January 7th, 2006


Coins of the realm

A long time ago, I was a coin collector. For some years, I read and owned all sorts of books on numismatics, from dry reference books and sale catalogs to colorful histories. But I stopped collecting and sold most of my stuff many years back, not because I lost interest, but because there were things I decided to spend my time and money on instead.

Well, that long-neglected corner of my brain is getting dusted off these days. A good friend of mine is moving to Los Angeles in a few weeks (I’ll write more about that someday soon), and she’s in full purge mode as she’ll be moving from a spacious flat into a 1-bedroom apartment. Toward that end, she’s asked me to take a look at the coins that her father and her late husband left for her. So far, it doesn’t look like there are any stupendous life-altering ‘finds’ in the collection, but there have still been a few surprises.

One of the groupings she gave me to examine is a small dusty pouch with a few dozen coins in it. They were collected by her father in Europe during the last few years of World War II. Most of them are French, some are Belgian, and then . . . there it was, a swastika staring me in the face! It seems there are a half dozen coins here from Nazi Germany. Most of them are of the 10 reichspfennig denomination (much like the first coin shown here), and one is a 2 reichsmark coin (much like the second coin shown). I’ve already looked for these coins for sale on the Internet, and the results have been a little disappointing – the 10 reichspfennig coins can be bought in better condition than these for $2 each. Coins comparable to the 2 reichsmark coin can be had for about $4. But y’know, that’s almost beside the point at the moment. When I was a collector, I specialized in U.S. coins, so I never handled anything like this. It’s pretty fascinating to behold such an object. I really don’t wish to romanticize that dreadful era, but it’s simply a fact that holding in one’s hand an authentic artifact of such a historic time and place communicates something that cannot be read in a book. To me, it serves as a reminder that we who walk the Earth today are not so very different from the people who fought that enormous war so long ago.

Once again, the coins shown here are not the very same ones I’m looking at, though they are the same types of coins. These are pix pulled off web sites of coins that are in somewhat better condition than what I’ve got, but they are basically what I'm looking at here.

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