Jump to content
CoinPeople.com

Collecting or Not: Good Guys and Bad Guys


mmarotta
 Share

Recommended Posts

Regarding the Luther Commemorative recently posted to the Museum, I do not want to debate Luther, either here in or in some other forum, and I do not need to debate the nazis, either. I raise the issue for two reasons.

 

** The first is only to say, "Nice coin, but not for me."

 

** The second is to ask, broadly, if there are any coins (notes, etc.) that you would not collect for moral reasons.

 

Yes, I know that we are all fallible creatures and even "great" people have unseemly details in their lives. Personally, I think that making a principle of that is a dodge, an excuse, a philosophical error called "equivalency." In terms of "equivalency," the American government's treatment of Native Americans makes America "no better" than <full in the blank.> I reject that. I look to basic princples and I see that those shameful episodes are an exception to the rule, whereas in <fill in the blank> the nation (government; culture) was founded on immoral principles. So, for me, when I collected Roman coins, I was choosy about my emperors. Consequently, I have only a few: the Five Good Emperors, Septimus Severus, Severus Alexander. The only Republican issues I have are from Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger.

 

Again, I am not interested in the specifics here. I am curious to know if there are other people here who, like me, stand by morality when engaging in the hobby. Is there anything you would not collect for moral reasons?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't understand - if there are issues to everything that includes morality, we perhaps should avoid collecting coins althogether as we can never know how much blood was spilt upon mining metals alone. Forget other histories that include mass meltdown of metals stolen from other nations etc.

 

African metals? We should know how much blood the Africans lost and somehow their metals get exported out into the market and we use them. Ways to verify it? Perhaps not.

 

Swiss gold after WWII were said to contain mercury as the gold was melted from nazi gold. (discussed in an earlier log) Should we just avoid them? Should we test every single gold coin for mercury traces? Gold is gold.

 

And there goes on for almost every country.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only coins I will never collect for moral reasons are Nazi Germany. Other than that, I can't think of any other coins that would really bother me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Morality is to me about personal choices and the consequences that result. When I buy a coin it's not going to aid a Roman emperor, Stalin, Hitler, or a cruel Sasanian shah. They are dead and gone, the coin marks their passing. Excepting buying modern coins directly from state run mints I do not view the purchase of a coin as being tied to the morals of the subjects on the coin.

 

I can understand not wanting to have coins from certain places or rulers. There are many who would not want a Nazi swastika anywhere near them. I'm sure there are Greeks who would never buy a Turkish coins and vaca versa. Would Armernians want Russian or Iranian coins? Azerbaijanis Armenian ones?

 

But all that is personal choice. It is not a moral position.

 

What is the consequence if you buy a coin with a swastika on it?

Does the consequence change if the buyer is Jewish and the seller is French?

 

One could even argue that to avoid those coins is to avoid the histry, to beging to forget and that is a moral failure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not avoid coins for "moral" reasons. In my opintion it depends on how you see the history of it. For me, buying a Nazi Germany coin is not a problem. My Grandfather fought the Nazis and was a prisoner of war. For me, the coins are history and partial family history. I see no problem with that. It also depends on how you collect. If you collect German coins say by type like I do, should I avoid the Nazi era just because it was a terrible time in history? I don't think so, but I respect others who may feel that way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't see any reasons why I should not collect coins that were issued by a dictatorial regime. I have coins from nazi Germany, fascist Italy, Franco's Spain, Greece under the military junta, the USSR and its "satellites", and so on.

 

What I tend to avoid is buying collector coins from dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. For example, I would not buy a commem from Belarus or China. And I would not buy GDR silver coins if that (East Germany) was still a communist country. Of course nowadays I do not support their government any more if I buy one. :ninja:

 

Christian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Morality is a point of view, not a fixed value across humanity and its cultures so it is of little use being facilitated as a standard to measure against in my honest opinion.

 

To answer your question though yes there would be some things i would avoid, but not because of 'morality', but because of my own personal preferences and judgments of what is important to me.

 

So no Constantine I and no Theodosius I.

 

 

As for Nazi coinage i collected it as a sign of defiance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

**  The second is to ask, broadly, if there are any coins (notes, etc.) that you would not collect for moral reasons.

 

Is there anything you would not collect for moral reasons?

 

What I tend to avoid is buying collector coins from dictatorships and authoritarian regimes.

 

I'm with tabbs. I'm not going to buy coins directly from regimes that are morally repugnant. No money to the North Koreans or Iranians right now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, this is a thin line. I haven't seen anything really out of line yet. It was a question of whether you would not collect coins based on a moral question. So, that's ok by me, unless it starts to get ugly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Leaving all the "bad" countries aside for debates, how about countries that have been colonized? I'm pretty suprised that people have not mentioned this yet.

