By Dr. R.S. 'Bart' Bartanowicz
It was well over a
year ago when our numismatist made the decision
to assemble a world coin birth year set honoring
his birth year of 1941. The announcement of this
quest was published in the February 2008
installment of this column. The task was simple,
he would acquire one 1941-dated coin from each
The announcement of this quest quickly set off
tremors throughout the numismatic world.
Comments ranged from "lots of people have tried
this before but without success" to "he can't do
it" to "more numismatists need to take on
challenges like this" to "this fellow is setting
the pace" to "this man needs a life - retirement
has obviously provided him with too much time on
The most cutting of the comments was, "What
makes him so special that he wants to honor his
birth year with a coin set? What presumption!"
With encouragement and criticism, our
numismatist started off on the task of acquiring
one 1941-dated coin from each of the 60+
countries that had minted coins that year. The
criteria was simple, the coin had to be from
1941 and undamaged. If there were several
denominations our numismatist would chose the
design he liked best. There was also a spending
limit of no more than $5 per coin unless it was
a rarity in terms of numbers minted or grade.
The acquisition strategy was through coin shows,
coin dealers, online auctions and any other
sources, including the generosity of friends.
Also, from time to time our numismatist added
1941 coins from countries he had somehow failed
to pick up in his review of the Standard Catalog
of World Coins.
Some coins proved nearly impossible to find on
the open market, such as the 1941 Hong Kong
five-cent piece. Another was the 1941 Yemen 1/40
riyal. In these cases, as well as a couple of
others, he chose to substitute a "type example."
A type example being the same coin design and
denomination but another year. For instance, he
used a 1938 Hong Kong five-cent piece that is
the identical design of the 1941 to fulfill his
requirement and serve as a place holder until he
found a 1941 five-cent piece.
Upon acquiring the Hong Kong five-cent piece,
our numismatist declared his task as complete.
His collection included 64 countries with a coin
from each country. The collection included an
educational paper and a list describing each
Our numismatist was pleased with his work. He
would present the results in a program to his
local coin clubs. He would also be displaying
his 1941 set at local coin shows.
He had learned a lot about the countries and the
coins. Of course, 1941 was a sparse year for
coin production because of World War II. Many
countries were not minting any coins at all.
When all was said and done, he had fun. He had
met a lot of new people including dealers and
fellow collectors. As to cost, he had probably
spent a couple of hundred dollars - not counting
a couple of high-priced scarcer coins. He was
satisfied and he had fun. And he had acquired an
appreciation and respect for world coins and the
people who collect them.
Well, that's the story. And yes, it's all about
A couple of things bear mentioning. First of
all, I did not set off tremors in the numismatic
world. Secondly, the concept of birth year sets
is not foreign (pun intended), as most
collectors have assembled U. S. birth year sets
In terms of cost, most world coins are very
affordable. There are exceptions based on rarity
or grade. For instance, one of the more
difficult 1941 coins is the Southern Rhodesia
The reverse of the coin features the ancient
Zimbabwe bird. Finding one in About Uncirculated
will run around $50. The same goes for the East
Africa one shilling that features a lion walking
on the African Savanna. This coin in About
Uncirculated is going to demand $25 or so. So
there are always potential budget busters.
Our numismatist is fortunate to have a lot of
wonderful friends. It wasn't long after he told
folks about his quest to put together a 1941 set
that many of them came forward with coins from
their own collections. His friend Mike provided
some nice Hungarian pengos. Likewise his friends
Neal and Vic came across with some nice British
and French pieces. Money was offered but they
wouldn't take it. Talk about friends.
You won't see this collection featured in major
numismatic publications or winning major awards,
but then most collections don't get this type of
recognition. This is a pretty nice assemblage of
circulated coins that means something to me. So
I'll be showing off and sharing my collection
with others and from that I'll receive immense
enjoyment. And that's the point of collecting,