Jim Bisognani: Confessions of a Coinaholic

Posted on 5/19/2022

Are you a coindexter or coinaholic? Collectors confess their numismatics-related addiction.

As a price guide analyst and writer, I am always compelled to check out dealers’ various listings, view auction results, census reports and peruse upcoming offerings. Whether on the clock or not, coins are omnipresent. For nearly six decades, I have enjoyed my collection and still relish in the subject of numismatics. My coins and I share an inseparable bond and a joyful coexistence.

While I realize that there are millions of coindexters who are truly enamored with their coins, for them it is still a hobby, albeit an intoxicating one. However, a very fortunate few can report that their hobby is also their livelihood. After nearly 60 years, I don’t believe there is a way to quell this passion. In this respect, I am not only a workaholic, but I am also a coinaholic.

First, I am a collector and have been since July 1966, when I triumphantly obtained a 1955 Double Die Lincoln Cent. For the entire saga, click here. For decades, I have bought, sold and traded thousands of coins. I have made many great finds and have been burned a few times. We all learn and move forward within this great hobby.

1955 Double Die Lincoln Cent from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.

My personal collection is diverse and more “type” than focusing on a particular series. If I found a coin that I truly liked and it was affordable, I would buy it.

I am usually very well organized and have a very keen memory when recalling the events surrounding each coin within my collection. However, as a fail-safe, I also have my US and world coins listed on an Excel spreadsheet, updated religiously.

Are you a coinaholic or a coindexter?

Bob from Darby, Pennsylvania, has been a collector for over 20 years and reckons he has nearly 30,000 coins if you count junk silver. Last week, he came across a few world coins tucked away in an old, red double-row 2x2 box. Bob exclaimed, “I forgot about them! I could have sworn they had been sold, and yet there they were.”

The excitement was twofold. First, Bob was immediately reacquainted with an old friend. Second, due to the height of the present market, the original price tag of $15 on one of these "finds" could easily equate to $750 or more today. The coin in question is a stunning China (1903-1917) Empire Hu-Poo 20 Cash Mint State coin.

“The coin is virtually flawless, fully struck and radiates a very strong cartwheel effect,” said Bob. “I am definitely going to submit it to NGC for grading.”

From Dexter, Maine, Charles has been collecting US coins since the early 1960s and believes his collection contains around a few thousand coins. He has reported a few new finds while foraging through one of his coin storage boxes.

“At the end of the row, there were some flips that got tangled between a few white 2x2 cardboards. After separating them from between the flips, there was a nice 1879 Three Cent piece, which I had no idea I possessed. It is at least an XF grade and probably worth $200! Then, there was an 1864 Two Cent piece, which I knew I had; yet after closer examination, it is the rare Small Motto variety! I only paid $10 for it about 15 years ago and it is a nearly AU.”

For Charlie, his “new” find is worth nearly $1,000!

1879 Three Cents from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.

Both coindexters counted this as an odd and fortunate happenstance. I think many collectors have experienced a similar scenario: Buying a mixed lot of US or world coins and not closely examining what goodies might be found until much later.

Then there is Lenny from New England. Lenny’s wife emailed me to say that her husband is a “fish with coins.” According to Mrs. Lenny, “He buys every issue, every blasted issue that comes up for sale on the US Mint’s website. Last year he spent over $35K. It is his money, well, our money, but much of the time, he doesn’t even open any of the packages when they arrive. He tells me they have to remain sealed if he gets them graded? I don’t understand how he can enjoy something if you can’t see it. He has all these boxes lying around his home office.”

I did reach out to Mrs. Lenny to tell her that in many instances, her husband is probably correct that in order to get a special releases designation from the grading services, the boxes from the mint need to remain sealed.

I also gave her a glimmer of hope that not every issue he gets from the Mint should remain sealed, and he could start opening some of them. A rather exasperated Mrs. Lenny proclaimed, “I don’t know. He tells me that he loves collecting and that overall, it’s a good investment. But all I see are a bunch of boxes.”

I can understand the thing with sealed boxes from the US Mint because I have a few hanging around.

Doesn’t everyone order coins in their sleep?

Nearly every night, I fall asleep viewing coin auctions and eBay listings on my iPad. About 10 years ago, I was falling asleep and my fingers must’ve been touching the screen for a particular coin that I was groggily gazing at. Magically, in the morning, I noticed that I had a coin in my eBay cart as a “buy it now”. The coin was a pre-decimal Fiji 1941 Shilling. Pre-decimal Fiji is one of my favorite areas of collecting. I figured why not complete the sale, which was nearly made in virtual unconsciousness.

This event was the impetus. Why not buy sundry coins, consciously, for a few dollars to around $100 regularly on eBay? I planned to acquire various world coins to my liking until I was of the “official retirement age.” Yet, there was this caveat: I wouldn’t begin opening the packages until then. I rationalized that when I was 65, I would curtail the acquisition portion of the hobby and commence opening my untold bounty.

All these sight-unseen acquaintances

As the days, weeks and years passed, the packages arrived, and I was building a new collection sight-unseen.

Since the majority of coins were dispatched in similar yellow padded mailers, there would be no real way to determine what was enclosed anyway.

I then began placing these mailers into plastic totes to be stored for safekeeping until the great unveiling, which I had self-imposed.

Well, guess what? That golden age has arrived, and though I didn’t retire, I can now commence with the fun.

I think every other day, or perhaps every day, I will now open one of my unseen numismatic treasures. There must be nearly a thousand little packages, each probably containing multiple world coins! I guess I know what I will be doing for the next few years. I am sure my Beth will appreciate that all the storage totes will soon disappear.

I don’t recommend this exercise for everybody, but it is a blast for me.

I will confess. I am probably more of a coinaholic.

Until next time be safe and happy collecting!

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