18 December 2009

the coin collector

Long ago I collected coins, pre-decimal coins. Nothing spectacular, no Victorian Sovereigns or Edwardian Guineas, just plain circulating, well-worn coins of the mid twentieth century. During a recent rummage through my suitcase of mementos I uneartherd the box of coins and felt a desire to examine and catalogue them.

A couple of hours inventory work revealed:
394 British coins (including 120 1967 Pennies and 60 1967 Halfpennies)
37 American coins
34 Canadian coins
93 foreign coins

How do you catalogue coins the Virgo way? It's not quick, it takes several days! You start by very lightly rinsing them in warm soapy water then drying them. Next you place them in batches into the scanner and scan large hi-definition images into the laptop, first the heads then flip them over and record the tails. The next job is to change the file names to reflect the monarch, date and denomination of each scan. Finally you open each file in Photoshop and rotate the image so it is perfectly level.

In the spirit of completeness for my British coins I drew a spreadsheet incorporating the Monarchs from Victoria onwards and all the monetary denominations circulated. It quickly became apparent that I could fill nearly half the spaces in the spreadsheet from my existing treasure chest.

A few days eBay work later and I am now awaiting forty-nine coins in the mail from a variety of sources, which will complete my collection of all denominations from all reigns of the last one hundred and seventy years. Coins and stamps (another interest I rekindled earlier this year) sit well together. The one being tendered in Post Offices to purchase the other.

Silver has become quite valuable in these economically depressed times so the intrinsic value has been boosting the sentimental value of older coins. For example, an 1890 Victorian Crown in uncirculated condition will set you back fifty pounds. I acquired a worn but still beautiful one for twelve pounds. However, this needn't be a hobby solely for the rich. The majority of my new acquisitions have cost just a pound or two each.

This is all somewhat time consuming (and probably a touch anal) but I have ended up with a rather easier way to view and enjoy my coins. I can look at dinner-plate sized images of sixpences and see tremendous detail that my old naked eyes would never see.

It's quite alarming in these days of tarnished cupronickel to think a century ago peoples' pockets jingled with high-grade silver and even gold coins. Our passage into the modern era can be exemplified by how coins have lost their precious metal value, shrunk and become wafer-thin, with simple, bland designs. I have a small bag of modern Euros but they are downright ugly lumps of cheap metal. They pale when compared with the silver of my George V Half Crown above or the gentle brass of my Victorian penny below.

04 December 2009

changes are afoot

Four addresses in three years. Hmm, not my usual style. This latest move has been partly to flee an Albanian hostel (description of former abode) and partly to acquire much more usable living space, better storage, a nicer building and a quieter, more pedestrian-friendly area.

Mail is already being safely redirected to the new address. I am rebuilding (and enlarging) the stamp collection I sold in the eighties and components have arrived from far flung regions:

Scunthorpe: Two stockbooks comtaining five thousand stamps.
Leicester: 'Stamp Organiser' software.
Romsey: Miniature Sheets, Twopenny Blues
Salisbury: Miniature Sheets
Hornchurch: Miniature Sheets
Amesbury: Miniature Sheets
London, Royal Mail Philately Shop: Stamps, Miniature Sheets

Woodland Hills, California: Small mint stamp collection
Duchesne, Utah: Jeweller's loupe
Owing Mills, Maryland: Penny Black

Barrie, Ontario - Boscastle Stamps: Two Padded leather stockbooks
Farnham, Quebec - Arpin Philately: Tongs, hinges, glassine envelopes
Kingston, Nova Scotia: Penny Reds

Thanks to the Internet you no longer need to be in England to collect British Stamps. This winter I will sit down with tongs, loupe and scrubbed hands and set about a big cataloguing project. My kind of winter!


There is more afoot, my feet have changed shape. I look down and see muscles on my toes, instep and ankle which were never there before. I often complain about tender feet and ankles from running and now I can see why. Rather odd - they don't look like feet I recognise.