b Papa Dog's Blog: The Half-Assed Numismatist

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Half-Assed Numismatist

I talk a lot in this faversham about a certain tendency I have toward the obsessive and the compulsive. I don’t really suffer from OCD. Like, not really really. Not like Monk. Or Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. No uncontrollable hand-washing or anything like that – just an inexplicable need to continue streaks or to amass collections once I have a few of something. Streaks – like the time I went to the movies every day for a year, or like this very faversham, which I apparently feel compelled to post to every day, even when there’s just no damn time. Collections – like hotel soaps and matchbooks when I was a kid, or comics, or, as I’m going to go on about for a while, the State Quarters.

I didn’t even really notice when the State Quarter program started in 1999. One day I just happened to see various bits of change with things other than that vaguely Aryan eagle on the ass end. I set aside one of each, not really intending to collect them, but not wanting to spend them either…and gradually I had a collection. This is pretty typical of the not-very-organized way such things begin for me. I somehow manage to get three of something and if I get one more, it becomes a collection, and a compulsion.

I should make clear that I made no effort to educate myself about the wider pursuit of numismatism. I just wanted to have one of each of the stupid quarters as they came out, and put them in a little dish at the side of the bed.

After I had about eight of them, it occurred to me that the little dish on the side of the bed was no place to keep them. I had noticed by the cash register in Walgreen’s an “official” (read: opportunistic tie-in) State Quarters album. One day while getting some razor blades or something, I picked an album up on impulse, and took it home to make a home for my unplanned collection of quarters. I pulled the shrink wrap off, opened the thing up, and made two discoveries: one, there were two slots for each state; and two, there were only 25 states represented in the album. This cheap-ass piece of shit was volume one, with volume two promised sometime in 2004. Well, okay, fine, I’ll make do. But what about the two slots per quarter? After some consideration, I decided this meant I was supposed to mount the tails side, with the unique State logo, in one slot, and the more generic heads slot, with George’s face and the year, on the other. That meant I had to have two of each quarter. Yes, I know. I could have just put any quarter in the heads-up slot, and who would know? I would know, and that was the problem. I set out to double the size of the collection that I’d never intended to have.

Months and then years passed, the album filled up, and suddenly I found that with the release of the Arkansas quarter last winter, I was fresh out of slots. Michigan was just around the corner, and I’d have no place to put it. What to do, what to do? I went back to Walgreen’s and asked after volume two of the “official” album. Of course, nobody knew what I was talking about because Walgreen’s hires the stupidest help in retail. Really, I think they have maximum IQ requirements in their screening process (and apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so). I gave the album I had a more thorough examination and tried to find the publisher on the Internet. Evidently they never existed. Not surprising. The collecting impulse required that I at least try to find the match for the album I had, but I was clearly at a dead end. I gave up and looked on Amazon for viable alternatives. I ordered one album, which turned out to be a huge rip-off – it was dead cheap, and it had slots for all fifty quarters, but then when you get it you find you have to order extra stuff to mount the quarters with, and that’s expensive. Had good textual materials, though. Figuring one good rip-off deserves another, I photocopied those, returned the crappy album itself, and then ordered a slightly more expensive one that I had passed up the first time. This one had slots for all the quarters too, and it seemed to be generally okay…but then I got a rude surprise. Like the earlier two, this album had two slots per quarter, but it was set up so that both sides of each quarter could be seen through plastic sheets. So, why two if you can see both sides of any one? Unlike the original album, the one from Amazon provided a clue. For each quarter there was a pair of slots, one marked “D” and the other marked “P.” Oh, duh. I told you I didn’t look into numismatism much. There are two mints in the U.S., Denver and Philadelphia. The albums were providing slots for each of the two separate mintings. Is that what they’re called, mintings? I hadn’t ever thought to determine the mintings (if indeed that’s the correct term), and had no clue how to tell one quarter from another.

After a bit of puzzling, I figured it out. On the heads side of the coin, at the bottom, to the right of George’s neck and under the implicit government endorsement of monotheism, you’ll find either a “D” for Denver or a “P” for Philadelphia. I pulled all the quarters out of my original album and found that the vast majority of them were from the Denver mint…I guess because I live on the West Coast. Now I was, in the immortal words of Kelly Bundy, on the horns of an enema. Having been rudely enlightened about the reason for the two slots in the new album, I felt it would be just plain wrong to put Denver mintings in the slots meant for Philadelphia. So what to do with all the extra quarters I had? That’s right. I raided one “D” minting of each quarter and as many “P” mintings as I had (only three, as I recall), and left the rest in the original album. I tried, I really, honestly tried, but I just couldn’t make myself throw the damn Walgreen’s album out and put its quarters back into circulation. So…if you’re following along, this means that I was now compelled not only to refill the empty slots in the original Walgreen’s album, but also to fill up the new Amazon album with quarters careful scrutinized according to mint. What had started out as a meaningless accumulation of fifty quarters was now destined to become a meaningless accumulation of one hundred and fifty quarters – two each of the first twenty-five states of whatever minting (but likely to be all “D”) in the Walgreen’s album, and a complete set of fifty from each minting in the Amazon album.

Half a year has gone by since then, and I’ve still got empty patches in both albums. For the Walgreen’s album, I’m missing Denver mintings of Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio, and Arkansas. For the Amazon album, I need Philadelphia mintings of Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Maine, Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, Florida, and Texas. So if you’d like to help a poor addled compulsive who really can’t help himself, dig through your change and see if you’ve got any of these. I would gladly pay you as much as twenty-five cents for each missing quarter you could make available to me.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

well papadog i am in a position to help you round out your collection considerably. for quarters minted in denver, i have your ohio. and for quarters minted in philly, i have everything you are missing except for texas--which includes delaware, new jersey, mass, virginia, new york, north carolina, rhode island, kentucky, tennessee, indiana, mississippi, illinois, alabama, maine, missouri, arkansas, michigan, and florida. my partner is from texas, so we thought it oddly ironic that is the only one we don't have. so you only need four more quarters all together to be complete. will send quarters next week.
best from beantown

8:21 AM  
Blogger Twizzle said...

Papa Dog ~ Have you tried shopping at the online US Mint store?

http://catalog.usmint.gov/

You might be able to buy the quarters that you're missing, thereby putting your mind at ease... or at least enabling it to obsess over something new.

xoxo,
Twizzle

8:47 AM  
Blogger Brownstein said...

I opted to drink at home last night rather than shooting pool, and the change I got back from purchasing the big-ass bottle of Maker's Mark included your missing Pennsylvania minting of Texas.

Missed the post office today, so will send on Monday.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You really should be collecting the Canadian provincial quarters. Ther are fewer provinces, and only one mint in Canada, so you could get over you obsession much more quickly. Better yet, you should start collecting the various other Canadian commenative quarters. They have the added bonus of getting to play the game "What the hell is this supposed to represent." For instance, the quater in my pocket right now appears to depict a hobo offering a cup of coffee to a baby. Anyways, I'll be happy to sell you Canadian quaters for a quarter American.

paul Anonymous

8:00 PM  

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