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A different way to collect coins

Updated on December 21, 2014
Pcunix profile image

I was born in 1948 and spent most of my career as a self employed computer trouble shooter for Unix systems.

The pocket coin collection

The coins you see here are kept in my pocket. They are just loose, sliding and bumping into each other as I walk. They are neither rare nor valuable, but in some ways I enjoy them more than the coins in my "real" collection. Those other coins are often encased in plastic to protect them from damage and sleep for years in a safe deposit box. If they aren't stored that way, I still need to handle them carefully, probably while wearing cotton gloves. Because of all that, I mostly enjoy them from photos I took before putting them away - I can't touch them.

Part of my pocket coin collection as of December 2014
Part of my pocket coin collection as of December 2014

These coins in my pocket are very different. I can jingle them around as I walk. I can pull one out and feel its cold surface. I can bounce the larger coins together and hear the sweet sound of silver, music I have not heard since silver coins went out of circulation in the 1960s.

I can hand one of these coins to anyone who is interested and not have to ask them to hold it carefully. I don't have to worry that they might drop it. While it might be annoying if the coins were stolen, it would not be a great financial loss and I could easily and quickly recreate the collection.

This collection is up close and personal. It's meant to be to touched, to be handled. As some might say, it's just "keeping it real".

1929 Thurston Token
1929 Thurston Token

How it began

The germ of this collection started when I bought the "Thurston The Magician" token shown here.

You can Google to learn more about Thurston, but in a short version he was the last of the great stage magic acts. Motion pictures killed of the demand for such shows and it is only recently that they have regained popularity. It is said that Thurston's act required eight to ten freight cars to carry it from city to city.

Thurston's agents would give out these tokens to advertise the show. I bought it because I remember my father mentioning that he had attended one of Thurston's shows. He never mentioned having a token like this, but Thurston's last full show was in Boston in 1931. My father would have been 17, and was living near to Boston then, so that may have been the one he saw. In any case, I felt the token was an interesting way to remember my Dad and began carrying it in my pocket.

1804 Dollar Replica
1804 Dollar Replica | Source

The 1804 Dollar

It joined another coin that was already there: a replica of an 1804 Silver Dollar.

The 1804 dollar is known as "The King of American Coins". There are dark secrets and interesting historical details that surround these coins; probably none were actually made in 1804, but a few were made in the 1830's as part of presentations to foreign dignitaries like the King of Siam. Later, in the late 1850s, more were illegally made by mint employees. There's a very interesting book that explains all of that and more.

I bought that replica simply as a symbol of my interest in coin collecting. As a boy, I could go to my local bank and trade paper dollars for silver dollars. I knew enough about coins to know I'd never get an 1804, but it was possible to get rarer dates and although my budget was limited, i enjoyed that hunt.

Do you carry any pocket pieces?

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1883 Dollar
1883 Dollar | Source

What might my dad have had in his pocket?

I started thinking about what my father might have had in his change pocket if it was that 1931 Thurston show that he attended. Obviously he would have had the coins of the time: Standing Liberty Quarters, Walking Liberty halves, Lincoln pennies and Buffalo nickels. He might have had a few silver dollars, too, though not many as a dollar had a lot of purchasing power back then.

I pulled out a few Mercury dimes I had found in bank rolls years ago and added them to my pocket. Of course my Dad's would not have been so worn, but I'm thinking symbolically, not literally.

While I have a number of old silver dollars in my real collection, they are all encapsulated and too valuable to carry in my pocket. I was able to find a beat up Morgan Dollar on eBay for not much more than its silver value, so I added that to my pocket collection.

My pocket coin collection was starting to be interesting.

Nickels and Dimes and Pennies

As Indian Head cents and Barber coins still turned up in change now and then even when I was a boy in the 1950s, I had to add a few of those, so it was back to eBay for more junk hunting. I probably overpaid for some of the lots I bought, but it's such a small amount of money I really didn't care.

It did feel a little strange that some of the coins - most, in fact - arrived carefully sealed in cardboard holders with dates and mint marks carefully penned in. I just ripped those apart, releasing the coins to once again join their brethren in my pocket!

I'm not quite finished. There are still a few pieces I want to add. I want to get a few coins dated 1914, the year of his birth. None of those will be hard to find or expensive; I simply haven't gotten around to looking for them yet. I remember telling my father about the value of a 1914-D penny (one of the more difficult and expensive coins). He found it amusing that a coin from his birth year could be worth so much.

