Universal Coin & Bullion President, Mike Fuljenz, noted “We live in a time where there is a widespread fascination with fame and celebrity. One of the ways coin collectors share common ground with the celebrities is through the hobby of coin collecting.
Universal Coin’s President, Mike Fuljenz, points out the list of celebrity coin collectors is long and varied. From the entertainment world alone, the list includes many famous figures past and present, including the legendary Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, “Stardust” songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, academy award-winning actress Nicole Kidman, emmy-winning actor John Larroquette, actress-director Penny Marshall and famed talk-show host Bruce Williams.
Take Buddy Ebsen, for example. Best remembered today as Jed Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies, Ebsen had a long and successful career on stage and screen. Buddy Ebsen became an avid and especially knowledgeable coin collector. Ebsen was fond of United States gold coins in particular and accumulated a complete gold type set, a set of the Panama-Pacific commemorative coins in their original copper frame and he co-founded the Beverly Hills Coin Club.
Famed American composer Jerome Kern built one of the finest private coin collections of that time. Kern, who penned hundreds of hit songs including such standards as “Ol’ Man River” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” among others, also had a keen eye for “hit” coins. Among the many treasures in his collection were an ultra-high-relief 1907 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle.
Even commercials have featured celebrities, like the late Ed McMahon and Snoop Dog, hawking companies that buy and sell gold coins.
From the world of sports, famous coin collectors include ice hickey legend Wayne Gretzky, baseball slugger Andre Dawson (Dawson put together one of the finest type coin collections ever), and fierce basketball rebounder Dennis Rodman. Sports fans from all around the world remember the venerable personality of sportscaster Chris Schenkel. Over the course of his life, he assembled an impressive collection, including an exceptional set of early U.S. quarters. Once known as the “hobby of kings,” coin collecting has had its share of enthusiasts among the ranks of world leaders. In times past, France’s “Sun King,” Louis XIV, found such pleasure in the French Royal Coin Collection that he visited it daily and confided that he could “always find something new to learn.”
Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III was more than just a collector; he was a true numismatic scholar who considered coins the great passion of his life. Some of Egypt’s King Farouk’s coin acquisitions were spectacular – including a 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle which currently ranks as the highest-priced coin ever sold. It brought $7.59 million at a New York City auction in 2002. Other world leaders known for their coin collecting interest have included U.S. presidents John Quincy Adams and Franklin D. Roosevelt; Israeli military leader and foreign minister Moshe Dayan; and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
While it may have formerly been known as the “hobby of kings,” today it has become the “king of hobbies”. In fact, due to a groundswell of new collectors in the past ten years, the U.S. Mint recently estimated the number of coin collectors in America alone to now be upwards of 140 million. Many of these are celebrities that collect coins just like everybody else.