Coin of the Realm

Some of the coins (and the bag) I got from my grab-bag deal

On a whim, I bought a grab-bag full of coins.

I happened to be on a site that sells coins anyway for other reasons, and this package caught my eye: an assortment of random coins from around the world sold by weight, available in 1/2-pound, 1-pound, and 5-pound lots. It was like candy to someone like me.

I am HIGHLY susceptible to the collecting bug. In my life so far I’ve collected: stamps, beer cans, baseball cards, a number of trading card games from the early days of Magic the Gathering, action figures, dice, (gamer!) and Pokemon (in the framework of the Pokemon GO app on my phone.) There may be others I’ve forgotten. Possibly MANY others.

I got started with stamps: one year for Christmas my parents gave me a stamp album, and handed me tins and shoeboxes full of stamps saved by my grandparents and parents for years. Most were US stamps from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, but there were also a handful of postcards from exotic places sent by friends and relatives, and, near the bottom, several stamps bearing the face of Adolph Hitler. A relative named Louis P. Lochner was a foreign correspondent in Germany during the 1930s before he was “asked” to leave by the German government; those stamps likely came from him.

I was fascinated, and totally hooked. I spent hours pouring over maps finding the places from which some of the more obscure stamps originated.

Which brings me back to the bag of coins. The coins were of the “the more you buy, the cheaper they become per unit” kind of deal, so I splurged on the 1-pound bag. The two largest groups were from one of two places: either the former Yugoslavia or New Guinea. In my time collecting stamps, I learned that some countries use their stamp issues to fund the nation’s infrastructure – the Vatican and many Africa and Caribbean nations issue stamps specifically honoring United States people and subjects to appeal to collectors. It seems likely that coins may serve the same purpose, though perhaps to a lesser degree.

Traveling has allowed me to amass some interesting coins too; trips to Europe pre- European Union yielded a large number of coins that I kept. I was at one point thinking that the Marks, Pounds, and Francs coins I had might be valuable until I found a number of the same coins in this grab-bag. Folks, coin (and stamp) collecting marketplaces like these aren’t stupid: they know what they have, and they know what’s valuable, and they certainly wouldn’t put more than one or two rarities in a grab-bag of cheap coins. It’s like most things produced en masse: they aren’t really valuable until there aren’t many of them left. The comic books featuring the first appearance of Batman and Superman are only valuable because of all the pulp paper drives held during World War Two; most of those comic books were recycled back then, making the few that remain today worth a fortune. It takes years for such things to occur naturally, so many of the collecting booms of the 1990s – when people with too much money and too little sense invested in new (at the time) comic books, expecting them to double in value practically overnight, got bad investing advice from people who probably had their own agenda. It almost never works like that when production levels are in the hundreds of thousands of units.

Anyway, I had fun spending an hour or two sifting through this bag of coins to see what countries’ coins were in it. Honestly, there was a nice mix – probable 50 countries were represented – though I’ll admit the fact that they threw in four US pennies made me a little salty over just how cheap these coin purveyors really were. It was still cheap fun, and while I’m not likely to take up coin collecting in a serious way, this would certainly be a fun way to get started in the hobby. If you want to know where I got this deal, ask me – that would save you the trouble I’m in now, where every other ad I see – on Facebook and elsewhere – is for a different coin company!

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