Coins of Le Chameau
Volume 46, Number 3, March 2009
Every cloud . . . WELL that’s it then, global meltdown, the end of capitalism, society is on the brink and the world as we know it is about to be swept aside. As we go to press with this edition in mid February 2009 we know that most of the “developed” world is in recession and most of the developing world is struggling to cope now that their own mini-booms are over. This was of course inevitable—ever since the seven fat cows and seven thin cows of the Joseph and his Technicolour dream-coat story in the Old Testament the world has experienced cycles of boom and bust, of good times and bad—despite any politicians insisting they’ve made such scenarios a thing of the past! Look back down the years and you’ll see a pattern emerging, of prosperity followed by paucity. This particular recession is just history repeating itself and anyone with an ounce of economic sense could have told you that it, or something like it, was the logical conclusion to a decade or more of unprecedented expansion. The media, of course, are making it worse, in this age of 24 hour global communications the slightest bit of bad news is jumped upon almost gleefully by the news agencies and made ten times worse by sensationalist reporting, making us all feel that this particular downturn is affecting us far harder and deeper than any before it. Any piece of good news is conveniently played down, or completely ignored, and we are all left feeling that there is no hope and that we may all just give up now. The media, it seems, isn’t suggesting that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train but rather a searing fireball destined to burn away the very fabric of society as we know it. But that simply isn’t true, there are some pieces of good news . . . it isn’t all doom and gloom and whilst, yes, things may well be tough at times, there are also reasons to be cheerful—in our hobby more so than many other places. Of course, you may well think I’ve gone completely mad: “good news? In this day and age?” Well actually, yes. The first thing to look at is the most obvious—the fact that there are still an awful lot of people out there who do have money. They’ve swiftly removed their savings from any Icelandic banks still standing, sold off their ailing shares and closed their Northern Rock accounts. So what do they do with it? Well there’s no point in just putting it in a bank, they hardly seem safe and if they are they are offering ridiculously low returns. No point in buying Premium Bonds now the prize fund is slashed, and property is still decidedly iffy (that’s if they can get a mortgage with the banks apparently using our money to shore up their books rather than actually lend to anyone). So it seems that those who do still have some spare cash are once more turning to good old fashioned assets like collectables, gold and the like, and money continues to come into our hobby at a very healthy rate. Now we never encourage outright investment in coins, as you know we far prefer that people collect for enjoyment rather than with a view to making a profit, but let’s be frank about this, the way things are we’re not about to start actively turning away those who want to spend cold hard cash now are we? Needs must . . . as the saying goes . . . ! So on the one hand you have people actively buying coins, at a time when they aren’t buying much else, and on the other you have people actively looking to sell them. As times get tougher so we see more and more people looking to sell off bits and bobs, eager to make a bit of spare cash to cushion the impact of any prolonged downturn; often those “bits and bobs” will include coins and banknotes, hidden away for years when the collecting bug left them or else handed down by a now long gone collector and never really looked at until now. Unfortunately most of these jam-jars, cigar boxes and the like yield little except disappointment, but every now and then gems do turn up and so for the first time in years new coins are coming onto the market in stronger numbers. For the last seven or eight years the major complaint we have heard from dealers has been the lack of stock coming into the hobby—they had the buyers but they just couldn’t find the coins to sell to them. That’s still the case, there is certainly not a glut of decent material, but some pieces are surfacing as old collections are dusted off and sold on and so a few collectors at least may well benefit. In addition to these very compelling reasons to look on the bright side of this whole recession business we also have some very interesting side effects of the “crunch”, all of which will benefit us in the long run. Take for example the latest “Provincial Pound” in Lewes that made the national news recently. Following the success of the “Totnes Pound” and its almost protectionist basis of keeping money within the town, it seems other places are eager to print their own currency for use within their own area—an interesting combination of provincial banking and trade tokens. It’s something engaging people’s interest now and also has huge potential for the collectors of the future. We also have the prospect of Pound/Euro parity, something that has once again ignited the fire of debate on the whole single currency issue and has got the national media once more talking about the coins and notes in our pockets. OK, so if you’re about to lose your job such things as these pale into insignificance and I accept that for many out there things will be looking bleak. But for those of us who aren’t facing the full brunt of this downturn and are instead just being constantly worried by what we see on TV and in the papers, it’s worth remembering that it isn’t all bad and that if you look hard enough every cloud has a silver lining—or a gold one!
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