The Penny Lady Talks Change with MCM
As Women’s History Month continues through the end of March, we wanted to take some time to connect with women who have contributed to the hobby of numismatics. We recently spoke with Charmy Harker, who entered the hobby by way of her aunt, who’s personal coin collection was passed down to her several years ago.
If you’ve attended a popular coin show in the past, odds are you were in attendance alongside Charmy Harker…better known as, “The Penny Lady.” A memorably outgoing vendor, Charmy has made a name for herself within the industry as she shares her passion for coins – specifically pennies.
As Women’s History Month continues through the end of March, we wanted to take some time to connect with women who have contributed to the hobby of numismatics. We recently spoke with Charmy, who entered the hobby by way of her aunt, who’s personal coin collection was passed down to her several years ago.
MCM: How did you first get involved within numismatics?
PL: I got involved in numismatics when I inherited a coin collection from my aunt Pauline.
At that time, I didn’t know anything about coins so, rather than just sell them to a dealer not knowing whether I was getting a fair deal, I decided to study and learn about the coins myself. Since I had had a full-time job as a senior paralegal and I had a husband and kids in school and sports, I didn’t really have time to learn about every denomination so I chose one type of coin to learn about. I like Native American history, so I chose the Indian cent to study first. I read books, watched videos, and attended coin shows where I was lucky enough to find a mentor who helped me learn everything I could about Indian cents. That’s how I became hooked on coins.
MCM: What is your favorite coin? (A cent we assume, do you have a particular year you are fond of?)
PL: My favorite coin is the Indian cent due to its beautiful design and the different colors and toning that copper coins can have. Other than the key dates (like the 1877, 1909-S vdb, 1914-D that I particularly like for investment reasons), I don’t have a specific year that I would call my favorite, but I do have a favorite type of coin. When I began actively looking for particular coins for my own collection, I decided early on that I would like for each coin to have something special or unique about it. For instance, as I mentioned, I like pretty toned pennies, but I also like “anomalies” on coins such as major die breaks and cuds, a cool error, a bold repunched date, and double dies. So each coin I add to my personal collection must have at least one of these things – pretty toning, a bold variety, or a cool error. But if I had to pick just one coin in my personal collection as my favorite – it really is hard to pick just one – I guess this 1894/1894 would be among my top favorites due to its amazingly colorful toning and it’s bold repunched date:
But this double struck off center 1905 is my favorite error in my collection:
MCM: You are very involved in coin shows and various events within numismatics, why do you feel it is important for people to attend these events?
PL: I very much enjoy attending the various coin shows around the country, both large and small, and I think it’s not only rewarding, but it’s an important part of numismatics because, without shows, we wouldn’t get to meet others who share our passion and interests. I realize a lot of our youth who are involved in numismatics are buying, selling, and socializing online, and that is okay too. However, nothing can be compared to meeting other like-minded people face-to-face and being able to have spirited discussions about a particular coin, its authenticity and/or grade, its history, or any other aspect of collecting coins. Also, attending shows allows you to hold and personally examine the numismatic treasure you may be considering purchasing, and even looking at high quality photos is no substitute to being able to see a coin in hand before deciding whether to spend your hard-earned dollars to add it to your collection.
MCM: What is it like to be one of the few women at these events and within the hobby?
PL: To be honest, when I first became involved in numismatics, I hadn’t even paid attention that I was entering a mostly male-dominated world. That was probably because there were quite a few women behind the tables (which I later learned were mostly spouses or helpers), so it didn’t really occur to me. Also, I was so immersed in finding quality Indian cents for my collection that I hadn’t noticed there were very few actual women numismatists hunting for coins. It wasn’t until I became a dealer that I really noticed there weren’t many female coin collectors, and far less female dealers. The other thing that I hadn’t noticed before was there are also very few “specialist” coin dealers. Most dealers buy and sell every type of numismatic item, but very few just stay with one type of coin. But having a specialty and studying and learning everything I could about pennies has served me well – soon other dealers were referring their penny customers to me!
MCM: What does women’s history month mean to you?
PL: I think women played just as an important role in history as men have but yet women have gotten far less credit for their acts of heroism and courage. There have, of course, been several famous women who have achieved greatness through their works and beliefs (Joan of Arc, Harriet Tubman, Betsy Ross, Sacagawea to name a few), but there are so many more female unsung heroes who, simply because of their gender, may not have gotten the recognition and honors they deserved. I’d like to think that having a women’s history month will help each of us consider, remember, and at least give a nod to all those unsung hero women who have touched and affected our lives in some positive way – either those currently living among us or those who are no longer with us but left an indelible mark on our lives – like my aunt Pauline!
Today, Charmy credits her aunt as being the most influential female numismatic figure within her life and hopes to continue to share her love for the hobby through her presence at coin shows and website, www.thepennylady.com.
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