Some reflections on collecting in past times, part of a
commentary I am doing on the “instant collecting” of today, 2019. “Instant
collecting,” via the Internet and with certified coins and 101 different
sources for pricing information, would seem to make it unnecessary for most
collectors to know about authenticity, grade, or much else about numismatics.
Today, for most buyers, collecting is mindless. Soon, the novelty wears off,
and the newcomers are gone forever.
Now, to the past:
Nearly 20 years ago, in October 2001, Ken Rendell, my one-time
coin dealer friend, prominent in autographs and books, stopped by the office.
We discussed the aspects of collecting. Those who sought old letters and
documents were invariably interested in history and made it a part of their
activity. Scattered exceptions were those who bought a “trophy” item such as
baseball signed by Babe Ruth or a George Washington letter, but did not delve
into their background. The first type of collector stayed in the hobby for a
long time, while those buying trophy items were soon gone.
Not long afterward I spent an enjoyable day at the 10th Annual
New Hampshire Postcard Show, held in an old-time town, Fitzwilliam, about a
two-hour drive from here. Upon arrival at the stated location, a VFW hall, I
was greeted with a room filled with dealers exhibiting tables filled with
cards. There was no grading system in place. People bought cards that appealed
to their senses of art, history, and romance. Price information was sketchy, at
best. You were on your own, and a coin or postcard offered by one dealer for $5
might be priced for $10 or $15 by another. To me, this is more
enjoyable than having 101 price guides! Of course, I love challenges,
the road not often taken.
From the time of my arrival, shortly after 10:30 a.m., until the
show closed at 7 in the evening, I perused, poked, and pursued cards, seeking
old-time images of railroad stations, country stores, “grand hotels,” and other
items, mostly from the state of New Hampshire. By day’s end I had bought about
800 cards, 99% of which cost from $1 to $5 each, with most of the remaining 1%
costing under $100. What fun! The dealers with whom I talked were all having a
nice time. Camaraderie was the order of the day, and anyone wanting to
“talk postcards” could do so, in the meantime gathering knowledge. No one
seemed to be too busy or too important to answer questions or to pass the time
There was a lot of enthusiasm in the air. It seemed that
everyone had a good time by show’s end. This reminded me of what a coin show
used to be like when I was a teenager in the early 1950s.
A few days later I visited with my friend, David Sundman, owner
of Littleton Coin Company, and told him about the show, after which he
commented: “I love collecting postcards because there are no catalogs, and you
can never tell what treasures you will find.”
Today in 2019 as you read this, you can still experience the
art, history, romance, and enjoyment of numismatics—by reading interesting
books, specializing in affordable areas within coins, tokens, medals, and paper
money, and going slowly.
Do this and you will have a great time!