This article really hit home for me. I inherited the collecting bug from my Father who was a fervent collector of US, World and Ancient coins for nearly 50 years. He amassed a wealth of stories, knowledge and coins. He began collecting in the 1970s in the Philadelphia area. I recall he mentioned work colleagues who had some collections. He was always a fan of history and beautiful things. Coins allowed him to enjoy both. He also enjoyed the hunt for pieces to fill a hole in his collection or finding a particularly nice example that provided an opportunity for an upgrade. He rarely let go of the coin that was being upgraded, but that is another story as well.
My own stories have been molded by coin dealers and fellow collectors who are truly passionate about numismatics. The wealth of information in stories is staggering and nobody has time for them all. Whether it is an Ebay cherry pick or a coin with a long provenance, each coin in my collection has a story for me.
I am focused on Gupta Dynasty gold coins and US capped bust dimes and half dimes.
The Iron Game
Currently, my collecting dollars have been allocated to vintage physical culture items. The history of physical culture is as old as coins in that societies have found the strongest among them. Typically this was for protection, hunting or war. Preparation for war led to sport. In some cases challenges like stone lifting were a test of manhood. Collecting is limited to the last 150 years and the Iron Game is limited to the last 100 years.
The stories of collections are made up of popular and obscure manufacturers of barbells, plates, dumbbells and other equipment from around the world. There are popular series like York Barbell Company whose catalog, rarity, condition and market value is well understood. There are other manufacturers that changed hands a number of times, used a variety of foundries, and whose quality level depended on the year of manufacture. Survivability is interesting also. Similar to coins all weightlifting equipment was designed to be lifted for decades. Original paint, lack of repairs, integrity of markings are all sought after, but rarely found. Restorations are done sloppy. Restorations are also done impeccably. Time will tell what modern issues end up being the most sought after. Some plates and dumbbells are instant classics. They pay homage to designs of the past or make quantum leaps in technology. Collectible gym equipment can still be found in garage sales, antique shops and secondary online marketplaces. Collectible gym equipment also changes hands at staggering prices among a close knit community of collectors.
My collecting story is being written as we speak. My vintage inspiration was the Sorinex Strength Museum, which was inspired by the Stark Center. I joined the Facebook Groups Vintage York Barbell Owners, Vintage Weights & Physical Culture, Vintage Weightlifting Swap, Vintage Weights and Equipment. I have spent countless hours on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and Ebay.
I am currently building a collection of York Roundhead Dumbbells which are affectionately referred to as the gateway drug of vintage collecting. They are "readily" available in the range of $1-$2/pound and there are only a few stoppers in the series. Production weights went from 1 pounds to 100 pounds Salesman samples were made at 0.5 pounds. Some folks try to put together York Bun Dumbbell sets. Advanced collectors may focus on globe dumbbells from Jackson, York, Dan Lurie, Good, Tennessee Equipment and other manufacturers.
I have a small collection of Standard Plates (1" holes) from York, Roc-Mo and Hollywood Healthways. The breadth of manufacturers for standard plates is staggering and to see complete sets is fascinating.
I have a growing collection of Olympic Plates (2" holes) from York, Billard, Universal, Schisler and International. I only have one pair of plates tied to an institution and those are my cherished Air Force Academy Falcons plates. Advanced collectors seek out Zuver and Deep Dish plates from York, Jackson and Berg. Advanced designs include plates made for West Point, US Naval Academy, NFL teams, Universities and of course Iron Island.
I do not have any vintage barbells or collars.
My collection has been assembled locally at rough market prices of $1/pound and via Facebook groups (at collector to collector prices, premium varies).
From Coins We Love
"As the office is a little understaffed, I’ve had the opportunity to jump on a few phone calls this week that may not have typically made it to me. I have to admit, it’s been a nice change of pace. One thing that I’m reminded of on days like this is that coin collecting is often about the “Story”. Whether it's historic, artistic, or mental in nature, the story is a major part of why we get into this. We find ourselves collecting as we enjoy some aspect of the “story” and when collecting turns into a larger financial aspect, the value comes to play. Some advanced collectors tend to ignore value, which can be great long-term as they don’t allow the price to get in the way of a grand acquisition. This can also be dangerous, especially for beginning collectors, if they become entangled with unscrupulous dealers or marketplaces. When collecting coins is truly collecting labels or special issues, it’s no longer about the true root of collecting. The story is thrown away and it’s purely a value proposition. I’m sure many would argue with me, but that’s not what collecting is about and it tends to be a trap.
Putting together a coin collection takes shapes in many different forms. Whether the story is about family history and correlating the coins to important life (or genealogical) events, it’s because your grandmother gave you a Buffalo nickel, or you saw an ancient coin at a museum. These are all part of the collecting story.
As a dealer, we often get away from the story - that’s dangerous for both the dealer and those that work with that dealer. On occasion, I think it’s a good thing to dive back into what brought you to the hobby and to find out what collectors are really thinking. Their story is as important as your own and being able to relate to that is of the utmost importance. Let us not get away from the story this week. We should all keep moving forward and embracing the story as we enhance the hobby." - Dave Lawrence via Coins We Love Newsletter, March 16, 2023