It started innocently enough. I wanted an ancient coin “pocket piece”. After some searching I found a leather guitar pick holder which would attach to my keychain and securely hold and protect a coin of reasonable size. The next decision was what coin to carry. After some thought, I recalled Doug Smith writing that some referred to the Athens Owl as THE ancient coin. Good enough for me. With that decided, now all I needed was an owl, since I didn’t have one in my collection. Owls are plentiful. This would be easy. It wasn’t. Since the coin would be with me all the time, would be shown to and handled by family, friends, coworkers, children, interested strangers, and could conceivably be dropped or lost or stolen, it must be the right owl. The right owl would have to possess these characteristics: 1) It should not lose anything by further handling. If it would benefit from a little extra patination, so much the better. 2) Since it might be dropped, it should not be especially collectible... 3) ...but, it should conserve enough details to be recognizable and interesting to a non-collector. 4) Since it might be lost or stolen, it should be cheap enough I could afford the risk. Six months and thirteen not-quite-right owls later my wife gently suggested that I “Choose one of the ones you have and NOT BUY ANY MORE”. “But dear,” I explained, “some are much better in hand than they were in the photos and are too good, some are worse in hand than in the photos and aren’t good enough, most are new or intermediate owls and I have now decided I need a classical one, and my don’t you look especially beautiful today, have you lost weight?” Cut off from owls another thought struck me. Why limit myself to one? Why not a whole collection of “pocket pieces”. I bought a wooden tabletop medals holder and started buying non-owl coins that the met the criteria I outlined above. I call it my Touch Collection, because it is designed to be touched and is a collection. It sits next to me on the couch end table. The coins get swapped out from time to time, but today here’s what is there: Row 4 Spes/Claudius Fortuna/Nerva Felicitas/Titus Janus/Galley Row 3 Apollo on Omphalos/Antiochus III Athena/Nike Zeus/Heracles Athena/Owl new Row 2 Athena/Owl classical Philip/Zeus Nike Ptolemy/Eagle Vespasian/Eagle Row 1 Aegina Turtle Lydia Stater Clio/Apollo Thalia/Apollo [not shown: Athena/Owl intermediate in the guitar pick holder] The front row has a turtle because it is as small and as light a coin (still over 10 grams) that I’m comfortable handing someone unfamiliar with ancient coins. I tried denarius, and they spent more time under the couch than in someone’s hand. The Lydian stater represents the oldest coins. So far no one has guessed it’s the most expensive coin in the lot. Clio and Thalia are my muses: I write humorous historical non-fiction for my own amusement. I haven’t found the right examples of those two coins yet, so they are from my collection and protected. The coins in the second and third row have both great stories and are perfect for fidgeting. Keeping an eye on things from the back are the sestertius of the fourth row. The back four are usually chosen around a theme. They tend to get rotated out regularly, too, depending on what’s going on, which helps keep things fresh. For example, when my wife had some health issues, large AEs with Asclepius, Hygeia, and Telesphorus took over the fourth row. With tax season upon us, there is a good luck group there now: Spes, Fortuna, etc. [A quick note on why I favor AR over AE coins for the Touch Collection. Many AEs contain heavy metals which are hazardous to children. For example, Ptolemaic bronzes, Republican Asses, and later sestertius almost always contain lead, in concentrations up to 30% or more. If one of my coins goes missing, I don’t want to worry that it’s because a child discovered that lead tastes sweet. I test every coin. That Janus in the fourth row is unique in my experience, a lead-free Republican As, and therefore probably an ancient copy. But the Roman Republic deserves representation, and that the coin might be imitative adds to the story.] I realize this Touch Collection idea won’t be for everyone, but personally, I’m having a blast. I’ve always been more drawn to coins that circulated in the past, and worn coins are ideal for this application. I like looking for experienced coins. I like having coins to hand rather than in the safe deposit box. I like selecting a coin from the bunch to travel with me when I go out. For example, a Hadrian sestertius commemorating his travels (not shown) comes with me when I travel abroad. I like having something to fidget with, especially now that my kids have decried my fidget spinners as “lame”. I like that coins that would benefit from a little wear might eventually receive that wear. I like not worrying about the coins. I like wondering about how a person who flipped a coin 2,500 years ago would react to my flipping it today. Most of all, I burned out on traditional collecting and hadn’t bought a coin in years, and now I’m having fun with coins again.