Educating the next generation of collectors — one 7-year-old’s tale

Guest Commentary from the March 30, 2015, issue of Coin World
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Published : 03/18/15
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Todd R. Sciore has had several features published by the American Numismatic Association’s The Numismatist. He is a banker by profession.

I’ve written in the past about my young nephew, whom my brother and I have successfully introduced to the hobby of coin collecting (and inadvertently created a monster). Despite his tender age of 7, the kid has taken a natural interest in it and upon asking him if he was going with us to a recent coin show, his quick reply was “Don’t I always?” For those with young ones that you would like to introduce to our great hobby, let me share some tips. 

(1) My brother started with the old standby, the “blue folder” and opted for a type set one. That way the little guy had a set road path that introduced him to various designs and denominations. He also added a Lincoln, Wheat cent book as it offered an inexpensive complement to the type set. 

(2) Another old standby was the ubiquitous “Red Book,” which is now one of his favorite books. I also give him the occasional copy of The Civil War Token Society booklet and he gets The Numismatist, the official publication of the American Numismatic Association as well. 

(3) And speaking of the ANA, we enrolled him in their “Coins for A’s” program, where a good report card sent to the program’s administrator is rewarded by a random free coin in the mail, and hey, who wouldn’t like a free coin in the mail?

(4) Inexpensive bulk purchases to sort through provide a fun way to build familiarity and spend some quality time. My brother bought a bulk bag of Wheat cents to sort and fill into the blue folder. I salted it with a few Indian Head cents, just to spice it up. When the little guy came across the first Indian cent reverse, he knew instantly that it was different. We played dumb and pretended to continue sorting pennies, asking if it had Abe Lincoln on it, to which he replied “no, it looks like an African.” After a laugh about how the tribal headdress must have thrown him for a loop, we taught him about Indian Head cents.

(5) Share recent purchases as a show-and-tell experience. After seeing some of our graded coins come in the mail, he then declared he wanted a “coin in a case” for Christmas. I got him a high grade but inexpensive “Buffalo nickel,” about which, in his excited moment of opening the gift, he said it was a “Buffalo Quarter.” After another laugh (and the thought that a “Buffalo quarter” would have been a neat design), it was another teachable moment about properly identifying denominations. 

(6) Lastly, with coin shows or clubs in mind, if they have a segment or special program just for young numismatists to partake in, this can be valuable on two fronts: Your little one will get some educational material (most likely including some more free coins) and you will get a little time to discreetly browse the bourse floor, and maybe secretly spend more on a coin than you would like broadcast at the dinner table. 

Obviously, it depends on the child, and you can’t force the collecting bug on them. However, if the experience is fun and educational (without seeming too much like school), it could naturally take hold. Hopefully the interest will continue as a lifelong pursuit, since we will all need someone to leave our collections to and not worry about them being spent at face value.

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