Summer Coin Passions Fulfilled

Posted on 5/30/2019

A numismatic star is born; credit goes to the Tooth Fairy.

It is a great time for all of us coindexters. Why, you may ask? Well, for one, we are on the cusp of summer, and that sun and warmth can’t come fast enough for us in New England. Secondly and most importantly, numismatic activity also ratchets up in a big way as we usher in that wonderful season. We have The Summer Long Beach Expo, Summer FUN and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, the ANA World’s Fair of Money, to look forward to. Along with all the wonderful major show venues, a plethora of host and related US and World coin auctions will be vying for the attention of dealers and collectors.

I can fondly recall my excitement when, as a youth, I heard the final school bell toll for the year. Not that my academic pursuits ended then. Summer for me wasn’t just for relaxation and riding my bike (although I did a lot of exploring on my trusty 10-speed). The vacation from school also meant more time to study and truly enjoy coins. And with school out for the next few months, coins frequently were a 24/7 obsession. 

I didn’t have the finances to quell all of my numismatic cravings, so I settled for the next best thing. Usually, by the end of May, I was busy sending self-addressed stamped envelopes for my favorite dealers’ fixed price lists and catalogs. Then, around mid-June, the postman would start delivering a steady supply of printed material to my door to devour.

I would also splurge and purchase a new coin book or world coin catalog to study. It was so exciting! Ahh, ignorance was truly bliss for this young coindexter!

Researching and understanding the history of those treasured metal discs was as much fun as acquiring them! Well, almost. Whether my current fixation was for a US type coin or a foreign commemorative, I wanted to know about the designer, the mintage, the current market value and — if the coin was within my limited budget — where I could find one.

In the dark days of the abacus, we poor souls didn’t have the internet to use to troll and ogle coins. We had newsletters, local coin shows and the occasional long-distance call we could sneak past our parents to talk to the out-of-state dealer. Those toll charges rang up pretty fast. I mean, $2.50 for a few minutes during peak hours! Where were unlimited minutes when I needed them?

In so many ways, today’s collectors and those just getting involved in the hobby have so much of the framework laid out for them. Dealers have massive websites showcasing their wares. We have this thing called eBay, the 24-hour coin store. For those concerned about getting the right grade, there is this service called third-party grading provided by NGC. NGC also supplies collectors with a wealth of information free of charge, including comprehensive price guides, auction data and census reports.

With so much available online, the only thing we have to do is find the new generation of coindexters to keep the flame burning. It is a fact that many of the faces one encounters at local, regional and major shows are mostly older gents closer to retirement than to those who just graduated.

We need new faces to look up to and to converse with on the bourse.

Lianna Spurrier

Well, there is hope shining on the horizon. I just met a 2019 college graduate who is nothing short of a super coin geek. Hailing from the Bluegrass state of Kentucky, her name is Lianna Spurrier. Already an accomplished author of numerous numismatic articles and creator of numismatic video short-subject documentaries, she brings passion and unbridled excitement to the world of numismatics.

I asked Ms. Spurrier if she became interested in the hobby because other family members were numismatically inclined. No, that wasn’t the impetus at all. She recalled that her grandfather collected a little bit, though he’d just gathered a bunch of sundry world coins. An uncle collected very modestly as well.

“It wasn’t like they were strongly pushing me toward it,” she said.

Credit to the Tooth Fairy

“When I was really little, the Tooth Fairy would leave me foreign coins instead of spendable money. So I always thought they were cool and would keep them. And then when I was 11 and we were cleaning out my hoarder uncle’s house, we found a jar of Wheat Pennies. I already had that little bit of interest in coins established from the foreign coins from the Tooth Fairy, so I said, ‘Hey, like these might be valuable.’ So that led me to keep them and learning more.”

The frequent flyer

Her favorite US coin is the simple yet strikingly designed Flying Eagle Cent.

A little after the Wheat Penny encounter, she became fascinated with and interested in getting a Flying Eagle Cent. But it was way out of the budget for a 12-year-old. Then, about a year ago, she became reacquainted with her numismatic favorite. “I saw a picture online. It was on Instagram. Someone had, like, a handful of Flying Eagle Cents and I was, like, I’d never seen that many in one place before — I want them! Just enough to put together a little set — just a handful to satisfy my younger self.”

Now that the young hobbyist has learned more about them, she really likes that the series contains a small number of dates and varieties, yet it is still possible to cherry-pick them. She recounts her most recent coup.

The 1858/7 Flyer that Lianna Spurrier bought for $20.
Click images to enlarge.

“I went to a local coin show — one dealer who just had about four cardboard boxes full of Flips and that was his entire table. So I sat down and started going through one of them and found a group of Flying Eagles. Checking for varieties, I managed to find an 1858/7, just in a Flip labeled as a standard 1858, and I got it for $20. So that was very exciting! All the diagnostics were there, even though I didn’t have a loupe with me. I was confident that it was. I bought it, and it is!”

The Kentucky woman said she is excited to be taking the class on Flying Eagle and Indian Cents given by Rick Snow at the ANA Summer Seminar in June.

I then asked, if the Flying Eagle was her favorite, what is her least-liked US series and, without hesitation, she said: “This is going to be controversial — Morgan dollars. I don’t like the design. It’s not attractive to me.”

Are there any other areas you would like to research, I asked her.

“I have done a little bit with ancient coins. I think they’re fascinating! So much to like and learn about them!”

Being still at the learning stage didn’t deter her from producing a video short on the subject of ancients that won first place in the Roundtable video contest this year. “That was exciting,” she said.

When I asked her to name her most important article thus far, she chose “Clay, Cardboard, and Zinc: Altered Coinage of World War II.”

“It addressed the effects of World War II on coinage around the world,” she said. “Japan issued a couple of coins made out of clay and one basically out of cardboard and I decided it was really interesting looking at the very wide scope of a historical event and how history and coinage reflect each other.”

Finally, I felt compelled to inquire if she has designs on becoming a dealer. I was told no, that she doesn’t have the dealer mindset: “I don’t buy pieces with the intentions of selling them in the next 10 years for profit. That’s just how I approach collecting.”

She would very much enjoy making numismatics into a career, though.

“I’m hoping to find a full-time job,” she said. “I would love to stay in graphic design, video production. I don’t see a lot of people making videos in a similar fashion like I am. I would love to build and continue to contribute with that. I feel this is adding more to the hobby than just adding another dealer to the mix.”

I wholeheartedly concur. Take a look at Ms. Spurrier’s recent Nova Constellatio production

Until next time, happy collecting!

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst, having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

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