Have you heard...?
Volume 37, Number 7, July 2000
AS I sit down to write this we have just passed a milestone in the office - our 75th query this week regarding the now legendary £2 coin "with the necklace". That's just this week's mind you, the tally for the month is quite a bit higher, the year's total has yet to be calculatedl This particular query saw the supposed value of the piece as high as £75 "because of its rarity" despite the fact [that] the caller had three and his son had another two. We are by no means unique in getting such enquiries with coin dealers (and collectors) up and down the country getting calls, letters and emails on a regular basis. The country, it seems, has gone £2 mad. For those not familiar with the story it seems that somehow, from somewhere (if anyone knows how and where please get in touch) the general public have got the idea that the 1997 £2 coin is far rarer than its later counterparts and thus worth far more than face. We have actually had people swearing that their bank and/or post office are buying these coins in for ludicrous sums and have even heard of one man who collected in excess of 80 pieces hoping to cash in because they were so rarel Now it is true that the coin did not have an easy time early on when a problem with the electronic signature was discovered (causing vending machine problems) and at that time it was thought that the '97 version (with the Maklouf effigy bearing the "necklace") would not be put into circulation and would thus only be available in gift packs and proof sets. This would have left the coin bearing the Rank-Broadley effigy as the only one in general use (1997 was the last year of the Maklouf bust). However, in March 1998 13 million of the 1997-dated coins were released making it, if not commonplace, certainly nowhere near rare. That, however, has not stopped the eager public who call our office on an hourly basis believing they have a rarity in their possession. The point of this is not to poke fun at those who believe that they have found a treasure but rather to comment on the fact that despite evidence to the contrary there are thousands of people out there checking their change - thousands of people out there who do care about the coins that come into their possession. Now certainly it would be naive to suggest that the overwhelming majority of those eagerly looking for the '97 £2 are doing it for any other reason than to make a fast buck - but does that necessarily matter? After all, how many of today's "serious collectors" started off in the same way, checking their pocket change in those heady pre-decimal days in the hope of finding such delights as a '46 threepence or'33 penny (some hope) or even the lesser rarities like the '52 sixpence or'59 Scottish reverse shilling? Were those fledgling collectors doing that simply to add to their collections or, as seems more likely, were they too doing it to make a profit? I am sure that many of today's numismatists started off in the hope of making a bit of extra money but soon realised that there was more to this hobby than a simple profit and so were hooked and it is to be hoped that at least some of those calling up about the 1997 £2 will similarly be bitten by the bug. Certainly it is true that the modern day minting methods have eradicated the majority of mistakes (this is a double-edged sword of course, we applaud the Royal Mint's efforts to maintain the integrity of our coinage but just wish that now and again they'd allow out some of the errorsl) and decimalisation has meant less diversity, less to look for (the 1983 2 pence with the "New Pence" error is the only modern day coin we constantly check for - Do readers have others they'd like to let us know about?) but who knows, once people stop taking coins for granted and start looking at them properly - for whatever reason - we may very well find a new generation of collectors joining our ranks, and once they are with us does it really matter how they got here? John Mussell .
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