By Tom Becker
From The Coin Collector, Issue #124, March 11, 2002
In this week’s blog I continue with an article written in 2002 by the late Tom Becker of our staff — an “infomercial” he called it at the time — about “Kids and Coins.” I hope that this article encourages parents, grandparents and other collectors to consider the benefits of numismatics for young people.
A feeling of genuine pride is not easy for a child to obtain. Receiving praise for schoolwork or sports accomplishments is often seen as a superficial pat on the head. Besides, even the best-intentioned child cannot necessarily spell antidisestablishmentarianism or kick a field goal. Pride must be generated from within. Coin collecting is not something everyone does and knows about.
Your favorite child can take pride in independently learning about coins and being involved in a special activity that is obviously important to adults and will baffle peers. The last is true. John Kraljevich, of our staff, mounted an exhibit of copper cents of 1816-1820 and dazzled observers, some of whom had already been impressed with his winning the ANA-sponsored World Series of Numismatics (in which lots of adults also competed!).
Develop an Interest in History and Culture
One can hardly collect coins without learning about the people who produced them. Even if a child doesn’t continue with the hobby, he or she will be exposed to many other interesting subjects and develop an appreciation for their importance.
American culture and tradition come to the forefront, but soon such items as a new Euro coin or currency note will attract interest.
Coins cross all international barriers and all cultures. Even within the United States, in my several decades as a rare coin dealer (having started, by the way, one year before I became a teenager), I have never heard anyone express the slightest prejudice as to the race, religion, or creed of another numismatist. Would that the whole wide world was as enlightened!
A coin collector must be neat. Hey! We can’t have valuable coins getting lost! The coin collector quickly learns to organize a collection and reference materials.
Once the value of neatness is recognized it is usually applied to other aspects of life. However, I do have a little secret to reveal: I may be the only numismatist who has been at it for more than 30 years who still has a messy garage!
Ability to Set and Reach Goals
Coin collectors are always making short and long term plans. Few collectors are content to have a casual assortment of coins. There is a good reason why every coin is added to the collection. Coin collectors wish to build sets and acquire certain important coins. Completing even a small set of coins is seen as an important accomplishment. The collector gains much satisfaction from attaining goals.
And, one nice thing about coin collecting is that there are no financial barriers to entry. Just about anyone can collect a full set of Susan B. Anthony dollars from 1979 to 1981, for example, even though some were of restricted mintages. Oops! I almost forgot that some were made in 1999 also, for reasons I can’t completely understand. Which remind me that learning all about the Susan B. Anthony dollar by reading, by checking the Internet, and finding out about its famous designer, Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro, can be fascinating.
Let me ask you a question: If your child made a display of these coins, and included information about their history, would you enjoy viewing it? Bet you would! I know I would!
And, even a well-worn Indian “penny” from, say, 1907, worth a few dollars, can be interesting to contemplate.
Perhaps the greatest benefit coin collecting offers a young person is the opportunity to legitimately participate in the adult world.
There are no age restrictions. I’ve known a number of teenagers who quickly became knowledgeable numismatists. Knowledge of coins is appreciated by adults and children can find themselves in a position to teach and inform adults about the hobby. Often a little success can grow into lots of ambition.
Ability to Establish Priorities
Determining priorities is usually difficult for children. There is so much going on and often their time and activities are planned for them. When it is their turn to decide what to do with time, children seldom have creative ideas, and sometimes they “follow the leader” in the wrong direction. Coin collecting can be a very exciting hobby, one that is filled with good things, good opportunities and good people. A child will want to spend time with his or her new endeavor — reading, learning and looking at the coins in his or her growing collection. We all must learn how to plan our time. Coin collectors know how to use leisure time wisely. I don’t think I have ever heard a coin collector say, “I am bored.”
Understanding the Value of Money
A common complaint among adults is that kids don’t understand the value of a buck. The moment kids have money they find a way to spend it.
Young coin collectors must learn to save for that special coin. They may be prompted to think of ways to earn extra money by getting better grades in school, working around the house, babysitting, or mowing the neighbor’s yard. Children should have fun and money often seems as a necessary part of this activity.
And, money spent on coins and books becomes an asset, a store of value that can be tapped at any time, and will yield dividends and enjoyment. And, if your favorite kid builds a set of Susan Anthony dollars, then decides to specialize in Roosevelt dimes instead, the Anthony’s have value when they are sold or traded. By the way, even adults go from one numismatic specialty to another — so that the thrill of learning new things never goes away.
Getting Specialized Knowledge
If you have a computer around the house do you notice how the kids take great pride in knowing how to operate this machine? It’s not the computer that’s important. Rather, they can do something worthwhile that you can’t do!
Coin collecting offers this same rare opportunity. It also prompts children to investigate other ways to be considered an important person in the adult world. As a child, it was my fascination with coin collecting that got my parents interested in the hobby. I’ve always been the foremost numismatist in the family and I gained this status by the time I was 12 years old!
I could mention many other fine things about numismatists. … and you probably can add a few more on your own.
More in two weeks, when I will finish up the article. QDB