Coin News

Volume 46, Number 7, July 2009

Father of modern coinage

Volume 46, Number 7, July 2009

Just A Thought At the end of May the Token Team (well one of us) headed north for Eddie Smith’s regular “Leeds” fair at the Cedar Court Hotel. Despite it being a glorious Summer’s day, and the fact that the York Coin Fair is just around the corner, the turn out was remarkably good and as we always find after this show the car going back down the M1/M42/M5 was lighter than the one that went up! The following week we were off again, this time to the Bloomsbury Holiday Inn for the London Coin Fair (we still think of this as its “new home” despite the fact that it’s been successfully run from there for years now). We started setting up at 8.00am and it wasn’t until 3.30pm that we had time to actually grab something to eat—it really was that busy. These aren’t exceptions, they are very much the rule these days and it’s obvious to anyone in the hobby that whilst times may well be hard “out there” and whilst coin prices may not be as volatile as they have been in the past, our hobby really isn’t feeling the pinch as some other industries are. Of course, I’ve covered this subject before and I won’t harp on about it again, but it is important for us all to note that actually we’re doing OK. Actually we’re doing more than OK at the moment—and not just because of the reasons mentioned here or those outlined last month (see the Editor’s Comment, June 2009). Yes, the coin hobby is having a little surge at the moment; yes, we have investors coming in boosting the coffers; and, yes, the precious metal prices make a difference, but this renaissance actually goes far deeper than many of us might realise. In the past few months, in fact ever since the launch of the new reverse designs for UK coinage last April, coin and banknote stories have surfaced quite a bit in the popular (and not so popular) press—we at COIN NEWS have been involved in a number of stories, appearing on radio and in print on every subject from the patterns on the reverse of various Euros, through the Olympic coin programme and on to, most recently, the launch of a new design for the £50 note. News agencies pick up on these stories, circulate them and before you know it they are everywhere—but there’s a reason for this, and it might surprise you: people, the listeners, the readers, the website surfers are actually interested. No radio station in its right mind will run with a story that has people reaching for the “off” button and no newspaper will devote precious column inches to a piece that won’t attract any attention at all; they run these stories because there is interest in the subject matter and it would do us good to remember that from time to time. For many of us the world of coin collecting is quite a lonely one. If we don’t belong to a numismatic society or regularly visit shows, instead relying on the internet or mail order catalogues to add to our knowledge and our collections, then we may well forget that there actually is a big wide world out there that actually has more than a passing interest in our hobby too. Admittedly the general populace aren’t quite as “geeky” as we might be (oh yes we are, there’s no denying it) and they won’t be quite as obsessive about the details, but nonetheless they ARE interested in the subject just as we are—the launch of the Royal Mint’s Olympic coin programme and the coverage that the related design competition received is testament to that. And that all brings me to a burning question: if the population are interested in reading about coins and notes, if the “investment factor” means that there is a reason to collect other than the slightly “anoraky” ones most of us have developed our collections around; if the internet allows more people to collect and research than ever before, why isn’t the hobby as popular as it used to be? We might be in something of a renaissance right now, and believe you me I’m not knocking it, but we’re still a long way from the heydays of the past and for the life of me I don’t really know why. Right now we should have a “perfect storm”. There is renewed interest in history, coins are seen as good investments, news stories “bigging up” the hobby abound and they are lapped up whenever they appear and yet there are still far, far fewer coin collectors than there were even 30 years ago. The hobby is still seen as the preserve of just a few and as popular pastimes go I can pretty much guarantee it wouldn’t appear in most people’s top 100. Don’t get me wrong: collector numbers are on the increase and maybe I’m just being impatient, expecting this renewed interest in the hobby to snowball faster than it has, but I don’t mind admitting I’m frustrated. I like this hobby, I really enjoy it, and I can’t help thinking that others should be enjoying it too, far more than are already, and I don’t know why they aren’t. Any thoughts?

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