Finding the non-banal in treasures

Gene Shook
Jul 4, 2018 · 5 min read

As I scan through my various “treasures”, I’m struck with how banal they generally are. An old camera that was the current model when I bought it fifteen years ago and now can barely keep up with the camera in your average phone, but the phone camera can’t support a telephoto lens (yet), so there’s that. A series of books on South America I became fascinated with only to visit South America and discover that the writings about South America can be superior to the experience. Some computer games I thought looked interesting so I bought the entire anthology only to open the first box and be so completely bored after 10 minutes I put them all away and have now hauled them from apartment to apartment all of these years.

In a simple phrase, my treasures reflect my life, its rather banal.

However, I have some actual treasure and probably unlike most things I plan to sell to turn into crypto (camera, books on South America, video games), this treasure has intrinsic value. I mean of course, my coin collection.

My original coin collection

There, look at it, doesn’t it look like money, that’s because it is money.

I got into coin collecting as an accident. My first job on Wall Street was very confusing to me as I worked on the currency exchange. The currency exchange is one of those where every transaction invariably means one side is a winner and one side is a loser. Someones currency will always be more valuable tomorrow then it was today, its difficult to know which one.

I thought collecting coins would help me understand this so over the years I’ve collected rare US coins which have their own unique characteristics, foreign coins (mostly at tourist shops where you can by a bunch of coins for a few dollars…this money is usually fairly worthless) as well as from travel and a large amount of Canadian coins, mostly through the accident of being to lazy to make sure I had used all of my coins before I came back to the United States and therefore had a bagful of coins.

Canadian Coins

I took all of my coins to a coin broker and let them make a bid. I of course, could have taken the Canadian coins to Canada, turned into paper money and converted it back into US cash, but that seemed like a lot of work. So I didn’t do that.

I had a few rare coins.

A gold coin in a case, some buffalo head nickels (made from actual nickel), silver dollars and Kennedy dollars. All of these turned out to be worth more than their stated value, although not as much as you would think for those Silver and Kennedy dollars.

My gold coin turned out to be quite valuable.

Valuable, although not $3000 as listed only $501

While its numismatic value is listed as $3,000 k, that’s purely for insurance purposes. I have found it online for anywhere between $399 and $1200 depending on the source and numerous other characteristics I’ve been to lazy to sort through. I used to own this coins’ cousin a $2.5 dollar Indian coin which was substantially less valuable and which I also lost. If I had had the full set (there is also a $10 coin) I could probably have turned over a substantial profit from my collection.

But there’s the rub, I found collecting coins to be rather boring. The other coins in my collection, The Foreign Coins, were interesting but when you are looking at an East Caribbean dollar and trying to remember when you were in the Eastern Caribbean, the coin exists more as reminder to our flawed memories then a trip that would be instantly familiar anytime I looked at the coin. Better to have a picture of me receiving or spending the coin, or better yet, simply have a picture of me in the Eastern Caribbean (which now because of selfies we can do). No, to remember travels is no longer a good reason to collect coins.

As for Canada, it is never a good idea to collect Canadian coins. The one dollar coin is the Looney (THE LOONEY) and the two dollar coin (yes these are both coins and one comes in as a two dollar coin) is called a Twooney. Thus, even Canadian’s know their currency is looney tunes.

Nah, it is better I put aside these treasures. They have the distinction of not being banal, there were authentic reasons to collect them over the years, but now there is another way to keep memories, bitcoin and selfie sticks and that’s the path I need to go down.

I sold most of the coin collection in January for $569. I kept a few coins

Some memories, its better when there are fewer.

Plus, look at these, there are $2 bill’s. Which are still worth $2, I’m not sure why they are so fascinating. Because they aren’t Twooney’s perhaps.

The $569 was converted into various crypto currency’s at an effective rate of $12,729 per bitcoin. Bitcoin is now at $6681. So, I have lost half the dollar value of my coin collection, if I were to sell today. But I’m not going to sell today. These coins were always fun to have and I never had any intention of selling them. At least now, I’ve converted them into something.

Was I grossly underpaid for my $5 Indian Gold coin? Should I have gotten $1200 as various websites imply I could have? That was always the problem with that coin. While some organized market was willing to sell the coin for $1200 (and I could feel some comfort that the coin must be worth that), that organized market would never buy it from me for that price, hence the deep discount.

No, now I have Crypto Currency, volatile but somewhat liquid. Yes, a large transaction fee, but not nearly the spread on the rare coins and who knows. Maybe it will burst into some massive value someday, I hope? Then I can go back to the Eastern Caribbean and take pictures with my new smart phone of me spending money. Isn’t that what we are really trying to collect after all? Experiences.

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