The following is a re-post from Q. David Bowers’s “Bowers on Collecting” weekly column on Coin Update.
I enjoy coins, tokens, medals, and paper money in actuality — buying, selling, studying. Equally, if not more so, I enjoy coin people, events, and the community of numismatics. My life has been enhanced immeasurably. In this vein, I share comments made by Arthur B. Coover 111 years ago in The Numismatist in September 1908:
A well-conducted hobby is a necessary auxiliary to every man’s business or profession. To the businessman, the professional man, the man who does the hardest kind of labor, the possession of a hobby is a safety valve by which he eases the strain and pressure brought to bear upon the various parts of the body. To the man who spends a stated number of hours each day in the pursuit of his profession or trade, a few minutes, or hours, spent in a different line of thought, will rest, as nothing else will, the various nerve centers which are soon run down by long continued use.
Coover was hardly the first to suggest numismatics as a passport to a world apart from crises. Ebenezer L. Mason, Jr., wrote this decades earlier in June 1867, suggesting that the activity is “ennobling”:
Numismatics, while no doubt an expensive hobby, is the most harmless and the most educating and refining in its influences, that one could pursue. Ennobling, by leading one to pursue his investigations into history and the arts, it is engrossing and all pervading. The numismatist thinks of nothing but rare coins, muses on them, dreams of them. His enjoyment involves all species of pleasure and mental excitement. He is a sportsman, a gamester, an artist, a detective, a critic, an expert. He follows the scent of a rare coin as a hound does that of a rabbit, and Is never satisfied till he has traced it to its burrow. The passions excited are ambition, hope, desire and envy, but never to any extent to be injurious.
Your true numismatist is usually a man of gentlemanly instincts and scholarly attainments. His associations are with men who think, reason, compare, sift evidence and judge. He is little likely to be gulled, being always on the lookout for counterfeits; still less likely to deceive others, having a wholesome contempt for base fabrication. On the whole, this hobby is one which should be encouraged, because it leads the workings of the mind into proper channels, trains the faculties, and educates and encourages a sound, healthful taste for the aesthetic.
Such sentiments were not a substitute for reality in 1867, nor were they in 1908, nor are they today. However, the pursuit of the hobby can bring enjoyment and contentment today, as then.