Volume 43, Number 7, July 2006
By the time most of you read this the UK (well the English bit of it) will either be in a state of euphoria and expectation or hollow dejectedness. Either the country will be decked out in red and white or not a flag will be seen for yes, by the time this magazine hits the newsstands or subscribers’ doorsteps, we will know whether England are through to the final stages of the FIFA World Cup (football in case you hadn’t been awake for the past few months) or whether our national team has once again failed to come up with the goods and has crashed out in yet another dismal penalty shoot out. Will we be glued to our TV screens in desperate hope and excitement or will the mere mention of the world cup bring forth howls of derision and a thousand comments from a thousand different armchair pundits? As I sit here writing this I have no idea – as ever, only time will tell. What, you may ask, has this to do with coins? Well actually quite a lot – it’s June now and the World Cup Bandwagon has been rolling for a fair few months and on it are all manner of football associated products and amongst them, as always, are coins. Even a current Radio 2 trailer mentions the fact that the World Cup isn’t about football but rather it’s “about collecting coins with no monetary value” and sure enough once again a plethora of such material abounds. Surprisingly there are no “World Cup medals” on offer from major supermarkets this time around (remember Sainsbury’s Medallions four years ago?) but that doesn’t mean there aren’t 1001 numismatic products to choose from. A cursory glance at any Mint’s catalogue or any internet auction house and sure enough there they are. For the British Isles Guernsey has it’s “Official 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany” £5 coins; Germany, of course has a variety of €10 and €100 commemoratives; the Australian Mints have produced a variety of pieces (including a very neat “holey dollar and dump” in silver from the Perth Mint which has the “dump” centre as a football surrounded by a frieze of players on the “holey dollar”. The Royal Canadian Mint too has a issued a silver commemorative – and Canada aren’t even playing in the Tournament! However even that example isn’t quite as over the top as the Republic of Belarus who are not only not playing but have actually had their silver proof 20 rouble coin commemorating the 2006 world cup since 2002! Not to be out done even the host cities themselves have had produced coin sets – for example Kaiserslautern, the smallest of the twelve cities holding games has minted two three coin sets (one in 2004, one last year and available in copper/nickel, silver and gold) – coins described on their website as “shiny ambassadors”…..! Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg - a huge number of other countries, both those taking part and those staying at home have produced an amazing array of coins (and that doesn’t take into account the “non-coin” coins like the “faith coin” I found on eBay this morning – a “coin” that the manufacturer assures us will one day be worth a fortune and is sure to appear on “Flog It”). Strangely though the British Royal Mint has remained aloof from this frenzy (at least for UK coins – only the Guernsey one seems to have been struck), is this a good sign? (After all they produced a Rugby World Cup coin in 1995 and 1999 and we didn’t fulfil our potential, they didn’t in 2003 and we won) or is it simply because they are based in Wales?! Actually the point of this comment wasn’t to showcase the various products on offer but to once again pass comment on just what an all encompassing hobby ours really is. Right now, as you read this, there are hundreds, if not thousands of eager collectors all snapping up as many of the available coins as they can. Whole collections of these things are being built up day by day and vast numbers of coins, far more than are ever sold at any coin fair, are being sold to people who, to put it bluntly, would be horrified to think they were coin collectors. But they are. No matter what their motivation, no matter that the coins are simply a by-product of the biggest bandwagon for years, no matter that once this is all over most of those collections will never see the light of day again (well until 2010 when they’ll be pulled out and sold to fund the purchase of the next lot!) and no matter that the fact they are coins is irrelevant and as long as it had the words “FIFA WORLD CUP” or a picture of a football on it then it would sell; what matters is that suddenly the ranks of our hobby have swelled. True they will shrink again after July 9 but maybe, just maybe with a bit of encouragement from “proper collectors” a bit of advice here and there we might find one or two of those who are collecting “football coins” now might go on to collect “real” coins in the fullness of time – it’s a long shot but, as David Beckham’s free kicks prove, sometimes they pay off.
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