Collection of a King
Volume 56, Number 1, January 2019
Giants of the hobby OK so how did it get to be January 2019 already? What sort of date is that? It’s ludicrous, a science fiction date. How on earth are we already 19 years past the millennium? Are you perhaps finding, as I am, that each year goes by more rapidly than the last? It’s getting kind of scary now isn’t it? It makes no sense at all and I simply do not understand how we are two decades in to the 21st century (if this Christmas is anything to go by we will be talking about the build up to the 22nd century sometime around 2024). Of course, the fast pace of modern life isn’t helping very much, everything seems to be going by at twice the speed it used to and everything is instant these days. Everybody wants things now, straight away: instant music, instant films, instant meals, instant love, everything at the touch of a button, the swipe of an app with nobody prepared to wait around, put in the leg work or make an effort like they used to. This being the case you have to wonder how a hobby like coin collecting is going to survive long term—after all this isn’t exactly what you’d call an “instant” hobby. True if you collect modern coins you can just buy them on-line quite easily, a click here and a credit card there and you can get whatever you want, and that’s great if you want BU or proof, but it isn’t much fun if you just want an example of everything (most of the new breed of collectors tell us that searching for Peter Rabbit et al in their change is what drew them into the hobby in the first place) and it certainly doesn’t work for every aspect of numismatics. If you are collecting die varieties, date runs, denominations across the years in EF or better (or whatever) it may be months, even years between acquisitions with hours spent scouring lists, fairs and websites desperately searching for that missing piece and it is that patience, that ability to wait until what you want finally comes along, that actually what makes this hobby what it is. I have spoken before about the joy of the “hunt”, how the search is what makes this hobby fun, but there is another side to that patience that benefits us all. That side is aptly summed up on the edge of our £2 coin with the paraphrased quote from one time Master of the Mint Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. It is because of the giants of this hobby, numismatists like the late Michael Metcalf (see “News and Views”) and, of course, those still with us, that we are able to further our own studies, learn more to help us enjoy our own collections. These men and women have worked tirelessly over the years, researching, recording, writing so that we may know more about the coins we now own, and those we may only ever hope to own, and it is their endeavours that have enriched numismatics for us all. Most of us are, I am sure you will freely admit, simply collectors. We catalogue our coins certainly but usually only for our own benefit; we read up on them yes, but often only to enhance the experience of owning them; we check for hitherto unknown rarities amongst our collection but probably only because we think it might enhance its value; we rarely take it further. Others, however, do—they spend their time diligently researching, patiently inquiring, dutifully recording and thank goodness they do. In this instant world, where many don’t bother to take the time to do anything if they don’t get immediate results, we should be extremely grateful that there are people still prepared to be patient, prepared to learn, prepared to study so that others may benefit. The chances are that those who do the research will never meet the collectors who benefit from their work, will never see how their work has helped others but that’s OK. Most of the “giants” of this hobby didn’t spend all that time and effort for praise or thanks, they did it because it needed to be done, they were in a position to do it and they knew it would help others in the future. So, as yet another year starts and we once again marvel at how quickly time is passing, it is worth taking a moment to realise that there are people who are prepared to use some of that precious time to help us all, to further our understanding of coins, and the hobby in general, for the good of everyone. We really do owe them a great deal.
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