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A different way to collect coins
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.
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".
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.
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?
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!
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.