Bowers on Collecting: The Joy of Numismatics

I actually like coins, tokens, medals and paper money – buying, selling, studying. Likewise, if not more, I enjoy coin people, events, and the numismatist community. My life has become immeasurably enriched. With that in mind, I share comments from Arthur B. Coover 111 years ago in The Numismatist, September 1908:

A well-managed hobby is a necessary addition to any man’s business or profession. For the businessman, the professional man, the man who does the heaviest work, having a hobby is a safety valve through which it relieves the stress and pressure exerted on various parts of the body. For the man who spends a certain number of hours each day practicing his profession or trade, a few minutes or hours that he spends in a different way of thinking will, like nothing else, calm down the various nerve centers that have continued for a long time usage soon run down.

Coover was hardly the first to suggest numismatics as a guide to a world apart from crises. Ebenezer L. Mason, Jr., wrote this decades earlier in June 1867, suggesting that the activity was “ennobling”:

Numismatics is undoubtedly an expensive hobby, but it is the most harmless and, in its influences, most educating and refining that one can pursue. It’s compelling and pervasive in that it guides you to continue your research into history and art. The numismatist only thinks of rare coins, ponders about them, dreams of them. His pleasure includes all kinds of pleasure and mental excitement. He is an athlete, gamer, artist, detective, critic, expert. He follows the scent of a rare coin like a dog does that of a rabbit, and is never satisfied until he has followed it to its burrow. The aroused passions are ambition, hope, longing and envy, but never to be harmful.

Your true numismatist is usually a man of gentlemanly instincts and scientific accomplishments. His associations are with men who think, argue, compare, sift through evidence, and judge. It is unlikely that he will be fooled as he is always on the lookout for fakes; even less likely to deceive others, as they have a healthy disdain for making bases. On the whole, this hobby should be encouraged, because it leads the intellectual work in the right direction, trains the skills and educates and promotes a healthy, healthy taste for the aesthetic.

Such feelings were not a substitute for reality in 1867 or 1908, nor are they today. But practicing the hobby can bring joy and satisfaction now as it was then.

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