty key or a corkscrew. But he lives up near Napa Valley and he enjoys wine, so I thought the corkscrew would be perfect for him....and told him that if he didn't buy it, I was going to buy it and give it to him for a Christmas present -- so either way, he was going to get it. He grumbled and bought it.
Fast forward to today -- he now has the third or fourth best corkscrew collection in the WORLD, with several thousand items. He's gone so far as having custom display cabinets built for them in his home, and he rotates what is on display in the collection every few months.
He now understands things that he never did about coins -- condition, rarity, variety, pricing, counterfeits, all sorts of minutiae of detail and, most important, the thrill of the hunt. This person who NEVER collected anything in his life is now a very happy addict (his wife is not quite as happy, but she would much rather have him chasing corkscrews than other things, I'm sure!).
That's a great story. My wife collects elephants, but not too seriously, and that has never transferred into either an interest or appreciation of my numismatic hobby. I gave her a great elephant medal last month for her birthday, but it was met with a ho-hum response. You can lead a horse to water, but either it'll drink or it won't.
I can understand how crazy collectors look to the rest of the world. I just had to laugh when I heard an NPR interview with the author of The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days, where the Mommy' husband spends hours upon hours finding, acquiring, and organizing his collection of antique capacitors. Me, I've got a bag of sales tax tokens stuffed in my desk drawer.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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