A Fun Activity: Thematic Collecting

A quick look through some low-priced coins at Coins Plus in Newhall yielded an assortment of boats and ships. Clockwise from top: Canada (and center), Great Britain, Virginia quarter (U.S.), Greece, Fiji. (Photo: Leon Worden)

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
The Signal
Saturday, March 11, 2006

eachers often employ various themes to teach history, science and other subjects. Among stamp collectors, it is called "topical collecting." The goal is to collect items related to one topic such as birds, airplanes, horses, scientists, etc.
    Collecting coins by topic has a similar aim. However, there are far more stamps than coins, in terms of different issues. Among the more popular themes sought by coin collectors are horses, trees, military persons, fish, boats and architecture.
    Many thematic coins are common among smaller countries such as Belize, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Bahrain and Singapore. Using the current edition of the "Standard Catalog of World Coins" published annually by Krause Publications, a collector can go page-by-page and identify the most likely coins to fit any theme.
    In most cases, the coins are fairly inexpensive and can found at any dealer's shop or exhibit tables at coin shows. A large number of late low-value 20th century coins covering dozens of themes were issued and can be readily found.
    Since many such coins have a face value of less than 10 cents, the retail price is frequently little more than a dime. Often such coins are found in "junk boxes," where large numbers of foreign coins are kept for just such purposes. The low-denomination coins of Australia, New Zealand, Bermuda, Liberia and many other countries are all thematic issues featuring native wildlife, flowers and national history.
    Teachers can use coins as motivators for specific lessons. Unlike numismatists and serial collectors who want one of each coin in a series, such as Buffalo nickels, thematic collectors want one coin of each type. If there are 20 coins featuring horses from 20 countries, their goal is to find one of each type.
    In the current 50-state quarters program, already there are coins featuring airplanes, horses, buffalo, a condor, mountains, maps and many other themes. Thematic collecting is a very personal and individual pursuit — and lots of fun at minimal cost.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.