An issue close to our hearts
Volume 37, Number 2, February 2000
IN this month's edition of COIN NEWS an issue is raised on the Back Page which is close to the heart of many numismatists-the role of the Royal Mint in stimulating the coin collecting hobby in this country. Richard Lobel of Coincraft - one of the leading UK dealers - argues that the current US Treasury programme of "States Quarters" has so captured the imagination of the American Public and increased the awareness of and interest in coin collecting that the Royal Mint would do well to take a leaf out of their US counterpart's book. In reply Alan Wallace, Director of Collector Coins at the Royal Mint believes that their current policy is a correct one and that coins such as the commemorative design 50 pences and £2 coin released recently, as well as the £5 crowns, do indeed stimulate the market successfully. Certain aspects of the argument are of course out of the Mint's hands, it is not their fault that decimalisation occurred and thus we have none of the historic coins today that were available in our change a few decades ago but other points are very relevant - the Royal Mint is in a unique position and thus does have a certain role within the hobby. Whether they are fulfilling that role adequately is, as always, a matter of individual opinion with some collectors crying out for more modern coins whilst others claim that the collecting of New issues should not really be considered part of numismatics at all! Of course there will always be many in our hobby who choose not to collect modern coins, and thus have no interest in the mints or New Issues, and long may it remain so for it is this very diversity that makes the hobby so fascinating~ but there can be no denying that the body that mints coins in a country does have the potential to influence that country's collectors of tomorrow. After all most of the general public have no contact with Roman, Greek, Celtic or Hammered coins and thus their interest can only be sparked by the coins they handle on an everyday level - whether here or abroad (how many collectors have started after bringing coins back from foreign holidays?) Those that believe mints have no place in numismatics are deluding themselves - but how far should a mint go? Interestingly this debate comes at a time when a fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society is claiming that the Royal Mail's policy of producing dozens of commemorative stamps a year (48 last year, 48 planned for this) is ruining the hobby, with many disillusioned collectors turning their backs on the newer issues - would the same thing happen with coins if the Royal Mint was to embark on a more radical coinage programme as the Americans have done? If the Royal Mint were to produce a more diverse range of circulating coins would that increase interest? Would the public be checking their change as they were in the late sixties or would a host of different reverses simply confuse the shopper and put off the potential collector before he or she had really begun? In his letter Richard asks us to join with him in asking the Mint to consider doing something to stimulate the grass roots collector - of course we are happy to encourage the Royal Mint to do just that, believe they are doing so and applaud their efforts, if they think they can do more without cheapening our hobby as the Royal Mail are accused of cheapening Philately then we will applaud them all the more. John Mussell .
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