'Hobby of kings'
To some, collecting coins is fascinating and fun.
And, as a member of a coin club, the hobby is heads up.
At the Mon Valley Coin Club, it's all about collecting, learning, helping each other and having a good time.
“We, as club members, have a drive and a desire to collect coins. Just like anybody who collects things, it's a passion,” says David Burdis of Charleroi, vice president-elect of the 40-year-old club. “There's a lot of variety in it. I like it because it teaches you history.”
Long known as the “hobby of kings,” numismatics is the study or collection of currency including coins, tokens, paper money and related objects. Numismatists learn about money, other means of resolving debt and the exchange of goods. They also learn about history, value, grading, handling, coin conditions and other facets of the hobby.
Numismatists collect coins by style, such as collecting a date and mint-mark, or by type — collecting from certain eras or denominations. Some collectors save coins bearing particular designs.
Burdis began his passion at age 9 with the collection of Lincoln pennies.
He says members' collections vary widely according to what interests them.
“It's generally American coins, foreign coins, silver bullions or currency,” says Burdis, who noted common collections include the Kennedy half-dollars and Lincoln cents to the more modern-issue Susan B. Anthony dollars.
“Anything from what's made now to Roman coins that were in existence 2,000 to 3,000 years ago,” he says.
“Some collect campaign buttons, some 100 to 150 years old that do have some value,” the club officer says. “We often hold alternative hobby nights so members can show their other collections such as medals, stamps, cars and records.
Thomas Corey of Finleyville has been a numismatic enthusiast since the sixth grade. The club's vice president took third place in a national collectors' competition sponsored by the American Numismatics Association in Pittsburgh a year ago.
“Some members collect federal notes dating back to the 1800s, and some collect bank notes,” Corey says. “Someone even brought in a note from the Bank of Charleroi.”
“People enjoy this sharing, because everybody can't collect everything,” Corey says.
Among Corey's prize series is a collection of Spanish-American colonial coinage or “cobs.”
The Mon Valley Coin Club meets at 2 p.m. the third Sunday of each month at the Charleroi Senior Center. Burdis says membership has grown since the club began advertising meeting dates and times a year or so ago.
“At the first meeting, we have them stand up and tell us about their collection. If they haven't started one yet, we give them some ideas,” Burdis says.
Meetings begin with a review of the numismatic news of the month by club president Steve Jadyk. Presentations are then given by individual club members and, on occasion, by speakers from outside the club.
Burdis says members share information and help each other to determine wholesale and resale value of their items. “We have red and blue books and gray sheets that tell what a particular collection is worth,” Burdis says. “If someone asks a question about a particular coin or collection, 99 percent of the time we can get them an answer.”
Burdis, a board member of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatics, says a state competition is held annually in Monroeville that draws local interest.
Corey says he encourages everyone who expresses an interest in coin collecting to come to a meeting.
“I like the camaraderie, and I like learning about different exhibits brought in by members. I'm proud of my coins, and I like to share the experience with other members,” Corey says.
Burdis agrees. “We love it. It's so interesting, and there's always something different.”
Colleen Pollock is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media