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Recycling the News

Tom Becker

The most underutilized source for important and interesting numismatic information can be found in previous issues of publications like Canadian Coin News.

Most of the numismatists I've encountered pay attention to the hobby's current events but are far more interested in what took place in the past. They also place a high value on gathering verifiable facts. The function of most newspapers is to report the details surrounding today's events and in doing so create an accurate record of yesterday. Most newspapers will continue to follow an important story and thus provide a chronological record of events. Via the editorial page and letters from readers, the newspaper can offer a personal response to current activities that is seldom documented in books. Advertising in the numismatic press also provides factual pricing information. I may recall what 1948 dollars were selling for in 1975 but reviewing advertisements from that time will substantiate prices.

It also seems among numismatists “current” events can enjoy a long life span. I don't think it would be improper to refer to coins produced in 1967 as modern issues. While some might devote a lifetime to studying coins minted several centuries ago, would it be worthwhile to become an expert in Canadian numismatic activities from 1967 until now? If you were to attempt to gather the facts about all of these happenings what dependable source might you use? What type of publication could you depend on to supply factual data concerning coin values as they occurred between buyers and sellers in 1977?

Numismatic reference books are critically important to our hobby. They often represent the efforts of an individual. By comparison to newspapers and electronic media, books are expensive. What might be of equal or greater value to modern collectors is spending a few hours reading a hobby newspaper that was published twenty or thirty years ago. My experience has been that these purposely disposable publications often contain information that is simply not available from any other source.

What may also be appealing to the cost conscious collector is that most old issues of numismatic newspapers are still quite affordable. This may not always be the case. These overlooked treasures are cumbersome to store. Newsprint was not made to last. In modern times, it may well be that every page of every newspaper is archived in a permanent format that will allow for instant retrieval centuries from now. I'm not sure publishers of numismatic newspapers have gone to the trouble and expense to make sure the contents of every past issue has been saved in a way that would make it available in an electronic format. I wouldn't expect them to do so.

Historians have found old newspapers to be of enormous value when trying to verify data. The same holds true for numismatic information. Old issues of the hobby press can also provide a fascinating record that allows one to experience how it was to be a coin collector in a previous time. Reading a few issues of the hobby press from 1972 might make you better acquainted with what was really going on than some of us old timers who were active in the hobby back then. Experience is good. Knowledge is better.

If you can locate some of these yellowed and dusty treasures I'm confident you will enjoy the read.


Tom Becker is a regular contributor to the Canadian Coin Reference Site, you can direct your questions directly to Tom easily by E-mail: or visit Tom's website @


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