Why aren’t more children collecting coins?
With video games, iPods and iPads, a lot of things are available
to attract a child’s attention. But, I think, the big reason is that
children just don’t come in contact with coins in their daily lives anymore.
When I started collecting coins about 50 years ago, children could
work for money and spend it at stores that sold affordable things that
All that has changed.
The day I turned 12, I applied to be a paperboy. It meant a steady
source of income from an easy-to-do, after-school job. Before I became
a paperboy (and after, too) I cut lawns in the summer and shoveled
snow in the winter.
I was paid in cash, kept it in cash and spent it as cash.
Now, there are precious few places for a child to earn money. I
live in a century-old city neighborhood. The neighbors who don’t cut
their own lawns hire a lawn service.
As a boy, I delivered papers in the afternoon on a route I could
easily cover on my bike. Today, most newspapers are printed overnight
and delivered by adults in cars long before the sun rises. No child is
going to get up that early and no parent wants him to.
I have four sons, ages 41, 30, 26 and 20. Only the oldest ever had
a chance to be a paperboy.
The local newspaper moved to morning delivery in 1985 and switched
to adult-only delivery shortly after that. The younger boys were
pretty well shut out of the job market until they turned 16, an age
when most boys have other things on their minds than coins.
When I was a boy, I could take my paper route money to the corner
store and pick from dozens of 10-cent comic books.
Superman cost a dime. So did Andy Panda, the comic book you bought
when there weren’t any good ones left.
Candy bars, cokes and ice cream sandwiches could be bought almost
anywhere for 5 cents to a dime. If you were feeling rich you could buy
a milkshake for 25 cents at the lunch counter.
The toy store had expensive toys (I once paid $10 for a Lionel
switcher engine) but also a wall of dime novelties — smoking monkeys,
flies in plastic ice cubes, jacob’s ladders and rockets that shot off
caps when they landed. A child could go to all those places, spend his
money and check his change for treasure.
I only knew one child who ever found anything of value — a 1914-D
Lincoln cent — but we all looked. I had thought the State quarter
dollar series would revive collecting for children, but it didn’t really.
Children just don’t come in contact with that much real money.
That’s our problem.
Gerald Tebben is an editor for the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch.