The generation gap
Volume 44, Number 8, August 2007
THIS month’s front cover shows the new commemorative 50p celebrating 100 years of Scouting. As an ex-Scout, and ex-Scoutmaster, I can quite clearly remember the 50th anniversary of Scouting and then the 75th. It seems unbelievable that so much time has gone by, but sure enough it’s the Centenary this year and across the globe, boys, and now girls, will be enjoying the celebrations. What, you may ask, apart from the obvious presence of a new Royal Mint coin, has this to do with numismatics? Well, the passage of time marked this way perfectly illustrates how youth culture has quite dramatically changed since many of us were schoolboys and it has got me thinking. Whilst there is undoubtedly a place for Scouting today, as there always has been, much of it has changed. I don’t doubt that were I to visit a Scout meeting in 2007 I wouldn’t recognise half of the activities that go on; certainly there would be the timeless old favourites—camping, orienteering, woodcraft, etc.—but others would be very much products of the 21st century and many of the things I enjoyed so much just would not be part of the Scouting movement at all. This is the same in many walks of life of course, the toys and games we enjoyed as children would be sneered at today and the pastimes of the young of 2007 baffle many of us—time has moved on and we must accept that. Maybe we need to accept the same is true in our hobby too. Maybe it’s time to accept that this isn’t now, and won’t be again, the same sort of hobby we enjoyed as when we were at school and that times really have changed. True the “States quarters” programme in the US has struck a chord with children State side but that interest doesn’t seem to be reflected here. The Royal Mint’s new coin varieties have proved very popular but not necessarily amongst the younger buyers in the same way as the Quarters have. We must accept that coin collecting just doesn’t have the appeal with the kids as once it did. “What?” I hear you cry “The Editor of COIN NEWS turning his back on the young collector?” Well, actually, no, we will continue to support young collectors wherever they may be, continue to encourage them in whatever way we can but maybe, just maybe, we’ve been looking at this all wrong. Whenever we go to a Coin Fair these days there are new faces (true there are a lot of the same old ones too but we like seeing them as well!), people who are just coming into the hobby—be it through metal detecting, an interest in history or even from the point of view of alternative investment. This is not a dying hobby, far from it, and the medium of the internet with chat rooms, fora and on-line auctions has given it a new lease of life—our reader numbers continue to increase despite the inevitable passing of many of our older friends and it seems that for every subscriber we lose to the passage of time two take their place. But these aren’t youngsters who are the beginners, these aren’t children that have suddenly started buying COIN NEWS—these are collectors in their 30s and 40s. The new faces don’t belong to schoolboys but businessmen, family men (and in more and more cases these days women too), the young collector is these days not so much young in age as in experience! There are many reasons for this—not least is the money aspect of our hobby, after all this isn’t a cheap pastime and to create a decent collection costs a fair bit these days and is therefore more suited to a collector with a reasonable wage than one who relies just on pocket money. Finance aside there are also other elements to the hobby that just don’t appeal to the “kids” of the 21st century but do have something of an appeal as we mature. Today’s youngsters are bombarded with constant stimuli—from television, from computer games, from ipods, even from their ‘phones. They are the buzzed-up generation, high on life itself and there is no room in their world to sit and study coins, catalogue them, read about them. They want their hobbies to deliver a high adrenaline hit and sadly sitting and reading about milled copper just doesn’t cut it . . . ! Of course, as we get older we yearn for a bit more peace and quiet, we don’t want a life full of images, music and frenetic stimulation, sometimes we realise it’s actually quite pleasant to sit in peace and quiet—what better hobby for that then than one like ours? I’m generalising of course, not everyone under 30 wants a life full of sound and fury and not everyone over that age wants peace and quiet and a nice cup of cocoa but you get my point. For years we’ve been bemoaning the lack of “youngsters” in our hobby without realising that there is new blood coming in, lots of it—it’s just coming in in older packages! I know I’m sounding like something of an old fogey here—talking about the “youth of today” but I think maybe it’s time now to stop worrying that there aren’t any youngsters coming into numismatics and realise that actually there are—they just aren’t quite as young as they were in my day. But then nothing’s the same as “when I were a lad” now is it? In the spirit of encouraging “older” new collectors as well as the younger ones COIN NEWS reader Geoff Simms is once again very generously sponsoring an Essay competition—but this time as well as a prize for under 18s there is also to be a category for those of us slightly longer in the tooth. Look out in October’s COIN NEWS for full details. In the meantime there is still time to vote for your favourite COIN NEWS writer—send in your entry form from the March edition or simply write and tell us. The results will appear in the October issue.
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