Recently the Wall Street Journal had an article by Dr. Linda P. Fried, “Older, Healthier, and Happier.” The thesis was that over the past 100 years Americans have added 30 years to their typical lifespan. And, how true this is. In researching American history — one of my favorite pastimes, censuses, accounts of activity, and the like from, say, the early and mid 19th century have relatively few people older than 70. Or, if they are older than 70, they do not seem to be particularly active. Coming a bit closer in time, to 100 years ago in 1914, oldsters were a small minority, often lived with their families, and were retired. There were no federal benefits, few programs, and the like.
Today in 2014, for many people life just starts at the typical retirement age of 65. Ten, twenty, or thirty years can be ahead, filled with productivity and interesting things to do. Increasingly, citizens on the long side of 65 keep working. Living with one’s family is not what it used to be and, in any event, many retirement plans that were supposed to assure a comfortable old age have performed less than expected, making it necessary to continue working to maintain a standard of living.
Amidst all this, coin collecting fits in very nicely. How many times have I heard people state that they look forward to retirement, but when that comes and after spending the first year playing as much golf as they want, or fishing a lot, they lapse into boredom. Collecting coins, tokens, medals and paper money can change all of that. The dynamics are present — a market that is worldwide, endless amounts of information on the Internet, great printed books to get you started, camaraderie in coin clubs and societies, and the fact that you will never run out of possibilities.
Numismatics has so many niches that no person in existence has ever explored them all. In my own life I have delved deeply into American numismatics from beginning to end, including most branches of tokens, medals, and paper money. I have also been fairly conversant with coins of Great Britain. However, the wonderful world of ancient coins is known to me only in passing, and ask me about coins of the Middle East and I am relatively clueless. The point is that there are so many different areas that can be explored.
While it is desirable to begin numismatics as a teenager — as I and many others did — you do not have the option of going backward. As per a Chinese proverb, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the next best time is today. Clarence S. Bement, who built one of the finest coin collections ever during the early 20th century, did not discover the world’s greatest hobby until he was of retirement age. I can mention many others who are over 65 years old who have become numismatists in recent years and are enjoying it immensely.
If you are of retirement age or know someone who is, consider coin collecting as a way to add a new dimension to life.