Sumter Coin Show proves there's more to coin hobby than just money

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Becoming a coin collector can be an opportunity to collect antique currency that today has a value much more than its original worth or an opportunity to learn about the history of other societies.

However if your curiosity manifests itself as a coin collector, you are sure to come across unique items and more information about the history than you already know.

For some, Saturday served as an opportunity to get a start in the coin collecting world during the annual Sumter Coin Show at Bethesda Church of God.

Ken Lyles, president of the Sumter Coin Club, became a member in 1972. Everybody has a different story of how he or she got started, he said.

It's amazing that you could have in your hand a coin that was used by ancient Romans, he said. And there are some people who have collections that include coins that were used during Biblical times, he said.

At one of the stations on Saturday, Don Cann, a member of the Sumter Coin Club, displayed his collection of old coins and bills that were used in America as well as antique currency that was used in Africa and China.

On one of his display shelves, Cann took down a mondua, a coil of cooper that was used as currency and a symbol of wealth in the western parts of Africa. The mondua and some other forms of currency in western Africa could be worn as jewelry, he said.

Europeans came across the mondua while conducting trade in Africa during the Atlantic slave trade and later manufactured their own form of currency, the manilla, that could also function as jewelry that they could trade with Africans.

Cann's collection also includes a block of pressed black tea that was used as currency in China, Sri Lanka and some other Asian countries.

Tea money was used for hundreds of years, he said.

The value of the entire block was determined by the quality of the tea, and that block could be broken into pieces of specific sizes to make change, he said.

Cann said he sold a block of tea to a Chinese man who was only interested in the tea money as a beverage. The guy returned and bought another block of tea but came back later saying that the second block did not taste as good, he said.

If you happened to have visited the coin show without any knowledge of the history or details of coins, the club members would have been more than happy to clue you in.

Aside from buying and selling coins, the club members also talked about how to tell if a coin is fake.

Lyles said one of the easiest ways to tell if a coin is fake is if it is attracted by a magnet. He said this is especially true for silver coins because silver is not attracted by regular magnets.

However people who make counterfeit coins have gotten smarter about passing off fake coins that can pass the magnet test, Lyles said. But there is also the option to weigh the coins and to check the mint marks of the coin, he said.

Whatever your reason for starting a coin collection or visiting a coin show, you are sure to learn a great deal about something that can fit in your pocket, around your wrist or in your tea cup.