 

Examples such as Mexico, the rest of S. America, Indo-china, Dutch Indies, Danzig, Korea, Phillipines, etc all share valid examples of coinage revolution which people at first refused to use.

 

How should this be thought as referring back to Mike's question?

 

(Frankly speaking, I was thinking of Queen Elizabeth II on current world coinage - how would one see her as? Not that I am insulting the Queen here)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(Frankly speaking, I was thinking of Queen Elizabeth II on current world coinage - how would one see her as? Not that I am insulting the Queen here)

 

 

I wouldn't be bothered if you did... and that's coming from a long standing royalist!

 

Definately an interesting question. Being in the UK as i am we think nothing of having the Queen of our country on everything; stamps, coins, paper money, newspapers etc.

 

But how do Aussie's and Canadian's feel?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The question Mike raises is an interesting topic for me. I co-authored (with R.W. Colbert) the Medallic Portraits of Adolf Hitler, published by the Token and Medal Society. The ANA ran our introductory biographical essay as an article in the Numismatist. I cannot think of any more controversial topic or one saddled with more emotion. One of the most famous collections of Hitler material was amassed by Maurice Frankenhuis, a concentration camp survivor. We received a Mishler Exonumia Cataloging Gold Medal for the work and dealers have requested that we do a follow-up. Unfortuantely, I'll leave that for someone else as I've moved on to new interests. In the introduction to the study, I wrote:

 

"Were we to shun any area of study, no matter how insignificant, merely because of our negative emoional reactions to it, we would be guilty of the same errors that contributed to the ultimate destruction of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist state. Instead, we would hope that the objects represented within this work would be collected and studied for what they are -- physical documents of a very real period in the history of mankind."

 

That said, I can understand that one would chose not to collect something because of its history and their emotional reaction to that history. I also believe in political decisions to not support an active regime through purchases of its coins, stamps, etc.

 

Another item in my collection is an El Salvador 1 Colon note with the counterstamp:

 

Barter for Peace, Your Dollars for Freedom, One Colon less for the oppresive oligarchy, FMLN, We will Win.

 

That note cost me the dollar in support of the FMLN, a political statement on my part. Political feelings in this country ran to extremes at the time as well since our government was supporting the "oppresice oligarchy." Today, the Library of Congress features government documents related to our clandestine activities as part of our history and the FMLN prevailed in many of their issues.

 

I received a Heath Literary award for a study of Stone Mountain half dollars. Gutzon Borglum and many of the committee members were KKK members and planned a KKK memorial within Stone Mountain. Again, I have no attraction to the KKK or their beliefs, but the events are a fascinating chapter in our history.

 

I have no problem reconciling my interest in Adolf Hitler with my liberal political beliefs. For me, its a matter of history. I also have no problem with another collector chosing not to share my interests.

 

I believe the original question turns on one's definition of morlity. If you speak of a personal morality that determines one's preferences, then each of us must answer that question for ourselves. If your question turns on a notion of public morality, then it raises serious issues of who and what cultural norms define morality for coin collectors. For example, should anyone own or even reference a book written by Walter Breen given that his personal behavior was definitely outside the morality of our culture? Did his personal actions taint his scholarship?

 

It is a difficult question and one best answered by drawing on personal morals in the form of personal choice and preference.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies. Not surprisingly, some people collect without regard to morality; and others collect according to their own standards of right and wrong, as historical judgments.

 

Last autumn, I took a college class in ethics. I was alone in believing that if you are on a deserted island, then you have a desperate need for morality. Most people think of "morality" like "ethics" as being social. In fact, our book said just that. The textbook made the two terms synonymous. (To me, they are not.) While nominally "objective" the book played to the common view that morality is whatever most people think is right. (My view would be called "formalist" and "de-ontological" in academic terms. I call it "objectivist.") Just about everything I do is based on a moral choice, though I do recognize the existence of issues with no moral impact: "chocolate or vanilla."

 

So, as I said at first, I adhere to a personal morality while pursuing the hobby. I prefer life-affirming, positive, creative images that exalt life and achievement. Even that communist rouble I mentioned shows a New Dawn, a promise of a better world, and shows one person announcing that to another, and they are both workers -- creators and doers -- with their tools, and the coin is silver. All of those considerations reflect my personal morality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Being in the UK as i am we think nothing of having the Queen of our country on everything; stamps, coins, paper money, newspapers etc.

 

 

You speak perhaps for the southern part of the UK (aka England). Not for the north (aka Scotland), of that I can assure you. :ninja:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't see a big moral dilemna here by collecting coins from Nazi Germany or Communist China if the proceeds are not going to those governments. If the coins are just being sold between two collectors than nothing is going to the dictators. The exception i guess could be medals or even the diamonds coming from africa where war is still going on and money or profits could be traced back to the warlords. I am not glorifying their existence in life just marking that point in history and a little reminder of what humanity can do to itself and eventually break free from.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 years later...

