Numismatic Coin Club World Internet Numismatic Society

Let the Blind See: What's on a Coin Anyway?
By Tom Babinski, a blind collector, WINS#919

Though there is some information out there about what's on a coin, it is rarely enough for me to really understand what a coin really looks like, I can only get a sense of what's on it in some detail. But that's changing today. I started a new project to have my coins described.

I guess nobody dared asking me why I really need to have all those coins if I don't even have a clue about what's on them. Go ahead, ask me, no hard feelings, I just don't have a good answer. Being a blind coin collector is fun on its own, but I have to admit, I miss much of the fun that others can have who can see the coin. There are two kinds of things I'm not getting: a detailed description of what you can see on the coin, and also a subjective opinion of what the coin looks like, beautiful, nice looking, worn, etc.

Let's get the second out of the way first: it is very subjective, you may like a coin and somebody else would think that it is not very appealing. When it comes to quality, it can be more objective, especially use a grading system. For now, I won't worry about it.

But here is something more important, I always wanted to know what are the small details on the coins that I won't be able to touch, and to know what's written on a coin. Some catalogs will have the coin legend, at least some of it attached to the more collected coins, but my experience is that this is information that's hard to find. Until now I just accepted that it will be so, and I'll never know about what other's see. Here and there I asked people to describe a coin to me, but I never thought it would be possible to go through all my coins and have a good understanding of each of them. I just enjoyed them as they are.

But the other day I thought otherwise, and started a project in which I am experimenting with having my coins described. I have started with some of the US coins. Probably I need the least description on these ones, because information is relatively available, but this way I can find out what kind of description I like or don't like, learn from the first ones, and apply this experience when describing the less known coins.

And how are the coins getting described?? I asked somebody to do it for me. As she is describing them, I'm providing some direction on what works, what doesn't, and most importantly, what I would like to know. So, over time, if this method works out, the descriptions will be relatively subjective, partly based on what the describer finds relevant, and also based on what type of information I find interesting. Today I just got the first batch of descriptions, and it was fascinating. Just the thought that I can have this information available, I can understand something that I never knew much about.

In a way, it is a little bit like being able to see. I always tell people that my problem is not that I can't see, I can certainly live with it. The real issue is that sometimes I cannot access information, or cannot do things that others can who are able to see. This is changing each day, and it is becoming less of an issue. Some decades ago, if you couldn't see, you couldn't read a book. Today, I can just hold the book to my phone, take a picture of it, and have the text recognized immediately. Companies are developing driverless cars, there is legislation to make information equally accessible to all people, just to name a few things.

There are of course, things which will never be available unless you can see, for example, I will never see my kids face. Does it matter? Stone me, but not much. It appears to me that it is more important to people who are able to see their loved one's face. If I could choose to see them, I sure would. But there are things more important. I can still talk with them, I can have experiences with them, and for that matter, I can even touch their faces. Really, just like a kid face, because what distinguishes a face from one another for the most part cannot really be felt by hand. I have to admit, I may not even be able to tell my two kids apart just by touching their faces, I would at least have to touch their hair.

But here is something else to think about: being blind, I really on touch much more than others, and hands are just as distinct for me as faces are for you. At any time I would be able to recognize hundreds of people by a handshake. I'm not kidding. It actually happened several times that somebody came up to me to say hi, and I had no idea who the person was. After we shook hands, I knew exactly. Somehow, I remember hands better than voices.

So, what happened with the coins? A little sidetrack info, but I thought it maybe interesting, just in connection what I think about being able to see. So, back to the original topic, I now do have access to information that I never thought I would have before.

Now, you may ask me why. Because, why not. If you can see your coins, probably my database will not be very useful to you. But who knows if it will be useful to somebody else. After all, I never intended to write this blog for blind people, yet it is through this blog that I met two visually impaired coin collectors from Australia. So, I will just share the info, and hope somebody will find it useful. If nothing else, it will be available for me from all my devices.


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