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.


Little M said...

These hobbies (stamps/coins) are perfect for a detailed Virgo like yourself!

C.J.Duffy said...

I couldn't agree more about the state of modern day coinage. Much like toy money rather than works of care, craft and even, perhaps, art. I also like the fact that old money has a narrative that can only be guessed at...whose fingers handled these coins? The Queen, John Lennon, Jack the Ripper. All have that historical significance but not so modern money.

Perfect Virgo said...

Little M - Ah the devil is in the details! I'm in heaven when I sit at the dining table playing with my collections! A boy with his toys!

CJ - how right you are. I have ordered a set of the latest British currency and the only interesting thing about it seems to be that each coin forms part of a larger picture - a shield.

Many's the time I have rubbed an 1888 Victorian copper and thought about whether Jack the Ripper had it in his pocket as a new coin while he went about his gruesome business.

Pandora said...

and I thought I was the only one who collected coins and stamps when I was growing up. Now I understand how this is a Virgo thing to do.

Fellow Virgo

Perfect Virgo said...

Ah, but a true Virgo continues these pursuits long after growing up!

Gel said...

As another Virgo who has collected coins since a child, I can easily relate to this, although I do not have the luxury of pursuing completion of any sets. I'm glad you do.

Hearty congrats upon your adorable new addition to you & Michelle. Great choice for a middle name, too...


Perfect Virgo said...

Gel - luckily devoting a few pennies to the hobby didn't break the bank.

My mum was "Kathleen" and I think she would have liked this little one.