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Power of a Freebee
By Dr. R.S. "Bart" Bartanowicz, Coins Magazine
January 16, 2014

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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This column is bits and pieces from several conversations I’ve had with my fellow coin collectors over the issue of getting people interested in collecting coins. One of the discussions has been coin shows and sponsors giving out coins as door prizes.

The whole question of whether or not giving out freebies helps to keep or get people interested in the hobby can inspire great debate among my friends. One of my pet peeves is that coins should not just be handed out without forethought. That is, we should think about what we are giving out vs. just gathering up a lot of door prizes.

Many of my friends disagree with me, saying that I’m making too much out of a simple concept. I try to avoid disagreement on any number of topics—especially numismatics. With that said, my views follow and I hope they make sense.

Most, if not all, coin shows have raffles and door prizes. Raffling off a gold coin is always popular. Additionally, here in Florida, quite a few coin shows have hourly drawings for door prizes. The prizes include coins, books and other numismatic items, all designed to keep people interested in the show. That is, people tend to spend more time at shows in hope of hearing their winning number called.

While folks are pretty happy with the above process, as I described it, I feel that a lot can be done to step up our game as a numismatic community. Freebies are a powerful device to get new folks interested in the hobby. With a little time and effort, we can make freebies even more powerful.

While winning is important, people are impressed with items that are attractively packaged and better yet, valuable—or at least have the potential to become so. The question in my mind is: What happens to the material once folks leave the show? And, does the prize get the individual interested in the hobby? For example, winning a packet of common-date Buffalo nickels with barely readable dates probably won’t draw oohs and aahs from seasoned collectors. On the other hand, a newcomer will probably like them. But will it inspire that person to become a collector? Conversely, a common-date Buffalo nickel set of three coins with one each from Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco with readable dates and mintmarks has consistency whereas three dateless Buffaloes don’t.

2013 Frilled Neck Lizard Silver Proof
2013 Tuvalu Frilled Neck Lizard Silver Proof

This Remarkable Reptile is displayed in all its glory on a colorized proof silver dollar from the Perth Mint. Mintage is limited, so get yours before they’re gone!

A great freebie would be relatively inexpensive coins that are still collectible. A good example is the ever popular Kennedy half dollar. These coins are still affordable. Based on a silver price of about $21, a 1964 90 percent silver Kennedy has a melt value of $7.50 and a 1965-1970 40 percent silver Kennedy melt value comes in at around $3. The later Kennedy clad issues are, of course, less expensive. These coins would be appreciated by newcomers and experienced collectors.

Other popular silver coins that won’t break the bank include the 35 percent silver war nickels, 1942-1945. These have a $1.20 melt value.

Silver dimes are always popular. The Mercury and Roosevelt dimes have a melt value of around $1.50. A one-year Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco type set would be a nice door prize. These coins have more meaning than just a packet of randomly assembled coins. If these are too expensive, how about one-year clad type sets in a plastic snap holder? These can be put together for a few dollars.

Finally, contemporary foreign coins are always a good handout for youngsters. They are plentiful and inexpensive. Consider bagging up five or 10 different coins, each one from a different country. This provides the youngster with a geography lesson that can be part of a show-and-tell at school. It also gives the parents an opportunity to interact with their children, which is always good.

So when one has freebies, be they handouts or door prizes, keep the word meaningful in mind. I concede the point that folks are just pleased to win something and it doesn’t always have to have meaning. I’m sure readers have a lot more ideas than I do. Anyway, that’s this grumpy old man’s viewpoint.

More Coin Collecting Resources:

• Strike it rich with this U.S. coins value pack.

• Get the 2012 Coin of the Year – limited quantities remain!

• Build an impressive collection with Coin Collecting 101.


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