Raised as a secular Jew, I celebrated holidays by eating traditional foods with little “religion.” My two sons, raised like I was, each embraced Orthodox Judaism about five years ago. It has been a journey for all of us- adjusting to different eating habits, observing Shabbos, learning about the religion and customs. I try to do what I can for them while maintaining who I am and believe.
Today’s errand involved purchasing five silver dollars from my local coin store, Horizon Rare Coin Galleries, Inc. My son Nathan needed them for the “pidyon haben”, or “redemption of the firstborn son,” a ceremony where the father of a firstborn male redeems his son by giving a kohen (a priestly descendent of Aaron) five silver coins, thirty days after the baby’s birth.
(Full explanation: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/652310/jewish/Pidyon-Haben.htm)
Who knew I could find these coins right here in Summit, NJ? I had called the store last Friday and the proprietor, Ron Rosen, knew exactly what I needed. We agreed to meet today at his tiny storefront that occupies a triangular corner of a building. A former lawyer, he got involved with coins because of two cousins in the business and has had the store for 30 years. He’s a professional numismatist. This is very different from mere coin collecting.
Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. Ron is an appraiser for banks and estates. The value of a coin depends on what its made of- how much silver, for example, its date, and how rare it is. Demand also determines price.
As I waited for him to retrieve the coins from the safe, I looked around. He rents and sells metal detectors. Yes, he said, people still collect coins. Nathan had collected foreign coins as kid, labeling and putting them in one of those slotted coin holders. I thought about the state quarters, dollar coins, and silver dollars and how people collect them. I thought about collections the boys had as children.
They were addicted to this game called “Magic: The Gathering” when they were about 10 and 12. I could never understand the game. They would spend every bit of pocket money on these beautifully decorated but often very expensive cards. They would tell me how much cards were worth. I had to explain they were only worth something if someone wanted to buy them. The boys now grown; they’re not playing this game and the boxes of cards are in the attic.
After the Magic cards came Warhammer, a fantasy battle game created in 1983 by Games Workshop. The boys painted miniature figures and created scenery from recyclables; they read books and plotted maps and strategies. Way beyond my comprehension, but the battles kept them busy for hours. This is in the attic too.