By Royal Command
Volume 46, Number 9, September 2009
Mule madness... I have long maintained that the hobby of coin collecting is far larger than any of us realise. We know how many COIN NEWS readers we have, know how many people buy the COINYEARBOOK each year, know how many people buy our coin accessories, know how many people attend fairs and how many buy at auction (there’s naturally a huge crossover but not always), but I have never believed that to be the true picture. A few weeks ago the Mail on Sunday ran an article about the 1983 2p and the current craze of the undated 20p, in that article they suggested that anyone wishing to know more about coins or collecting could contact us at Token Publishing for a free sample copy of COIN NEWS. We were inundated. On the Monday after the newspaper came out there were 278 messages on our answer phone and as many emails—all requesting samples. Throughout that day the ‘phone didn’t stop and every member of staff (with the exception of Phil who had somehow managed to arrange a holiday for that week—did he know something we didn’t?) was fl at out taking names and addresses. The same thing happened the next day, and the next, and the next and the next—throughout that week all we did was take names and addresses, stuff envelopes with magazines and despatch them out to the eager public, budding coin collectors all. And it didn’t stop there. The next week was just the same, 100 calls a day or more and, as I write this “Comment” four weeks after the paper was published, the calls are still coming in (why someone would keep a Sunday paper for four weeks is beyond me). To date we have despatched nearly 2,500 samples of the magazine (we rapidly ran out of our usual “sample copies”, the overs we always produce as “giveaways” and had to send out back issues stretching back months and increase the August print run just to keep up with demand) and that is without counting the hundreds who were happy to receive a digital only version. Of course the vast majority of these requests will come to nothing—most of those asking for the magazines being more interested in seeing how to make a fast buck from Royal Mint errors than in the intricacies of numismatics, but already many have borne fruit. We have dozens of new subscribers come in off the back of the giveaway and have now sold out of our (reprinted) COIN YEARBOOK 2009 as people who hadn’t really thought about it before suddenly realised that actually yes, they DO have an interest in coins. This, of course, is our biggest problem. In the real, non-numismatic, world there are thousands, hundreds of thousands, of people who have coin collections. They may be old pre-decimal pennies sitting in a jar or foreign coins brought back from long forgotten trips, they may not be worth anything at all but they are collections—and the people hoarding them are, by definition, coin collectors—but if you tried to tell them that they’d laugh at you. If you don’t believe me ask yourself this—how often have you been with friends and mentioned your hobby only to have them look at you oddly at first, laugh and ask where your anorak is, only to then confess that they too have some old coins somewhere that “maybe you could take a look at sometime”? It happens to us all and is proof, if proof were needed, that the coin world really is far bigger than any of us may think. This theory is backed up by the fact that whenever there is a coin related story (take the 20p for example) it runs and runs—with most of the papers and much of the audio-visual media picking up on it too. So if this is the case why aren’t we selling hundreds of thousands of magazines? Why aren’t the coin fairs turning people away? Where are all these collectors? We know they exist so why do we never hear of them? Sadly I fear we only have ourselves to blame—whether we like it or not we are seen as a little bit too “nerdy” to be “mainstream”, our obsession with die-flaws, over-dates and varieties is too much for the man in the street, he just wants to collect coins because they remind him of his holidays or because they might be worth something one day. He isn’t interested in the minutiae of long cross pennies, the mintmarks on Charles II halfcrowns or tide variations on Edward VII pennies—he just has a few coins in a jar somewhere and doesn’t really think about them much until he’s reminded to by his Sunday paper. But the thing is he could think about them more—all it will take is a little nudge, all that’s needed is for someone to tell him how interesting these things can be. So next time one of your friends says he has some coins he’d like you to look at, don’t glance at them and tell him it is all rubbish (we are all guilty of that—you know we are) just because there is nothing of real numismatic interest or value. Instead take sometime to explain to him, in un-nerd like language please, why these little pieces of metal are so interesting to you and maybe, just maybe, he will start to see things the way you do. The Mail on Sunday and the television coverage recently, has proved that there are many, many more collectors out there than we ever realised. Let’s try not to scare them off!
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