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Digital Subscriptions > COINage > June 2019 > Preserving Memries

Preserving Memries

Handling Coins Through the Ages

Coin collecting in the U.S.has been a rough-and-tumble pursuit since it first fired up in the 1850s. Kindred collecting areas such as stamps have never shown a comparable tendency toward the vigorous disputes that have long enlivened the numismatic world.

Part of the resiliency of coin collecting can be attributed to the composition of the coins themselves: Coins are made from metal and, unlike stamps, are innately easier to store and preserve.

Historians believe that popular coin collecting can be traced back to the decision of the U.S. Mint and Treasury to discontinue the copper large cents and half cents in 1857, replacing them with a new 19mm copper-nickel Flying Eagle cent and simultaneously eliminating well-worn foreign silver coins then in widespread use.

Pioneer collectors began trying to assemble date-by-date collections of cents without any real idea of what coins they would need for such collections. Joseph J. Mickley of Philadelphia began by trying to find a cent of his birth year, 1799.

From that time until the 1970s, American coin collecting went through several phases of increasing popularity, gradually evolving from the “Hobby of Kings” of the 19th century to a great popular pursuit during the Depression years and into a billion-dollar hobby-industry after World War II. Perhaps the greatest future-determining change in modern times was the introduction of thirdparty grading in 1978 and of encapsulation of independently graded coins in 1986.

Younger collectors in June 2019 may have a hard time imagining the operation of the coin market before 1986, when popular slogans included “buy the book before the coin” and “know your coins and know your dealer!” Gaining knowledge took work and the state of reliable knowledge about U.S.coins in 1930-1950 was still fairly abysmal.

When collecting took off in the mid- 19th century, there were no reliable independent catalogs. Pioneer collectors like Mickley were pretty much “on their own” as they sought coins for their collections.

Some spent years searching for large cents of 1815, not knowing that no cents of that date had ever been struck.

The few dealer price lists and auction catalogs then in circulation contained much misinformation, guesswork and outright falsehood. Prized by collectors today, auction catalogs by such pioneer dealers as Edward Cogan, Ebenezer Locke Mason, Edouard Frossard, W. Eliot Woodward, Captain John Haseltine, J.W. Scott, brothers S. Hudson, and Henry Chapman were certainly lively if not objective. These and most other such catalogs were made lively by free-wheeling assaults on rivals and their catalogs.

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About COINage

CoinAge June 2019, Detecting the Newest & Best Fake Coins, Ruined & Rescued : Wildfire Coins Restored, Coin Collecting through the Ages, And More....