by Jørgen Steen Jensen, Curator, National Museum of Denmark, Royal Collection of Coins and Medals:
Almost everybody, children and adults alike, collects something – things that we simply must keep and preserve. When we travel, we nearly always bring home a little small change, and if we do not return to that destination, the coins are put away in a box in a drawer. Little by little, we build up a coin collection.
This is how many small and large collections have originated. Sometimes the box of coins follows a person throughout life until the day when someone else has to take over. "Oh, a collection of coins," says the finder, who just might happen to be interested in coins.
Then the collection of travel money is, perhaps, sorted by country and year and placed in trays by the coin collector, who will spend countless hours studying the coins, but also contemplating how to fill the gaps in the coin series or set. Some people attempt to organise the coins themselves, but increasingly coin catalogues are used too.
The next step could be to join one of the numerous coin collectors' clubs. Some primarily provide exchanges and hold auctions, others also offer talks, books and journals about coins.
A centuries-old hobby
Collecting coins is a centuries-old hobby; in Denmark we can trace it back more than 400 years. The collectors were often the magnates of the realm. In Denmark, one of them was Hans Mule, who worked as a civil servant in Copenhagen, but originally came from Odense, where a school still bears his family name. Hans Mule died in 1669, leaving his collection to the King, and some of his coins are still part of the Royal Collection of Coins and Medals at the National Museum of Denmark.
Women collect too
Not only men collected coins, and from the late 17th century we have accounts of many Copenhagen housewives who were eager coin collectors; in fact, coins as collector's items were frequently discussed in society.
One of the first recorded instances of a Danish boy who collected coins stems from around the year 1800. Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, who came from a respectable merchant family and who was later to found the National Museum of Denmark, and one of his school friends began to collect coins, presumably mainly coins minted during their lifetime. Christian Jürgensen Thomsen was born in 1788, one year before the French Revolution changed the history of Europe, and the newest coins illustrated the dramatic events of the period.
So far we have moved in the wealthier circles, but coin collectors are found in all walks of life. The first account of a Danish peasant who collected coins is from the late 19th century. Niels Weien from Vendsyssel in the north of Denmark was the local National Museum representative. In his spare time he collected coins, and the catalogue of his collection is still owned by his descendants.
Today many people not only collect coins, they also search actively for them. Metal detectors react to buried metal objects, which often prove to be coins. In many cases they are so corroded from lying in damp earth that specialist skills are required in order to clean and preserve them carefully. It is important to remember that old coins found in Denmark are treasure trove and the property of the Danish State and must be handed over to the National Museum, perhaps via a local museum.
For further information, contact your local museum or the National Museum of Denmark, Royal Collection of Coins and Medals. If the coins are declared to be treasure trove, the finder will receive tax-exempt compensation.