News & Blog

The First VC

Posted on Fri, 1 February 2019 by Karen Needs - Medal News

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Falling in love again HAVING just come back from the York Coin Fair (there is generally a good selection of medals there too—always worth attending, the next one is July 19–20) I was struck by the plethora of new people coming in. These weren’t the traditional coin collectors of old but youngsters, families, a whole raft of new fresh faces all eager to see what was on offer. Generally they were after one thing—new issues. The Beatrix Potter and other 50 pence pieces coming out of the Mint have encouraged people to collect again and whilst some of the dealers who were stalling out didn’t benefit from this new found enthusiasm as much as others, there was a definite buzz in the room on both days and one dealer who specialises in Celtic, Roman and Saxon coins even told us that he had a collector buy from him because he’d started collecting new issues and was now “really into coins”. After a decade or two of indifference to collecting (the last big craze before the advent of smart phones was probably Beanie Babies, before that phone cards) it seems the public is once again falling in love with the idea of putting together a collection, of hunting for things (other than digital Pokémon!). In the coin world at least collecting is cool again. This is great for the numismatists, even those who aren’t interested in new issues will appreciate that bringing in new collectors to the hobby has to be a good thing, and even those who dismiss the shiny Peter Rabbits and Paddingtons as mere gewgaws accept that, for some, they can be a doorway into the world of more “serious” coins. This being the case how, I wonder, can we tap into this new love of collecting in the medal world? The Royal Mint has been instrumental in creating this new craze for coins by producing designs that appeal across the spectrum but we can hardly expect the MOD and Worcestershire Medals to start producing new decorations just for the collector market now can we? Perhaps a renewed interest in military history may be the way forward but the issue we have with that is these days you’re walking a fine line. I am writing this “Comment” on January 22, exactly 140 years after the Battle of Isandhlwana and the start of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift but it is also exactly one year since Transport for London (TfL) were “forced” to apologise for marking the occasion by daring to mention it on a whiteboard outside a tube station. The heinous crime of suggesting that the defenders of Rorke’s Drift were heroes rather than blood sucking Imperialists caused one woman to complain that TfL were glorifying Colonialism and that set the Twittersphere into a frenzy, with certain twits whipped up into such furious indignation at the thought of white men being praised for killing black men (that’s how binary and blinkered it became) that TfL not only apologised but also insisted their staff would be instructed on what is appropriate and what is not. In this day and age, it seems, it is a brave man (or woman, or non-gender specific person) that dare risk the wrath of social media by suggesting that anything from our military past be praised in any way (apart from perhaps defeating the Nazis, who these days seem to be treated as a separate people all on their own and nothing to do with Germany at all). So if we can’t go down the military history route necessarily, and can’t ask to have collector medals produced like Beanie Babies (and nor should we by the way, I am in no way advocating that!) what can we do? For a while I thought the Family Historians would bring a whole raft of new collectors into our hobby, and for a while they did, but, quite naturally, these collectors were only interested in their Uncle Bill and his medals and not necessarily other, wider, aspects of phaleristics. The investors popped in for a bit but soon popped out again (and no bad thing, nobody wants to see medal prices increasing so much that “ordinary” collectors can’t afford them) and now we are left with just us, the die-hards (or blow-hards!), the “serious” collectors, the medal “community” and that’s great. In the main we are a nice bunch, pleasant people to be around who are always helping each other out and ready to go the extra mile, but I am afraid it isn’t enough. We need new blood, we really do, I for one love this hobby and don’t want to see it dwindle as we all get older, so I am asking you all, every reader of this magazine, every collector out there, to think long and hard about the future, about how we can encourage new collectors,. The public is falling in love with collecting again. Let’s help them fall in love with medals.