The May 2021 issue of The Clarion (edited by Rich Jewell for the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists) includes a nice interview with Lianna Spurrier. With permission, here's an excerpt.
Lianna started collecting over 10 years ago and started working in the field professionally in
2018. She's the creative director for Numismatic Marketing and is also an avid collector who's
in the process of researching for a book about Japanese bar money.
1. When and why did you become a coin collector?
When I was little, I got foreign coins from the Tooth Fairy instead of spending money. I
kept them all in a ceramic bank and called myself a coin collector, but I didn't really know
anything about them.
When I was 11, my parents cleaned out a relative's house who was a hoarder. I got to go
with them and was oddly excited about spending my Saturday's inside a musty old house with
rubber gloves and face masks in August, but it was like a treasure hunt to me. We found a few
little stashes of coins tucked away – a jar of wheat pennies here, a metal tin with a Seated Liberty
half dollar there – and, since I already thought of myself as a coin collector, I asked to keep
Pretty soon I had the wheat pennies sorted out by date and mint mark on our living room
floor, telling anyone who would listen why the 1909 S VDB was so special. I was very invested
in collecting for a few years until high school sucked up all my free time and replaced all of my
hobbies with homework. Near the end of college, when I finally had time for hobbies again, I
dove back in and have no intentions of leaving.
2. What are you currently collecting?
My main collection is Japanese bar money; it's a series of gold and silver rectangular
coins issued from 1599-1869. They're very unusual looking, and also very difficult to find and
research. I've always been one for a challenge, so I've sunk my teeth in and eventually plan to
write a book on them to make them more accessible for English speakers. For now, I have a
website with a basic intro to the series at
In addition, I have a few cheaper, fun sets. I started a Dansco 7070 type set back in
middle school, so I've been gradually filling that in. I also recently started a registry set of toned
French Sower francs. When shows are happening, I have a Canadian type set and Fiji Dansco
album that I fill in by hunting through bargain bins.
I like to have multiple sets going at different price ranges. The general advice in the
industry is to buy fewer, more expensive coins, which is valid; however, there's also a lot to be
said for the fun sets. I started off by digging through bargain bins of wheat pennies at flea
markets, and that's still one of my favorite things to do at shows. I'm a strong advocate that
collections at all budgets are valid and worthwhile.
5. You're the ANA President, name one thing you would do to make coin collecting more
attractive to young people?
Man, that is the question, isn't it?
I think one part of the equation that I haven't seen talked about much is putting more
emphasis on cheap parts of the hobby. Let's talk about collecting a Dansco album of Jefferson
nickels or a 20th century Canadian type set. As a kid, the fancy, high grade pieces were nice to
look at, but for me, they were so far out of my budget that they lost my interest. I think any shop
that's hoping to attract young people should have some of their cheaper inventory out and
displayed right alongside the fancy pieces.
If I hadn't found Don's, with cases full of raw coins that were close to my price range,
there's no telling if I would have kept collecting. The fancy shops seemed to say to 11-year-old
You're not old enough for this. You can't afford this, before the owner even had a chance
to say hello.
Another aspect to that is making those same pieces a bit more glamorous. For example, if
you have raw pieces in plastic flips, print off some nice labels for them instead of scribbling on
bits of cardboard.
I fully realize that's a large commitment of time, effort, and valuable display space, but if
our goal is attracting younger people, we need to make their budgets feel legitimate. If it works,
they'll eventually come back with more money and buy the fancier pieces.
Translating that to what I could actually do if I were the ANA President, I would make
attractive and editable flip labels easily available, and distribute guides to dealers regarding a
recommended amount of coins under $100 or $50 to display. Pamphlets could also be distributed
to dealers with introductions to inexpensive and accessible sets, so they can then give those to
any young people who enter their shop.
Great idea! Of course, it takes the same amount of time and money to prepare a $5 coin for sale as it does a $50 or $500 one, so dealers naturally focus on the higher end. But it makes perfect sense that more nicely packaged entry-level coins would be more attractive to new collectors. Every dealer would do themselves and the hobby at large a favor by devoting some TLC to some of the lower-priced material in their inventory. It just might inspire a new long-term customer.
For more information on PAN, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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