Monday, July 07, 2003


Don't worry, I'm not such a geek that I've become a coin collector (just kidding, coin collectors). But I have recently become fascinated by money. Part of this stems from my parents' interest in the 50 State Quarters Program of the United States Mint. And part of it stems from the coffee cans full of wheat cents we used to store in our basement when I was growing up.

In any event, I've recently acquired several coin folders, and I've started sorting my big bag of change by year and mint location. Once I go through the bag, I'll take the remaining change to a Coinstar machine to cash it in. In any event, this is a surprisingly fun hobby. For one, there's something soothing about the manual labor involved in sorting and organizing one's change. I don't have many projects in my life with such repetition, much less clear goals and progress. Secondly, the connection between coins and history is amazing. When I come across a 1968 penny, I think about what happened in 1968 -- politically and culturally. When I discovered a 1978 nickel, I thought about grade school. We carry touchstones to the past in our pockets every day, and we handle them without thinking.

It's also interesting because of the accoutrements of numismatics. Several publishers offer coin folders, and they're all different. I know which kind I like the most, and it might be useful to share my comparisons and commentary with you. H.E. Harris & Co.'s coin folders are my least favorite. Even though they've been in the business since 1916, the cover paper -- and backing to the coin slots -- is much too thin. Will it rip? In addition, the cover designs are rather garish. I much prefer the mottled covers used by other coin folder manufacturers.

Of those, the custom coin folders made by the Littleton Coin Co., which has been in business since 1945, are a close second. With an austere mottled green cover, these folders offer a much better backing. That said, the coins almost fit in too easily. Will they fall out? While the Littleton folders offer as much historical information about the coins in question as H.E. Harris & Co.'s wares, they also include somewhat distracting corollary history about current events of the time. Stick to the coins, please.

Lastly, my clear favorite, the Whitman coin folders supplied by St. Martin's Press. With their classic mottled blue covers, ample backing, occasionally too-snug coin slots, and coin-related history, these are my pick of the litter. To my surprise, H.E. Harris & Co. acquired the Whitman line of numismatic products from St. Martin's early this year. Ouch. If president Mary Counts isn't lying when she says, "We are committed to continuing the Whitman legacy," H.E. Harris & Co. would be well advised to follow in the footsteps of Whitman and drastically improve their product line. When I was shopping for the folders, H.E. Harris & Co.'s folders dominated the shelves. Whitman's quality is, oh, so much higher.

Sheesh. You know you're a geek when you complain about the quality of coin collecting folders. I think I've crossed a line, Media Dieticians.

No comments: