Baby Boomers: Coin collecting hobby has lost a lot of its value
By Ray Hanania
If the letters P, D and S mean anything to you, and you recognize that the S has more value than the D or the P, then chances are you are a Numismatist.
No, I’m not calling you an epithet. That’s what they call someone who collects coins as a hobby. The letters represent the cities where coins are minted and is called the “Mint Mark. P (or no Mint Mark) represented the Philadelphia Mint. D represented the Denver Mint. And S represented the San Francisco Mint.
The S Mint was always more popular and harder to find in circulation. It was also printed infrequently. If the coin had no Mint Mark, it was made in Philadelphia.
Those were simple things to remember. Coins changed each year only by date and after several decades, in design.
Coin collecting was a big hobby back when I was a kid. My favorite coins were Indian Head pennies and Buffalo nickels. They were both very cool and in the 1960s, it was still possible to find one of each in general circulation. You could find Mercury dimes in circulation, too. And maybe a Standing Liberty Quarter.
A year after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the JFK Half Dollar was minted. Right away it was popular, and then unpopular. People thought having the coin in your pocket would bring you bad luck. But only if you didn’t know it was in your change.
People started scanning their change to ensure that if they had a Kennedy Half Dollar, they knew it.
As a child, I knew there were several key coins you hoped to find one day in circulation. The 1909 S VDB Lincoln Penny was one. The elusive 1937 D three-legged Buffalo Nickel was another.
There were Morgan Silver Dollars that our grand parents saved. And so many more.
Over the years, collecting coins grew with such popularity, though, that the fun of collecting was quickly replaced with greed. At first, coin stores started jacking up the prices of coins as they fell out of circulation, bleeding the needy who turned to them to sell their coins when the economy tanked. Coins that were valued at $100 were quickly purchased by coin stores for $10. It’s one hobby that has encouraged the exploitation of those in need more than any.
And they are doing it today, too.
Worse, is that the government got involved in a big way, too. Instead of changing the date and Mint Marks on the coins, they started changing the design every year.
The 10-year long printing of the State Quarters from 1999 until 2009 represented 50 different quarters, each with three different Mint Marks. That is 150 coins. I have the complete set, but that was because in the past, you could go to the bank and buy the new coins at face value, or the value of the coin. A quarter cost 25 cents. A half dollar cost 50 cents. A dollar cost one dollar.
In 2007, the Government decided to print Gold Dollars honoring the presidents, producing four new coins each year, with D, P and S Mint Marks. That’s another 12 coins you had to hunt for in circulation or at the banks.
Two years ago to help the Coin industry – the coin industry has a lobby – the government decided to stop making them available to the banks in rolls and left coin collectors with three options. You could ask for change and hope to find a coin in General Circulation, a poor quality. Or, you could go to the Coin Stores which now dramatically increased the prices. The other option was to purchase the coins in Rolls at a slight markup from the Mint Directly.
That changed prices dramatically. In the past, because the coins were so easy to get, the coin stores only made a small profit. A new 25 cent Presidential Quarter in uncirculated condition (meaning it was never in public circulation) cost about 50 cents. Today, you have to pay $1. The Gold Dollars, which you could get for $1.25, were now more than $2 each.
Coin collection was no longer a hobby. It turned into real labor. In 2010, when the banks stopped selling the new coins, the coin stores dramatically increased the costs.
Seeing their profits rise, the greedy government Mint started to make even more coins, like quarters honoring the nation’s great parks and landmarks. Three of each, P, D and S.
Those are impossible to find, unless you are wealthy, don’t have to worry about putting food on the table, and can spend $100 a month to get the most basic quality of new coins.
It’s the worst part about being a Baby Boomer, watching as greed has so easily corrupted a great hobby. You could still make good money as a coin dealer without price gouging. Collectors spent more money when prices were lower. Now that the prices are so high, there are fewer collectors and they spend more for less.
It’s a disturbing trend reflecting how far our country has deteriorated because of greed.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and numismatist. Reach him at www.TheMediaOasis.com or follow him on Twitter at @RayHanania)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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