Tuesday 10 May 2016

Collecting scrap metal

As a child I engaged in many scintillating and improving hobbies, one of which was birds, albeit not lists and the collecting of ticks. The collecting bug was however present and correct even in those early years. I never collected birds eggs, but somebody, a kind grandfather perhaps, encouraged stamp collecting, and I remember a phase of tongue-stuck-out-corner-of-mouth fiddling with trying to place various issues pleasingly onto the pages of albums. My favourites were those with birds on, and with many American relatives (and this being in the pre-electronic age) I was constantly furnished with interesting US stamps. I distinctly remember a series of State birds - I probably saw a Cardinal on a stamp long before I saw the real thing. 

This hobby died as so many did, and instead I started collecting coins, specifically those with George VI's head on. I had a book, serious-looking with a green cover if I recall, that listed all the possibilities and I feverishly devoted my attentions to trying to collect them all on a rather limited budget. Even when you had say, a 1937 silver half-crown, you still wanted a better one, a nicer one with fewer dents in it, less tarnishing or whatever else could be wrong with a coin. When you eventually found one and part-exchanged your now vastly inferior old one for it, the triumph of inserting it in its rightful slot was hard to beat. To see it there, gleaming, showing none of its 50 years, well that was what it was all about.....for a brief moment. For as soon as you had it you would completely forget about it, the pleasure being purely in the chase, and so move onto whatever one was next. And so of course gradually you forgot about all of them, which is exactly what happened, and go and do something else instead like count paperclips. But I still have them - even though I last looked at them in about 1989, somehow they made it with me into adulthood, surviving several house moves, recently resurfacing at the back of a cupboard whilst I was in one of oh my god I must get rid of everything moods.

Now mostly 70 or so years old, they still look for the most part brand new, and I am still amazed at my diligence and filing system. Some are even some degree of actual silver and remain somewhat shiny. Do they arouse any feelings, any collecters urge? No. I have zero interest in coins at all - well apart from ones that I can spend - so whilst they're very pretty they're also completely unnecessary and are just taking up space. But somebody must want them right? Wrong. My naive younger self may have thought they were investing for the future, collecting something of real value. No, I have instead somehow amassed a collection of small round discs of scrap metal. It might as well have been bottle tops.

Noting that some of the rarer ones were actually worth upwards of 20 quid each, a few weeks ago I dutifully went through them all and wrote down various lists of what they were, which coins from which year and so on, and then started soliciting coin dealers, thoughts of new-found extreme wealth to the fore. Time to think again. Of the half dozen specialists I have contacted, just one has bothered to reply. "Not for us, we have loads of these already". So whilst they're happy to sell them, and indeed I could now easily complete the gaps that were beyond my adolescent means, once you have them it seems you're stuck with them. This is highly disappointing, but then again who is really interested? When a coin had a circulation of millions, that's going to require a lot of very dull people before there is any kind of demand. Whilst the UK is undoubtedly full of very dull people (I know many of them from birding) there are not currently enough of them. In other words they saw me coming.

A 1942 Florin. Only 39,895,243 of these highly sought after coins were ever minted. Please get in touch if you would like to buy it.

A big disappointment all things considered, but such is life I suppose. I won on the whisky, and people did at least want the fishing gear (albeit for a pittance), but on these I fear there is no hope. Next time I go birding anywhere I'm just going to bury them all, and one day some lucky person will dig them up and get all excited at the treasure trove they have discovered. And then become hugely deflated when realise they're still worth nothing.


  1. Jono, I too collected coins. As a 12-year old my ambition was to manage a coin collectors shop. Really...