I, too, avoid the Nazi coins. I don't have any strongly personal reasons. I just rationally or irrationally associate them with a regime that will always live in infamy. I think we all recognize that there are prickly issues re: the Nazis 65+ years after the war ended.

 

I avoid Chinese coins/notes for rational and irrational reasons, too.

 

I would add CSA coins/notes to my collection, but that's because I grew up in the capital of the South and am a proud Virginian who recognizes the truths and myths of those days.

 

A great question, Mr. M.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great topic. I'm actually Jewish, and have lost relatives in the Holocaust (great great grandmother was a survivor) and I have a collection of Nazi banknotes and coins. I agree with one of the member's comments from the past, if we ignore certain periods we begin to forget history, and the reason I keep my collection is because it reminds me and everyone who will see this collection that that time period was real, it's not just a chapter in a history book that stays on the page.

 

I totally respect people who don't want to collect it, I see where you're coming from. When I look at my collection, I don't really marvel at it, I feel more like I'm looking at a historical artifact. It's everyone's personal choice as a collector, at the end.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

951642.jpg

Italian Fascist Medal 1933. SORTI DEVOTA FUTURAE Rev: A VII O.N.B. by Papi for Lorioli Castelli Bronze 41mm Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) was an Italian Fascist youth organization. Created through Mussolini's decree of April 3 1926 this is A VII for year 7. It was named after Balilla (Giovan Battista Perasso), a semi-legendary Genoese character who started the local revolt of 1746 against the Austrian Habsburg forces that occupied the city in the War of Succession.

 

Morality can be like quicksand under your feet. The American Revolution or the The American War of Independence? one man's freedom fighter is another one's terrorist. Homosexuality was seen as an abomination, now people see it as okay... or not. As to not buying Chinese, numismatically the main reason should be 'fakes' because if you check where many of the everyday things we buy come from, they are made in China.

 

As to the medal, I brought it because of the striking imagery, not because I am a fascist. Many of the medals I buy are to commemorate battles but I am not a warmonger. But many of the inventions through history originated or were improved because of wars, should we refuse to use them for that reason. They would include ships, aircraft, telecommunications etc, metallurgy was advanced because of canons, ambulances & surgery from battlefield injuries.

 

Many moslems believe in shari law, whereas most westerners cringe at the thought. I prefer not to mix anyone's morality with my hobby, except of course my own :ninja:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

No. I will not buy if it would benefit a government I am opposed to like Cuba. Other than that coins are inert and amoral objects and as such only remind us of the insanity and criminal behavior of others.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had missed this debate originally and read it tonight with great interest.

 

When you collect the era of Napoleon I you pretty much set aside questions of morality. It was an era that effectively invented much of what we recognize as modern propaganda and that propaganda persists to this day. You can take opposite sides of many controversial events and have copious evidence to prove your points. But that is history, and its interpretation, not coin collecting.

 

Coins, medals, ephemera and banknotes represent to me contemporary efforts to persuade or simply to encourage commerce. I am interested in the effect these items had on the citizens of the time and not so much whether the producers of them were moral.

 

In collecting a medal of Napoleon meeting with the Sanhedrin it is important to me to recognize that each player in the meeting had a reason to arrive. Jewish leaders wished for greater freedom throughout the French Empire and Napoleon needed new recruits for his wars, ones who were not required to follow Jewish food laws while serving. The fact that Napoleon saw no reason for the persecution of the Jews and was inclined to grant them the freedoms they sought didn't mean he didn't see and exploit the opportunity that presented itself to gain concessions at the same time.

 

I mention the above because it shows how the pragmatic nature of Napoleon I, which is often reviled by his detractors, in fact served both sides of an issue. The Jews of Europe enjoyed relative freedom under the First Empire, freedoms that were quickly slapped down when he fell from power.

 

So, was Napoleon I a saint or a devil? Neither but it matters not to my collecting habits. Far worse tyrants were Francis I of Austria and later Louis XVIII in my opinion, the first an active tyrant and the second passive. I collect them both though I'll spend my money on something else before spending it on them.

 

Sorry if this wandered about. No coffee, getting later, mind drifting... :ninja:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...

Many interesting points. I agree that current mint products from countries such as China, Iran or North Korea may help those governments financially collecting coins form Nazi Germany or Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge is not showing support with those countries or politically ideology. They are historical relics only. And as one poster mentioned, moral standards are in flux. Slavery was common in most countries in the past. This includes Rome under the 'good' emperors and the United States pre-civil war. Is a 1850 penny any less 'moral' than a 1950 one?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...