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Shake and Shiver
February 10, 2010

Ancient Romans believed in portents. Comets foretold momentous events. What would they make of today’s earthquake in Chicago and Washington, D.C.’s snowstorm?

It seems a bit like piling on, doesn’t it?

Then again, stuff happens.

Collectors know their coins provide a long view of the history of the United States or the world, depending on what they collect.

A little shaking and some snow don’t amount to much in the long term. However, shaking of disastrous proportions such as that which recently occurred in Haiti will have permanent repercussions that will ultimately be reflected in that nation’s coin and paper money issues.

Studying coins are a bit like studying layers of ice from core samples from arctic ice in Greenland, or tree rings in very old trees.

Sales numbers of American Eagles showed a high initital interest in bullion coins in the middle 1980s period when we all remembered the high inflation 1970s and feared those conditions might return.

Sales numbers dropped in the 1990s as buyers were more entranced by the stock issues of the decade.

The next decade’s sales shows the results of the growing economic dislocations we have been facing in our post 9/11 world.

However, there is something reassuring about holding something that is tangible in your hand. It is real. It lasts. It instructs.

All of this helps collectors put events in their proper contexts. Rattling teacups in Chicago are not likely to be followed by anything worse.

Snow in Washington will melt.

Collectors will go on collecting.

That’s the way of the world.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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