Coins represent travel, wealth, art to me. I started because my grandparents collect coins. They are tangible, weighty, artistic, and historic. Their weight makes them earthy, and their materials make them shiny or gives them a vintage patina.
Friends and family gave me coins when I was younger, when they came back from a trip or found a wheat penny in their pocket change. I guess despite my fear of math, my family fostered in me an interest in money. Some of them taught me to save. Some of them taught me to invest.
My third grandmother used to give me coffee cans full of pennies, sometimes half-full, pennies she and my third grandpa had collected from pocket change and off the street. She gave them to me for Christmas and birthdays sometimes. I recall that a quart-size coffee can held at least $14 in pennies. So, I had savings as well as a collection of uncommon and foreign coins. I’ve kept the collection of coins throughout my childhood, and many people contributed to it, including my dad, friends of the family, and all three sets of grandparents.
My grandparents bought me small bonds and CDs (certificates of deposit) and provided me with a good start for college. I am so blessed to have all these people who cared to ease my way. My coin collection is connected to that because they were given at the same times–Christmas and birthdays. So to me, the coin collection also represents education, security, and an inheritance, something my family carefully nurtured and bequeathed to me.
But my family didn’t bequeath to me any expensive coins, but instead the value of education and careful savings. My coin collection wasn’t actually worth anything when I tried to sell it. And the coin collection did not actually hold these values, just reminded me of them. Yet, it was still hard to let go of the collection. That’s partly why I’m enshrining it here in this post. Even though it was relatively small, the collection weighed in my mind.
There were many reasons it caused me unease, one reason being that it wasn’t really increasing in value, though as a kid, I thought it would be “worth something” someday. It’s not really am investment to depend on other people to think you have something rare and worth buying that doesn’t have a practical use.
Also, as I’ve learned more about the world, it now seems tacky and inappropriate to collect money with no intention of spending, saving, or investing it.
It’s like a recent pattern I’ve seen of landscaping that includes edible plants as decoration. I first noticed it next to a freeway. Some beet greens were mixed in with pansies and bushes. Then, I noticed some kale stuck in with the succulents in a parking lot. Both times, the plants looked beautiful, but I also knew you could buy them in the grocery store for about $4 a bundle. I wanted to stop and pick them up for dinner. And it seems wrong to decorate with edible plants when there are people starving in the world. In that same vein, I don’t think it’s right to collect money for its own sake, as though it were an end unto itself, when there are people living in poverty. The more I thought about it, the worse coin collecting seemed, like Mr. Scrooge hoarding money without giving to charity. At least, that’s my take on it.
Like Scrooge, I enjoyed touching the coins. I also enjoyed the history and artwork, seeing what the coins had to say about their country, what the wear on the coins said about their travels. It made me feel connected to far off places. But this hobby didn’t bring me any closer to my friends or family or even to traveling. It’s usually a solo activity, like a magpie collecting for its nest.
So, here I take my stand. I won’t own a coin collection anymore. It was a small thing, but it weighed on me, so I let it go.