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Collecting Coins; my journey thus far


Collecting Coins; My Journey thus Far

Welcome to the first edition of The Rare Coin Cabinet Blog. The Rare Coin Cabinet hopes to accomplish two goals in each of our monthly articles and/or video presentations; First, to convey the joy of collecting and second to provide information for the collector to enhance their joy of collecting. I opened my first coin shop when I was 13 years old. I started buying and selling, studying and pondering coins almost immediately. I remember holding a coin in my hand and feeling that it had a story to tell. I was drawn to the aesthetics of numismatics and especially the uniqueness of each piece I acquired, whether it was for my collection or to be put up for sale. I remember researching my new purchases, grading each piece, attributing their dies varieties when called for, as well as studying their origins and pondering their somehow knowable journey. Mostly however, I enjoyed the people; the collectors and the dealers I met.


Something happened…

Then things changed and not for the better. I got caught up in the financial aspect of coins. My thoughts turned to solely to making money. Thus, my focus turned to the excellent living they provided, to the detriment of what originally drew me to numismatics, as the coin business itself, for me, (circa 1980) began to be less a collectable and more a commodity oriented endeavor.


Called into ministry…

In 1997 I left the coin business to follow my call into pastoral ministry. This has been my calling, my life, ever since. I have been blessed by God, and have known the joy of salvation in Jesus Christ. I currently am involved with an amazing ministry called The Awakening Institute for Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Direction and Soul Care, where we train people to be Christian Spiritual Directors in their local church.


Not the end for coins however…

Recently, I decided to retire form pastoral ministry in the local church, and focus exclusively on The Awakening Institute, however, much to my surprise I felt the joy of numismatics return and began to collect New Jersey Coppers and Civil War Tokens. It was as if God gave me back something that I thought was long gone. I joined C4, EAC, and the Civil War Token Collectors Society. I then felt the desire to buy and sell, not as a way to get rich, but as a way to enjoy collecting and do a bit of buying and selling along the way. In this I have rediscovered all the reasons that I first got involved in numismatics. Now, 49 years after having opened up my first Coin Shop I find myself publishing this newsletter and offering some coins for sale. My focus will be exclusively in early U/S. Copper coins from the Colonial period through the Civil War. I wish to only enjoy, study, collect, and buy and sell with others as a way to share the joy of numismatics. This is important for me, as I believe that all love, joy, peace and righteousness are gifts from God in Christ Jesus. I pray to meet many of you and to share the joy of the journey, both numismatically and life in general.


Why Early American Copper Coins?

For me, when I speak about early American copper coins I mean colonials, with an emphasis on state coinage, large cents and half cents. So, why have I decided to focus in this area as a specialty? The reasons are numerous, including tangible aspects such as rarity/price valuation, variety and the collectability of these little treasures, which include by type, date, variety and die state. However, it is the intangibles such as beauty that goes beyond just preservation that I find fascinating. In other words, these coins have character and allure, even when they are not in pristine mint state condition (of which few actually exist anyway). Also their historicity, as each series has a fascinating history, which speaks to the founding of our nation, economic and even aesthetic trends. Furthermore, it is great fun to consider the history of specific coins that can include pedigree of previous owners and even can enter the realm of imagination. What must this coin have seen over the centuries? Who held it? What was it used to buy? How did it survive? In this we are reminded that these coins were the coins of everyday commerce that the average person used in their everyday lives. Last but not least is the intangible that comes from the joy of the hunt, research, and camaraderie. I have witnessed what can only be described as joy when a collector purchases a piece for which they have been hunting for a long time. Likewise, I have witnessed young collectors enamored by simply holding their first large cent. I have experienced this joy even when the purchase of the piece was out of reach. I remember purchasing Ken Morrison’s New Jersey Copper collection in 1976, 81 varieties for $18,000, which I paid off at a rate of $2000 per month for 9 months. Forty two years later, after having bought and sold thousands and thousands of coins, I can still remember each coin in that collection and have even recognized a few sold in various auctions over the past several years. I still remember, as if it was yesterday, being in New York, in 1980, looking at every New Jersey Copper in the Garrett sale, with wonder, even though they were, for the most part, beyond my ability to purchase at the time. Furthermore, it is a joy to research die varieties and die states and to share discoveries and experiences with like-minded others. In this we discover a community that is unique within the milieu of rare coin collecting. There is a sense of belonging and welcome that supersedes much of the commoditization that has occurred in other areas of numismatics. Collectors and dealers who specialize in the area of early American copper coins and Civil War tokens are among the most astute numismatists in the world, as well as being among those who are most willing to share their knowledge and to just talk coins.


In future Coin Cabinet blogs I will do my best to share the joy of coin collecting in the area of early American coppers as well as Civil War tokens. In so doing I will also share pictures and notes on coins in my personal collection, any interesting new purchases that I make along the way, as well as any special events or occurrences that may be encountered along the way, all with the hope of inspiring conversation with and among my readers. For now take care and God bless you all.


Gene Yotka

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