“My favorite things aren’t things any more” – Courtney Carver
Last month I almost did something crazy. I almost gave away my entire coin collection.
That’s right – the guy who only has one main hobby left, and created an entire blog dedicated to these historic beauties, almost gave up collecting entirely.
Why? Well, as odd as it sounds, my collection was the last remaining “thing” I owned that I was still overly attached to and didn’t want to be anymore.
You know that question of “if your house is burning down, what would you go run and grab?” For me, it would be my box of coins once I knew my wife and kids were safe.
Nothing too terrible about that I don’t think, especially as they’re the only thing left I care about in our house of a thousand+ things (which I attribute 100% to last year’s Challenge Everything mission btw, – it got me detached from all kinds of bills AND “stuff!”), but the idea of being free from *everything* was even more desirable from the ownership of them. And if I’m being completely honest with myself, a few cracks had started to emerge in this beloved hobby of mine as well…
(ATTENTION all numismatists*, avert your eyes now!)
#1. I never seem to be content
When I first started collecting, I was happy with ANY coin that graciously made its way into my possession. I was just stepping into the brand new world of coin collecting – the “hobby of the kings!”- and I was grateful to just have a collection. Not unlike attaining your very first car or apartment, for that matter – any is better than none at all!
As I grew into the hobby, however, I quickly noticed my desire to “need” bigger and better coins in order to continue to stay excited. The $20 or $30 items I was first so fascinated with soon became commonplace, and I started desiring even older – more valuable – coins to keep me riding high. It wasn’t that I had stopped appreciating these smaller ones as their history is equally as interesting as their counterparts, it was just that there were always better – more juicier – ones around the corner. The possibilities never end!
Case in point: a few months back I learned that a friend of mine had a $500 bill he was looking to trade away. I wasn’t necessarily on the hunt for one, but as a lover of anything “odd” in the currency world (my favorite coins to collect are half cents, 3 cent pieces, 2 cent pieces, and gold dollar coins – typically from the 1800’s and older!) I was soon adamant about getting one. I showed my friend a few pieces and some cash I was willing to give up for it, and shortly thereafter I was the proud new owner of a $500 bill – woo!
Here’s what one looks like in case you’re interested (and I know you are ;)):
As fun as it was to stare at, however, the excitement was gone about a week later… I still very much appreciated its beauty and place in our history (they were discontinued in 1969 due to “lack of use”) but the Greed Man inside of me quenched for more… Whispering things such as “That bill is OK, but imagine how a $1,000 note would make you feel!” and “You need to keep on climbing, you’re just getting started!” And just like that, I was back in the trap of wanting more again…
Though in Greed Man’s defense, these bills are pretty spectacular looking ;) Just look at that ‘stache!
Now fortunately I have rules in place that force my obsessions to be only that – obsessions – but this new pattern of thinking was starting to get out of control. After getting my hands on the $1,000 I’d only then want to shoot for the $5,000 bill, and then after that the $10,000 bill (real currency!), and eventually the ultimate bill of all – the $100,000 gold certificate! A note only used to transfer money between Federal Reserve Banks, and one I’d die trying to get as they’re impossible to own as a collector. Or legal, for that matter.
Here are the rules that have served me well so far:
- All coins must fit in my little box
- I’m not allowed to buy anything with more than $1,000 cash (see problem #3 below)
- I’m only allowed to use money I get off trades, or from those coins/bills I sell from my own collection or those whom I help liquidate. (Think – dusty boxes in attics of grandparents, the best!)
Pretty good barriers to keep my wallet and addiction safe, yet still no match for the “wanting of more.”
#2. Anyone can buy stuff with enough money
While finding deals and getting your hands on the more rare coins/bills out there takes a level of skill plus some luck, by and large if you have a purse full of money you can snatch up almost any coin your heart desires. Money talks, and almost anyone will give up a coin for the right price.
