A Lebanese Currency Collector Talks Money
By: Zainab Hawi
Published Thursday, January 31, 2013
When Hussein Maaz was nine years old, he kept a Jordanian dinar in his pocket. It was a gift from his uncle. The crisp bill would become one of the first foreign currencies in his now extensive collection that tops 3,200 pieces.
Maaz, who works as an interior designer, became a professional banknote collector after graduating with an engineering degree from Lebanese University. After travels to Romania, where there are markets specializing in antiques and numismatics, Maaz slowly increased the size of his collection. Soon, his needs outgrew the physical market and he began his search online.
Collecting currency is a hobby that can require a great deal of money. A piece’s rarity is determined by its age and subsequent demand so a collector can distinguish himself by possessing rare pieces.
This distinction has created a chasm between collectors of different social classes, at times generating a sense of disappointment among collectors of limited means like Maaz. This class rift is evident when some collectors place prestige over passion in building their collections.
For Maaz, currency is not paper money with purchasing power, but something that has social, historical, and even geographic significance. It chronicles a country’s civilizations and historical epochs. A ruler might come to power and use the currency to illustrate his various “achievements” in a deliberate attempt to efface reality. Maaz gives the example of efforts to conceal Palestinian currency by replacing it with an Israeli one.
Maaz keeps his bills in ten albums that he cherishes more than his own life. He knows that if he were to ever hit hard times, these albums could provide some financial relief, though he hopes it would never come to that. His collection provides him with a level of personal satisfaction; even after his collection is complete, he will not stop in his pursuit of more notes.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.