Money is brilliant. Some people think that it is not brilliant, but they are wrong. It is. If you think about it, money can be used to buy anything. Darts, newspapers, Matlow’s Refreshers, season tickets for the MK Dons, blowjobs, cheesecake, pints of lager, shoes, forests, cars, Whitesnake DVDs, after-shave, knee-pads, haircuts, Ph.D.’s, Swiss army knives, passports, drugs, and Windolene. And that is just a made-up list I invented from looking around my bedroom. There are several more things you could buy as well if you really needed to, such as, I don’t know, cows and stuff. There’s even a book you can buy by the 19th-century German sociologist Georg Simmel entitled The Philosophy of Money. If you have too much money, you could buy that. But if you have a copy of The Philosophy of Money, you can’t buy anything with it at all. It’s totally useless. Unless you exchange it for money.
This is a metaphor that proves my point. Philosophy gets you nothing. Money gets you whatever you want.
However, those of us who are really smart know that some money is better than others, and it is by collecting those monies that we distinguish ourselves from the idiots. I don’t mean the trivial point that £100 is better than £1, although obviously it is, but in order to get £100 you normally have to pay £100. That is how the exchange process operates. No. What I am referring to is the skill of Numismatism, not, incidentally, to be confused with Pneumismatism, which is the science of inflatables and a whole other different way of making money.
What Numismatism is, is collecting coins that are worth more than their face value. I had a 1940 farthing once that was worth £2! That is an appreciation of 16,000 percent over a period of 70 years, which no investment portfolio could ever match. Unless there’s a war. And bear in mind that I wasn’t even born in 1940. No. I got if off my grandfather for nothing before he died. He used to give his grandchildren money every time we went to visit, and he thought he was being generous because when he was a boy you could buy 10 Capstan Full Strength for a farthing. We didn’t have the courage to say anything at the time because we were small and he believed in corporal punishment. Besides, he wasn’t to know that they didn’t make Capstan Full Strength any more, nor than farthings were no longer legal tender. It was a shame, really that I put all those useless farthings in the tray at church. It was only several years later that I looked them up in a book and found out their value. The Church is probably laughing up its sleeve now at all the money I gave it. It must be worth a small fortune.
Old people are a good source of money, and not just when they die. Every year, the Queen gives out bags of coins to the deserving poor in a ceremony of ritual humiliation on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. This is to remind them of the time they took the king’s shilling and fought in the war for king and country instead of having a revolution like the Russians did. It is also an act of gratitude on behalf of the Queen for her subjects’ continued deference, obedience, and subservience. This Maundy money is not hugely valuable but does have some special healing powers, having been touched by the monarch herself, so if you have some in your home you never get ill, which is why the recipients are reluctant to part with it, and most Maundy money on the market is stolen or counterfeit. You can tell if it is counterfeit because it doesn’t glow orange in the dark. If it glows blue, it is because someone has coated an ordinary 50 pence piece in luminous paint and tried to trick you because he knows you are now a Numismatist. And anyway, Michael Williams, I saw that pot of luminous paint in your Dad’s garage ages ago, so I knew it was fake.
My Dad reckons Maundy money will be going up in value in the next few years. With the recession and everything, he says, the Queen will be tightening her belt, so the deserving poor will be getting less from her, and the concomitant scarcity of Maundy money will raise its value. This is a simple example of the law of supply and demand. If you are thinking of investing your money in the near future, make sure the investment portfolio you choose includes stocks in Maundy money. That’s not just me saying that. That’s my Dad too.
You can also collect foreign money, if you are looking for a way to improve your language skills, but remember that foreign currency is of no use whatsoever and is frequently more expensive than English money because of the exchange rate and German duplicity. Indeed, collecting foreign money could almost be seen as a form of conspicuous consumption, like throwing money onto the fire. It’s just showing off. It isn’t serious Numismatism, and in the long run won’t earn you any friends. Maybe a few pen pals in Antwerp, but nothing that will endure. I advise against it.
My final observation about money is that even though money has its own aesthetic attraction, especially for people who like looking at the Queen, money in itself has no intrinsic value of its own. In the old days, when doubloons, sovereigns, quadroons, and mulattoes were the currency, the coins themselves were made of gold, so that a guinea coin was made of a guinea’s worth of gold. However, this tradition didn’t last very long because people used to clip the edge off the coins and keep the gold for themselves and melt it down to make into ear-rings or ploughs. So the Mint, who make all the money, decided instead to make money from cheap metals that cost next to nothing but which nobody else has access to, such as lead, copper, brass, uranium, and plantagenet. This soon put an end to coin clipping, especially because copper is radioactive and will kill you if you put a coin in your mouth. This is where Freud got his ideas from.
In fact, anything could be used as currency. On the Isle of Man they used to use conch shells, until they realized that everyone was just going down to the beach and picking them up for free without doing any work. That’s why the Isle of Man is a tax haven. My dad used to say the government should make dog shit the national currency. That way there’d never be any left lying around on the street. Someone would always pick it up. I pointed out, however, that everyone would be following him into the park when he takes Gnasher for the evening walk. Gnasher is our dog. She is a miniature schnauzer. My dad said men follow him already.
There. I hope that you will become a Numismatist now that I have shown you how brilliant it is.
And that is the end.
Kevin MacPherson is governor of the Bank of England.