Now this shouldn’t mean that no one’s ever allowed to use their hard-earned money to add to their collection – it’s your money, spend as you wish! – however, the idea that any Joe Schmoe off the street can simply write a check to score a million dollar collection on a whim leaves me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth… rightfully so or not. There are many reasons to get into the hobby of collecting, but one of the worst is to just scoop them up simply because you can or to show off. To be said of nothing of experiencing “the journey” – and culture – itself.
And you see this in many areas of life too – not just with collecting.
Remember that saying, “anyone can buy that“? Which I devised to keep my sanity in check? :) It’s what I say to myself any time I come across a Porsche or multi-million dollar estate or anything else fancy that I catch myself getting jealous of within seconds of seeing. It reminds me that *anyone* can buy that stuff as it takes no particular skill whatsoever. Just piles of money or a comfortable penchant for debt!
And to me, the power of *being able* to buy something vs actually pulling the trigger are two completely different things. One much sexier than the other. (Though again, people can prioritize as they please!)
#3. It’s starting to feel wasteful
As much as I appreciate the history and uniqueness of all that’s our country’s currency, it’s not lost on me that it seems ridiculous to spend hundreds – or even hundreds of thousands! – of dollars on tiny pieces of metal. Even if it’s technically worth that in the industry.
The plus side is that unlike many other hobbies, decent coins can double as an investment at the same time. And if you didn’t want to hold onto them for generations after generations to watch the values grow more, there’s an active enough market out there that you can flip them while still retaining a sizeable portion of their value. So it’s not a total “waste” even if you are dumping gobs of money into it, but of course there are a slew of other ways to put that money to more beneficial use.
For most, however, collecting is simply a hobby. And the problem becomes, of course, when it starts adding the opposite of joy to your life and brings out some less than stellar qualities in you. It’s one thing to pick up a coin or a stamp or heck – even a beanie baby! – when you’re in the mood every now and then, but it’s a whole other when you start plonking down good money for something you’re not sure is adding value to your life anymore.
And that right there is the biggest red flag of all – whether something is adding value to your life anymore. Whether it be things, occupations, people, ideas, etc.
When we catch ourselves doing things just because we’re so used to doing them, it’s smart to take a step back and ask whether it’s still worth it to ourselves anymore. Do we still want to participate in this hobby we were once so excited about? Do we still want this big house of ours even though at one point it might have made sense? Are my friends still truly my friends, or have we gone our separate ways in life, or worse – have they become toxic?
While I focused on coins today, this is the main takeaway of the post – to be cognizant of ALL things we bring into both our lives and our homes. I’m pretty sure we all have our “collections”, whether we want to admit it or not, but if you haven’t thought about it lately let this be the push to do so!
What’s the one thing you’re still attached to in your life that may not be worth it anymore? How does that make you feel?? What would you grab if you only had a few seconds in a house fire?
As for me and my glorious coins, well, I’m still going to participate in the hobby because it brings me more joy than it does envy (at least for now), but I’m not going to be adding anything new to the collection for a while and just focus on the parts I enjoy the most – the community! As nerdy as it sounds, one of the most pleasant parts of the month is attending our local coin club meetings :) And perhaps just being surrounded by them will be equally as pleasant as actually *owning* any of them?
We don’t need to own everything we love, right?
And thanks to a dear friend of mine talking me off the ledge, I’ve also decided to not just give away my collection either. Instead, I’ll keep it in our family and pass it down to my boys when they’re old enough to appreciate things more. Perhaps they’ll think it’s as lame as most people do under the age of 65, but it’s at least worth finding out :)
All I know for sure is that my coins are done taking over my emotions, and after 36 years of being on this planet I am finally, and officially, detached from every last thing I own! WOO!
Freedom time, here we come!
*A numismatist is our fancy word for coin collector, pronounced “new-miss-mah-tist”. Which also includes the collection – or study – of tokens, paper money, stock certificates and all other objects relating to currency.
Jay loves talking about money, collecting coins, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his three beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!