Posts Tagged ‘coins’

One thousand!

It looks as though this blog saw its thousandth visitor on Monday. If I had a penny for every hit, it would look like this:

While it’s a far cry from the dizzying six-digit heights reached by global blogging megastars like Arjewtino and his ilk, it’s a nice milestone to hit. Looking forward to 10,000 next.

Unfortunately, I lack the technology to figure out precisely who my thousandth visitor was, but I hope they had fun.

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This is the start of a new temporary (maybe 9 days) feature wherein I make lists of stuff. So yeah. Reasons 2009 won’t suck.

1. New albums from Guster and Carbon Leaf

They’re not the only ones, of course, but two perennial favorites who will be releasing new material for the first time since 2006. Perhaps this will be as good a music year as that was.

2. Radical topiary

By which I of course mean the wholesale removal of the Bushes from the political landscape. I know that Obama has an extraordinarily difficult year ahead of him, and as such I am hesitant to expect a full reversal of the Bush policies I have disagreed with. However, I believe that he is likely to bring a change for the better, and I look forward to seeing it.

3. The return of Jermain Defoe

Tottenham have been woefully short on goals this season, largely due to the previous management’s boneheaded decision to sell off our three most prolific strikers in 2008 without lining up a proven replacement. As such, we were languishing at the foot of the league for a long time. Mercifully, said management has fallen under the proverbial axe, and due to the arrival of the new manager one of those strikers is now returning. Two other existing players are beginning to find their rhythm as well, and we have won more games than we have lost in the last 4-5 weeks. Here’s hoping this continues and we can climb the table again.

4. Going to Florida

On the 23rd, we will be escaping the cold and wet and dreary weather for a week in the sticky-out bit at the bottom right of America. More on that when it happens.

5. Getting our own place

2009 will in all likelihood see us moving into a house of our own, away from the mental depredations inflicted upon us throughout the years by noisy neighbors and flaky landlords. 

6. Baby steps

L is very close to taking his first steps, and will almost certainly do so either this month or next. It’s something that is second nature to any of us, but an extremely important milestone for him, and I can’t wait to be the proud daddy when he manages it.

7. Commemorative coinage

2009 sees the extension of the State Quarters program for one more year, four new Presidential dollar coins and four commemorative pennies. OK, so it’s only 14 coins and thus about 1.2% of my collection, but there are new coins coming out and I’m a coin nerd and that therefore makes me squee like a 7-year-old seeing the newest line of Hannah Montana merchandise.

8. More interesting work

Ever since I started at Xerox, I’ve been working on one big behemoth of a project, now mercifully complete. This means that I get to do a wider variety of things.

9. Steve Jobs is still not dead

Notwithstanding the rumours that keep screwing with Apple’s stock price, one of the computer industry’s titans is still alive and kicking, and thus there will be more pretty shiny toys released this year.

So yeah. Should be a good year.

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State Quarters

Here comes the coin nerd again. My aforementioned childhood interest in collecting coins was rekindled due to the 50 State Quarters program, which has proved to be an unprecedented success in the United States. Starting in 1999, the US mints in Denver and Philadelphia began producing a new quarter dollar coin every quintile (1/5 of a year, or 73 days in non-leap years). The program was to run for ten years, encompassing coin designs for each of the 50 states in the order of their accession to the Union.

Some collectors, in order to get a complete set, are collecting the quarters produced at both mints (with the D and P mintmarks respectively), while others are content to simply collect one for each state.

However, as of late December, the program has been expanded to 56 quarters in order to encompass the District of Columbia as well as five territories and protectorates of the United States – Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands and the Northern Marianas Islands. These final six will be released during 2009, once every two months. (It’s going to be a busy year for the mints, which will also be producing a new Lincoln penny every three months and a new Presidential dollar coin every three months.)

The US Treasury estimates that the program has generated close to five million dollars in seigniorage – since it costs the Mint less than five cents for each 25-cent piece it produces, the government makes a profit whenever someone receives a coin and chooses not to spend it. This figure may reach six million or more by its end. That’s enough to fund the Iraq war for almost half an hour! As John F. Kennedy said two years before his face adorned the half-dollar, ask not what your country can do for you, just keep collecting those state quarters.

Well, he might have said that had he foreseen this program.

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Coin collecting

Here’s my confession, my on-camera reveal of my inner nerd. I collect coins. And I do it for fun rather than for profit. It started when I was six years old, and I think part of the enduring appeal of coin collecting is that each new coin added to the collection recaptures the feeling of discovering numismatics for the first time.

I was aware of the existence of different currencies in different countries; indeed, during my youth in Italy I had already been provided my allowance in sterling on family vacations to England. This alone was not enough to do the job, but that summer my uncle John gave me a British half-penny coin, mentioning to me that the coin was no longer in circulation.

The idea that there were such things as coins without any further purpose, coupled with my subsequent discovery that the pound coin had only been introduced three years previously, gave me the insight that coins themselves have a life; the metal itself, of course, had been around for millions of years, but there was a comparatively short lifetime during which it was stamped into small discs and used for trade.

Of course, just as each type of coin has a life, each individual coin has a story; the 5-franc coin you have lying around from a trip to France might once have been spent by Charles de Gaulle himself, that 500 lire might have been the last one ever minted before the switch to euros, the humble dime in your pocket might have been the last little bit needed for the Red Cross to make their appeal goal and help hundreds of people.

This revelation was electrifying! It made me curious to gather coins from all across the world and throughout history, just to allow my six-year-old imagination to run riot with what the coins might have been, what hands had held them, what exotic places might have seen them spent.

Returning home from that vacation, I had amassed a pocketful of British change. My parents, noticing my interest, dug out the accumulated change from my father’s business trips: coins from France, Germany, Switzerland, the US, Japan… it seemed there was no end to the bounty.

Today, I own a collection of over 1000 coins – small compared to some, perhaps, but each one still makes me feel like that first half-penny did.

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