Gold Coin for a Celtic King
Volume 57, Number 7, July 2020
Cashing out ONE of the knock on effects of the Coronavirus pandemic has been the reduction in cash use. Those shops that have stayed open have either discouraged people spending notes and coins or banned them completely. Ostensibly this aversion to cash has been to help “stop the spread” of the virus which, apparently, can live on surfaces for a day, or three days, or seven, or maybe not at all depending on which study you read. This seems fine, sensible even, until you start looking at the logic of it. You go in to a supermarket, you take down items from a shelf, items that may well have been handled by dozens of other people that day, you then put the item on the belt for the cashier to scan or hand it directly to them. At this point, one assumes, any virus that you, or the others who handled the product, might have had on your hands would be transferred to the poor shop assistant but then, when you come to pay you are told you cannot hand over good old fashioned money because you may endanger said staff member, instead you have to pay by card. This being the case I cannot help but think the increasing reluctance to handle cash has got nothing to do with the “spread” and everything to do with ease of use for the stores, regardless of whether it is good for the customer or not. If they eliminate cash they eliminate the need to bank, don’t need to worry about thefts or counterfeits and security suddenly become a lot easier. Personally I feel the rush towards a cashless society is a dangerous one, I’m averse to having every single transaction logged and potentially monitored (“sorry sir your card has been declined, apparently you’ve had enough beer this evening”) and worse if we ever get to a position of negative interest rates there is every possibility that the Government or the banks could simply swoop in and take some of your savings. They did it in Cyprus in 2013 in the so called “haircut” and with the inevitable recession that’s coming in the aftermath of the lockdown who’s to say what measures might be taken? If cash is still a thing when these measures are proposed, then we are able to withdraw it and so avoid any “haircut”; if it no longer exists and all money is merely electronic, there is simply nowhere to hide and we have to accept whatever reduction in our savings the Government/banks see fit to impose. What though have my personal views got to do with our hobby? Well, for a simple answer I draw your attention to cards: post-, phone- and cigarette-. Each one of those has, in the past, enjoyed a huge following of collectors: thousands of people would eagerly seek out the pieces missing from their collections, swap with others, attend shows to search out the bargains. All three were very, very popular in their time. Now, though things are different, the phone card bubble burst two decades ago, cigarette cards have been on the wane for far longer and postcards just don’t attract the following they once did—but why? Simply because none of these things is readily available anymore? OK, you can still buy postcards but when was the last time you saw a stand of them outside a shop like you did when you were a child? In the age of Facebook and Instagram why send a generic shot of your holiday resort when your followers and friends can see an actual photo of you there? Cigarette cards haven’t been around since the 1940s and phone cards died out with the advent of the mobile. Don’t get me wrong, these things are all still collected, there are still people out there buying, selling and trading, but not in any way to the same extent they were, and one of the reasons for this is because there’s nothing to spark the interest of new collectors. Whether you approve of the large number of new issues that have been coming out of the Royal Mint in recent years or not, there is no denying that programmes like the Olympic coins and the Children’s Classics range have caught the imagination and have encouraged people to start looking at their change again. Not since before decimalisation has there been such an interest in the coins in our pockets and there can be no doubt that this interest in everyday coins has, in many cases, led on to a desire to look deeper into the world of numismatics. If we remove that gateway in to our hobby, if we take away cash so that it just isn’t part of life then it is inevitable that our hobby will suffer. So my plea this month, as things start to get back to normal, is to try to persuade your local shops to start taking cash again, and patronise those who readily accept it over those who would treat you as a pariah if you dare to try to pay with it. Just don’t fall in to the trap of insisting that they have to accept coin of the realm as it’s “legal tender”. The term is only relevant in the payment of a legal debt and has nothing to do with what a shop must or must not accept. That they should accept it if they want to stay in business used to be a given, but nothing seems to make much sense at the moment so shops refusing money fits in perfectly!
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