Olympic countdown

Posted on Mon, 30 April 2012 by Alyson Thomas
Posted in: Coin News
Olympic countdown Another Way

IN this month’s “letters” page there is a question from reader Roy Norris, regarding whether there are any “courses” that teach aspiring numismatists about coins. We wracked our brains but couldn’t think of anything formal to recommend, instead it seems that we can only suggest that he reads or goes “on-line”. That way he may be able to learn what he needs. That, however, seems something of a cop out—Mr Norris already reads, he reads this magazine for starters and undoubtedly has a bookshelf full of coin related books. But already I can see a flaw. He may well have the books but will he necessarily understand them? Books aimed at beginners will undoubtedly be too simplistic for anyone but the absolute newbie collector (how many times do we need to be told that cowrie shells have been used as currency) and academic works on subjects he doesn’t have a basic knowledge of may well baffle—they certainly baffle me at times and I’ve been involved in this hobby for more years than I care to remember. On-line offers a solution but only if one is able to rely on the sites one visits (there is so much rubbish and misinformation on the internet about our hobby —indeed about everything—that it scares me to think that people believe even one tenth of it) and whilst coin collecting communities and forums are incredibly useful they too have their flaws. In my experience forums are often dominated by a few vociferous individuals who can make you feel incredibly stupid if you ask questions and seem to dominate every thread and topic as if it were their own personal fiefdom. This isn’t always the case of course and some are incredibly useful and friendly places but if you do frequent such message boards, forums and the like, you will I am sure recognise that they can distort reality sometimes. There is something about the anonymity of the web that can be very comforting but it can also bring out the worst in people too.

What then should Mr Norris do? If he has to rely on his own reading he may well miss out on some of the most interesting aspects of a subject, simply because he isn’t familiar enough with it to delve further. If he relies on the internet he has to both trust what he reads and negotiate the sometime fraught world of on-line communities with all the politics therein—a daunting prospect if all you want to know is a little bit more about the production of Athenian owls.

Is there not another way? Well actually, yes, I believe there is. Last month Philip visited the Worthing and District Numismatic Society to deliver their monthly talk and he returned enthusiastic about not only the Worthing Society but Societies in general. Here was a place that anyone could go along to, no matter what their numismatic knowledge or interest. The face to face nature of it meant that there was never going to be any of the nastiness the anonymity of a computer can bring out and the breadth and depth of knowledge in the room meant that any newcomer would find his questions answered in a trice—by people glad to share. No-one there would look down their nose in disdain at a basic question, rather they would be happy to help. Over the years Society numbers have dwindled, there is no doubt about that, but it is hard to see why. If you have never been to your local society meeting I urge you to do so. You may have preconceived ideas about what you will find or how you’ll be treated, but ignore them—whatever you think simply isn’t the case. These are not places full of “anoraks” for whom it is their only social interaction, nor are they full of dry and dusty academics who only want to talk about their pet subjects. On the contrary, they are simply places for collectors just like you to meet, share your hobby and learn something new. There may not be normal courses available in coin collecting but most months the society will have a talk or lecture about one aspect of numismatics or another and what better way to learn than from those who have been interested for years? And don’t worry about whether you will fit in or not, or whether people will start asking too many questions about your collection (we all like a little privacy at times). The other society members will be interested in the “newbie” of course but they are collectors too and will respect your boundaries!

So Mr Norris, that is your answer: by all means read, by all means go on line, but to really learn more about this wonderful hobby join your local society. See page 88 for details about a meeting near you soon.

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