Jim Bisognani: It's Never Too Early for Coins

Posted on 11/9/2023

Christmas is a great time to get others into coin collecting, and there's no need to wait for Black Friday to find amazing deals.

Well, my friends, with the clocks set back an hour to Standard Time, it is now daylight around 6:30 a.m., which is great for the early bird. However, the total darkness at 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon gives me the heebie-jeebies…

This is a recipe that Old Man Winter relishes, especially here in New England. To add further insult to injury, our first snow is falling as I type away this Thursday morning. Yep, it’s definitely wintry already.

With Thanksgiving a mere two weeks away, the FM airwaves will soon (if they aren't already) broadcast holiday tunes for us to enjoy (or dread) right up to the minute the jolly old man from the North Pole finishes his deliveries. Additionally, advertisers are letting us know that Black Friday sales are already being offered to us, with some having started as early as mid-September.

The very thought of it reminds me of a line Linus utters in A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it’s getting too dangerous.”

For your Coindexter in Chief, the best part of the season is the holiday music, holiday-themed shows and classic movies. Phooey on Black Friday!

As I rewind the time machine (yes, I can do that), I remember that it is also the season in which I became a “true believer” in coins — numismatic ones, that is. So, my fellow coindexters, pull up an iceberg and lend an ear…

An introduction to numismatics

Christmas 1966, I was nine years old at the time, and definitely on the fence about that jolly old elf. Yet, it was still torture to try and get any shut-eye at bedtime on Christmas Eve. My brothers and I knew that we had to close our eyes and try to induce sleep, and slumber did eventually happen. When I awoke, it was just a few minutes before 4 a.m.!

I remember muttering that it was morning, putting on my slippers and swiftly making my way downstairs. I darted for the living room and was greeted with our beautiful illuminated tree and a line of bulging stockings hanging from the mantle. It was a standing family rule that if we were the first ones up on Christmas morning, we were allowed to investigate the contents of our respective stockings, and ours only! I dutifully respected that rule, but I did eyeball the packages designated for me under the tree, estimating what they may contain. Before I continue, I shall supply a bit of the "stocking backstory"…

Becoming a coindexter

Tucked into the toe of my stocking on Christmas morning in 1963 was the first coin Santa left me: a Franklin Half Dollar. I was very thankful for that monetary gift, but the notion of saving it or collecting further examples was not yet on my mind.

The following year, I was gifted a much larger silver coin in my stocking: a 1924 Peace Dollar. When I came across the hefty silver piece, I didn’t immediately understand what it was because I hadn’t seen anything like it in my pocket change. This was my first numismatic coin! Its significance didn’t register at the time, though — it was just a large, old silver coin.

a 1924 Peace Dollar from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.

Finally, for Christmas in 1966, I was hopeful that the old elf would come through with some coin supplies and reading material. Earlier that summer, I was involved in the hunt for the famed 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent, a coin that my mom believed she had received as a tip when she was a waitress. You can read about it here.

Suffice it to say, after that experience, I was a full-blown coindexter.

So, it was with heightened anticipation that I explored the contents of my stocking that 1966 Christmas morning. There was an obligatory candy cane, an orange and a few candies. I found a Matchbox car further down, too, but nothing numismatic. Then, at the very bottom, I felt something else — there was a holiday sticker on a piece of folded paper, and on the back was a note from Santa! It read, in handwriting suspiciously akin to my dad’s: “Jimmy, you have been a good little boy, and you are to open the striped package under the tree.”

I quickly transitioned my attention to the tree and began hunting for that striped package. I quickly found it — it was shoebox-sized, wrapped in green, red and white stripes. On the gift tag, it read “from Santa.”

So, I quickly tore open the packaging, and I was right: It was a shoebox! But as I opened the box, any fears of footwear being in there were thankfully squashed. Instead, I was greeted with a brand-new 1966 Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Yahoo! There were also a few packs of cardboard holders for coins, a magnifying glass and a nice little drawstring leather pouch filled with about a hundred foreign coins. I was so excited!

Since it was about 4:30 am, I sat in the family room dreaming about the coins I would acquire someday. Soon enough, my mom was waking me up — I had fallen asleep with the book on my lap. My brothers were talking and exploring their stockings. Dad then asked, “Jimmy, did you like the book Santa brought?” I said, “Yes, thank you so much, Santa!” Even today, that Christmas remains a brightly burning memory.

Don't wait for Black Friday — it's never too early to buy coins

Coin collecting can be so exciting and addictive. I mean, as an old dude, I am still like a kid in a candy store when an attractive coin comes in sight. Scarce or common, if it beckons me, I am obliged to acquire it. Along the way, I love to share images with other fellow coindexters to ogle at as well.

This holiday season, I want to encourage you to inspire and nurture a new collector — perhaps a youngster or a contemporary. It should be easy to scrounge up a few foreign coins and secure them in a drawstring pouch, like the one I received those many years ago. Of course, the Red Book would be a great and valuable resource to have on-hand for the new coindexter. Alternatively, you could direct the new collector to the wonderful NGC website for US and world coin pricing, census reports, auction data and informative articles, all of which are free!

A Christmas present idea

Great Britain 2023 Cupro-Nickel 50 Pence coin
Click images to enlarge.

Collecting, first and foremost, should be fun. For that special someone, I can’t think of a more interesting and fun coin than the new 2023 50 Pence issue from the Falkland Islands. One of the last coins to be produced by the Pobjoy Mint, it is such a joy! It features King Charles III and “friends.” The Pobjoy Mint release of the coin states:

“The design on this brand-new 50 Pence coin features an image of His Majesty crouching amongst the penguins on Sea Lion Island. The wording ‘H.M. KING CHARLES III’ is also displayed at the top of the design, with the value at the base. The design of the coin illustrates the moment where His Royal Highness crouched among the penguins to imitate them, saying ‘spot the penguin.’ This was a light-hearted moment on a trip in which … His Majesty was the most senior British royal to visit after the 1982 war with Argentina. On his visit, His Royal Highness aimed to see as many islanders as possible in person, and flew across the island in a helicopter to do so.

Here is a photo of the “spot the penguin” encounter:

A BBC photoof the future King Charles III posing with penguins in 1999.
Click image to enlarge.

The cupro-nickel version of the coin is only $15.95 and will include a certificate and a drawstring pouch (love those drawstring pouches). The worldwide mintage is only 950! While I don’t anticipate a true rarity in this coin, who knows? The subject matter is delightful and whimsical for sure. I definitely chuckled when I read the release. It also commemorates King Charles’ 75th birthday, as well as the first year of his reign. A wonderful and inexpensive coin to gift any collector.

By the way, there is a sterling silver version of the coin which is limited to only 175. I can’t wait for Santa to get on this, so I’m ordering mine today!

Thank goodness, the snow is letting up — it’s time to get a hot cup of tea…

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

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