There’s a numismatic novice in the house…

Guest Blogger:     Katherine Mullen came on board in 2012 to manage the business side of Mullen Coins. Ride along as she learns the basics of numismatics.

January 14, 2013

nu·mis·mat·ics  (nü-məz-ˈma-tiks): The study or collection of coins, paper currency, and medals.

Pat Mullen is Mullen Coins’ numismatic expert.

As the business component of Mullen Coins in Grand Rapids, I am not expected to know about the finer points of coins and currency. My role is to be the bean counter, marketer, phone answerer. I have also asked an awful lot of questions since joining the business last year.

I have decided it would be helpful to view the world through a novice’s eyes and wallet, and invite you to learn about coin collecting as I ask dumb questions, visit shows, search for coins, and do some research.
Many collectors (like me) have limited budgets, and begin their hobby by looking for Lincoln cents or Buffalo nickels. I am starting by searching for state quarters, just because some of them have cool designs on the reverse (the back of the coin. The front is the “obverse” side).
After spending a few hours foraging through a big bin of loose change, I found all 50 of the States, with Oregon as #50. Wow! That was too easy.  I noticed that in a short time I didn’t even have to look at the reverse side of the quarter to know if it was an “old-style” quarter, or one of the State quarters. The edges are more pronounced on the state quarters. Am I an expert yet?
Then I started associating the images on the reverse (Paul Revere on the Massachusetts quarter) with each state’s history. I also wondered why the same states popped up again and again—lots of Connecticuts and New Yorks.   And were they produced in alphabetical order?

Somewhere in the mix, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico surfaced. What?

I checked out  for quick answers.

    •    No, I am not an expert yet. Duh.

    •    The image on each coin’s reverse reflects some aspect of its history or heritage. It is carefully imagined and produced, approved by the state’s governor, and given final approval by the Treasury Secretary.

    •    The State Quarter Program ran from 1999-2008, with five quarters produced for 10 weeks each year, in order of admission to the Union or ratification of the Constitution—Connecticut first, and Hawaii last.

    •    Production, the “mintage,” varied widely. Eight designs in the early years account for one billion quarters, while 12 later designs totaled less than 500 million coins. That’s why I had bigger piles for New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

    •    In 2009, after the State Quarters were done, a one-year program allowed for designs for District of Columbia and the five American Territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands). I’m in trouble here—these coins were minted in much lower numbers, and they were unevenly distributed throughout the U.S.

    •    Beginning in 2010, a 12-year program began for 56 America the Beautiful Quarters. So far, I have Yellowstone, Glacier, and  Chickasaw.

I’ll have to hunt for the Territory quarters. Yay! I love a challenge.

I suspect the last sentence is the hook for many coin collectors. They love the challenge of the hunt, of finding the prettiest coin for their budget. I’m betting that will be me. What will grab you?

I welcome your stories and advice!
Next up: Observations about last week’s FUN Show in Orlando.               

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