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Numismatics: The Key to Living Longer!

By Q. David Bowers, Co-Founder

Author: Q. David Bowers / Thursday, May 10, 2018 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers

Judith Graham of the syndicated column, "Kaiser Health News," had a column titled "Older People with Strong Reasons to Life Often Live Stronger." She could have added "and Longer" to the heading. It began:

"After making it through the maelstrom of middle age, many adults find themselves approaching older age wondering "what will give purpose to my life?" now that the kids have flown the nest and retirement is in the cards. How they answer the question can have significant implications for their health.

"Over the past two decades, dozens of studies have shown that seniors with a sense of purpose in life are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment, disabilities, heart attacks or strokes, and more likely to live longer than people without this kind of underlying motivation.

"Now, a new report in JAMA Psychiatry adds to this body of evidence by showing that older adults with a higher sense of purpose tend to retain strong hand grips and walking speeds — key indicators of how rapidly people are aging… Seniors with a sense of purpose may be more physically active and take better care of their health, some research suggests. Also, they may be less susceptible to stress, which can fuel dangerous inflammation.

"'Purposeful individuals tend to be less reactive to stressors and more engaged, generally, in their daily lives, which can promote cognitive and physical health,' said Patrick Hill, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis who wasn't associated with the study."

For readers of this week's blog this is hardly news! We all know personally, if we are in retirement age, or know from the observation of our elders that men and women involved in serious numismatics in their younger years nearly always carry the passion throughout their lives.

 The poster example is Eric P. Newman (1911-2017), who became a coin collector at an early age, then went into numismatic research, and when he was past the century mark was still deeply involved. His latest completed research project was learning that John James Audubon's early sketch of a grouse had been used on a bank note. But when and for what bank? I and others joined him in the search through thousands of images of paper money of the early 19th century until, finally, Eric had his Eureka! moment.

A couple of days ago, on May 7, Ken Hallenbeck sent this comment to some friends:

"My first ANA convention was 1950 at the Schroeder Hotel in Milwaukee. Round trip air fare from Detroit's Willow Run airport to Milwaukee was $46. I stayed at the YMCA for $2 per night for either two or three nights and had a total of about $20 to spend for everything. Darn near starved, but man, what a great experience! But have been very sporadic in attendance until I got on the ANA board about 1973 or so. Blessed to still be alive, and with some satisfaction that I've outlived my political enemies! Not as active as I once was, and at age 86 still no hint of cancer, heart problems or dementia. As least that's what I think."

Of course, good health also has an element of good luck and fortune.

I don't recall when I first met Ken Hallenbeck, but it must have been in the 1950s. Another notable Ken—Ken Bressett—now editor emeritus of the Guide Book—has been a friend since then as well. I first met Ken Bressett in the 1950s when I was a teenager and he was among a small circle of us interested in the curious history of the private Machin's Mills mint at the outlet of Orange Pond in Newburgh, New York. We had all read of this facility in S.S. Crosby's Early Coins of America, 1875. Others trying to track down details at the time were Eric Newman and Walter Breen. Today in 2018 the situation is different, and a lot can be found in print, due to research in recent decades.

In 1957 Ken Bressett was among those who formed the Rittenhouse Society of writers and researchers, which is still going strong.

Deep interest in numismatics has added richness to the lives of hundreds of enthusiasts. Look at the contributors to the journals of the Liberty Seated Coin Club, Colonial Coin Collectors Club, Early American Coppers, John Reich Collectors Society, Civil War Token Society, Medal Collectors of America, Numismatic Bibliomania Society, Barber Coin Collectors Club, Civil War Token Society, and the Paper Money Collectors Society—leading specialized groups—and you will see countless people in retirement from everyday life.

You might ask: "How do I go about doing this?"

Good question!

The answer is easy: Set about building a basic reference library on numismatics. To get an overview, select titles that cover ancient coins, world coins, paper money, and other areas plus American subjects. Then concentrate on those of interest which, likely as not, will be those of the United States. If you are an American Numismatic Association member you can borrow books for free from the Dwight N. Manley Library at ANA Headquarters in Colorado Springs; your only cost is postage.

Concentrate on books with interesting and informative narrative and with many illustrations. The art, history, and science of numismatics are the elements that inspire longevity. In contrast, prices of coins are ephemeral.

 Of course, you will want to buy some coins, tokens, medals, or bank notes, but remember that for less than $500 you can get a good start on a library, and for less than $1,300—the price of a common $20—you can have a really nice one!

It is nice to own books rather than borrow them.

 Once you have gained some ideas, buy the titles of the greatest interest. You might check out the books I have written, available on the Whitman Publishing website (full disclosure: I get no royalty so do not benefit from your purchases). The 100 Greatest series of books by various authors should be considered.

Well-known numismatist and author Dr. Joel Orosz told me that if there is one numismatic book he would take with him to a desert island it would be The History of American Coinage as Illustrated by the Garrett Collection, a book I wrote for The Johns Hopkins University in 1979. This is out of print, but copies are available on the used-book market.

Have fun!

See you next week!