The following is re-posted from the “Bowers on Collecting” column on Coin Update
Recently, I have been going through old Coin World columns and other items in connection with writing my autobiography. I came across this, published in Coin World in June 1995 (if you don’t subscribe to this newspaper, you should; plus, you might enjoy my weekly “The Joy of Collecting” column, which has been running there since 1961!)
It’s A Wonderful Hobby
Today, when I came into the office, a fax was waiting for me from Joseph E. Boling, a candidate for the ANA Board of Governors and—important to this week’s commentary—a reader of this column. Or, at least, a reader of the headlines of this column.
Thank you for using the word HOBBY in the title of your June 19 Coin World column, instead of INDUSTRY. I detest the use of the latter word in conjunction with numismatics.
Industries have their part in America, as in the Industrial Revolution and, some say, in the military-industrial complex. When I think of an industry, I think of long rows of metal-clad buildings with smokestacks, tractor-trailer trucks loading and unloading, and warehouses full of manufactured goods.
When I think of numismatics, I think of a man, woman, or child curled up in a comfy overstuffed chair with a few coins, a book or two, and a magnifying glass, trying to understand the significance of the design on a 1936 Delaware Tercentenary half dollar, trying to read the inscriptions on a worn 1787 copper something-or-other from Machin’s Mills in Newburgh, NY, or simply appreciating the motif of the History Instructing Youth vignette on a $1 bill of 1896.
I certainly don’t think of smokestacks!
In the quest for self-identification, the coin HOBBY a few years ago thought it would be more impressive and perhaps attract more notice if it were the COIN INDUSTRY. Perhaps senators and congressmen contemplating changes in IRA plans, or state legislators intending to levy sales taxes on our dear Saint-Gaudens double eagles, would take more notice if the COIN INDUSTRY spoke up.
Quite forgotten is the fact that hobbies, including numismatics, are close to the heart. A hobby such as coins helps to make life worthwhile for many “captains of industry” who own sprawling smokestack-studded factories. For such industrialists, moments of pleasure are in contemplating their coin collections. Industries are a means to an end, a way to earn a living. The coin hobby is one of those ends that means are for!
Think about it. Envision things that are close to the enjoyment aspect of your life. A list might include loved ones, vacation times, interesting books awaiting a leisure hour to read them, sentimental photographs, perhaps a motorcycle or powerboat, a camper-trailer, a weekend in the big city to see a play or hear a concert, and a collection of rare coins.
The latter—rare coins gathered one by one as part of a meaningful collection—are like having a museum in your own home or office. Before you are many things. Where was that 1864 copper-nickel Indian cent during the Civil War? What did Laura Gardin Fraser and her husband, James Earle Fraser, consider as other possibilities when they designed the 1926 Oregon Trail commemorative half dollar? How did Victor D. Brenner feel when his V.D.B. initials were summarily removed from the reverse of the 1909 cent?
The other day, I received a telephone call from an industrialist—he owns a factory in the Midwest—who had just entered coin collecting. The first thing he bought—and this was from a local coin shop—was a like-new 1943 zinc-coated steel cent for $4. He thought this was the greatest thing since sliced bread and was enthusiastic that such a low price could net him such a historical item. He was and is set to enjoy the hobby of coins.
I have always liked the comment, hardly original with me, that “Coins are the world’s greatest hobby.” What the “world’s greatest industry” is, I don’t know, except that it is not numismatics.