Saturday, August 02, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #327

Nancy White Kelly

School has started. This time last year I was burning the candle at both ends as a last minute fill-in school administrator. I hadn’t been in that role for fourteen years. Now that a permanent administrator is in place, I am refocusing my time and energy. Funny how some of our younger friends think that retirement means sitting in rocking chairs and drinking sweet tea while life passes by. I have so many interests that it is often difficult to fit everything in.

Someone asked the other day how I got interested in numismatics. That is the proper term for the hobby of coin-collecting. I don’t remember a specific date or place. My desire to learn about old coins evolved from listening to an aunt tell interesting stories at family gatherings as she showed her books of shiny coins. Many dated back to the 1800’s. As I grew older, I began to understand how this study of money correlated with almost every academic subject I encountered in high school and college. Few people relate money, the basic commodity of all time, to history, language, economics, art, metallurgy, mathematics and even religion.

Beginning with a couple of treasured silver dollars given to me by my grandmother’s twin sister, I started my journey into the hobby of numismatics. In the back of my mind I envisioned having a little coin shop someday. That someday is now.

A few years ago I decided to formally expand my numismatic education and took courses from the American Numismatic Association. Hanging on my wall is a certificate that says I am a “Numismatic Scholar.” I humbly decline that designation. The specialized field is too vast.

Like a good spouse, Buddy has always supported my endeavors which have been many and varied. I learned several years ago that that his knowledge of coins was limited. I mentioned one day in casual conversation that I sure would like to have an 1877 Indian head penny. He asked how much it cost and I held up four fingers.

A couple of months later Buddy admitted that he had gone to the near-by coin store to obtain the Indian cent to put with a present for an up-coming anniversary. The proprietor carefully boxed up the well-circulated 1877 penny and placed it in a bag. Buddy promptly laid down four one dollar bills on the counter. To his chagrin, the dealer informed him that he was a little short. The Indian penny cost four hundred dollars. I can only imagine the conversation that ensued with the coin dealer and my sweet, but plain-spoken Mississippi-born husband.

Consequently, Buddy has left the financial management of the coin business to me. He does everything else: plumbing, carpentry, painting, and in spite of my frowning countenance, entertains customers, young and old, with his never-ending repertoire of airplane stories.

Sadly, seldom a week goes by that someone doesn’t appear with a wedding band or some old halves in hopes that they are worth enough to buy a tank of gas. The truth of the matter is that I occasionally buy what I don’t need or want. Donald Trump would not approve, but I march to a different drummer.

Recently an elderly couple dropped by the shop. The old man toted in several heavy jars of pre-1965 silver change that he had accumulated during his working years. He wanted to take his wife on one last trip together while they were still mobile. He had no extra money for such an extravagance in sour economic times. Then he remembered those olds jars of change. It took me several hours to sort through all of it, but there was enough for them to take a short, but memorable vacation.

Numismatics will probably always be an important facet of my life, but the living lady has many other interests to pursue. Right now a dozen chirping cockatiels in the outdoor aviary are trying to get my attention. I must have a customer.

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