But I have enough now to consider it a real collection and I do enjoy having it!

Other Themes

While my collection is focused on what my Dad might have taken to that Thurston Magic show, a pocket coin collection could be based on anything. You could collect coins from World War II, coins of the 1960s or really any period that is significant to you. Some collections will be more expensive than others, of course. A collection representing Colonial America would be very difficult, though still possible with low grade coins. A Civil War collection wouldn't be out of the reach of most collectors. Even the purse of a Roman soldier of Caesar's time would not require a great fortune!

Coins from your year of birth are another way to go. The point is to be meaningful to you without incurring great expense. There are no rules unless you impose them yourself!

A young collector?

This might be a fun way to interest a young child in collecting. It can be a wonderful lifetime hobby that combines history, politics, art and economics - a true numismatist (someone who studies coins) can branch into many other areas while retaining an interest in money.

You might, for example, assemble representative examples of the coins that would have been in your pocket when you were the same age as the child. That is probably easy to do - if you are young, those coins may still be in circulation. Give them to the child, explaining why they mean something to you. You might just be giving them a gift they will remember and enjoy all their life!

The sound of silver

I mentioned above that i really enjoy the sound the silver coins make when I handle them. It's quite distinctive - silver coins produce a musical note while today's coins just "clunk" flatly.

I tried to make a video that would highlight the difference, but my older iPhone camera microphone isn't sensitive enough to record that. I instead found this video on Youtube which demonstrates the sound from silver coins of varying purity.

Silver Coin Ping Test


Submit a Comment

  • Austinstar profile image


    3 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Texans are just about to vote in the new open carry law now that Gregg Abbott is in office. I'll finally be able to use that cool leather holster for my six shooter! LOL

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    3 years ago from SE MA

    And exactly where do you live and what time do you go to bed? Any dogs or large cats? Just idle curiosity, of course :)

  • Austinstar profile image


    3 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Yes, someone told me to put my silver dollars outside for New Year's Eve night as kind of a fung shui way to make your money grow in the New Year. It's just a superstition, of course. But fun.

    I don't live in a neighborhood where anyone would happen to come across my back deck, so I just lay the coins out on the hand rails overnight. Not all of my coins, just a couple of silver dollars.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    3 years ago from SE MA

    I did an article on type set collecting here once, but it performed poorly so I took it down. It will eventually be republished at my coin blog.

  • Perspycacious profile image

    Demas W Jasper 

    3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

    Numismatists deal in coin of the realm. So few Americans know anything of what their country's coins have been. A mover stole my type collection, but a great article could be done on those to illustrate some history of America's coins, and need not be illustrated by the more valuable ones. Perhaps you have done that Hub already?

    Anyone interested in coin collecting could get a good start by reading the Hub articles on the subject. They would give the interested persons a good head start.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    3 years ago from SE MA

    I've never heard of putting silver on deck!

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    3 years ago from SE MA

    It's called a "Morgan" because George T. Morgan was the designer. The next series that started in 1921 is called the "Peace" dollar because its design symbolizes peace after WW I

  • Austinstar profile image


    3 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Being as how most women's clothing doesn't have "pockets", it's hard to carry around jingly coins. It does sound like fun, though. I used to carry a One Peso paper bill in my wallet all the time because it is one of the most beautiful examples of paper money that I have ever seen. It's a very rare piece of paper money now, so I finally added it to my coin collection in the box.

    I like to take my coin collection out every New Year's Eve and put my silver coins out on the deck overnight. It's a tradition for luck that a friend of mine told me about. Since I don't really believe in "luck", I just find it a fun little way to review my collection every year.

  • NateB11 profile image

    Nathan Bernardo 

    3 years ago from California, United States of America

    This is very interesting to me. I'm not an avid collector and I don't have knowledge of the subject, but I like coins; the looks, the feel of them. I do have a Morgan dollar (didn't know the name till I read it here in this article). It's cool, I like it, and it's on my desk. I pick it up once in a while and admire and examine it.

    Cool stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    3 years ago from SE MA

    They are just low grade coins with no numismatic value. They do have silver value, but not so much that I'd be upset if I lost one.

  • Froggy213 profile image

    Greg Boudonck 

    3 years ago from Returned to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

    Good hub. As for that Standing liberty and Morgan dollar, I don't believe I would keep them in my pocket. I have written a few hubs about coin collecting too. Good job. Voted up.


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