It was 1967 and my mother was just beginning her career as an elementary teacher. The building in which she taught was large, but there were only two other teachers at that location, and both were coin collectors. Each ordered annually from the U.S. Mint, so my mother bought Uncirculated Mint and Proof sets as the other teachers were doing. Prior to her initial order, she was not aware that the Mint sold coins directly to the public.
I would turn 11 in 1968, and for the first time, my birthday present included an Uncirculated and Proof set. Mom was hooked on a new hobby (for her) and so was I. My father, who had no interest in collecting, had inherited both a Lincoln cent and Washington quarter dollar set, which were complete except for the 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent and the 1955 Doubled Die Obverse cent, and he gave them to me when he saw my interest in the Mint sets.
On more than one occasion as I pored over my collection, I was asked what I was expecting to see that I had not seen before. Those who did not collect coins simply did not get it, and I suppose they never really understood the enjoyment I was getting from my collection.
Every year I could count on my mother giving me Uncirculated Mint and Proof sets for my birthday or Christmas. I expanded my scope, focusing on 20th century coins and paper currency, and I was able to put together a nice collection, primarily using small coin shops with helpful owners. I learned the basics of grading, and like every collector, the cost of this education included the purchase of overgraded or doctored coins.
As I added to my collection over the years, I would often discuss my purchases with my mother. At times, I sold parts of my collection to pay for my children’s college tuition or when cash was tight. Mom would always ask if I was going to replace what I sold, seemingly sad that I had to part with something meaningful to me. It provided me with the challenge of working toward another set, but for some reason, I appreciated my mother’s concern. It sure can be difficult to part with something that took considerable time and effort to obtain, and my mother realized this.
Mom never progressed much beyond Mint sets, but she was always looking out for me. While on vacation, she once made a special trip to a pawn shop and bought me a common date silver dollar, a coin that I will always keep. She was happy that I enjoyed this coin even though it was worn and was really nothing special to anyone else. Through this purchase, I knew that Mom went out of her way because she appreciated my passion for collecting coins. Mom saved Wheat cents and Kennedy silver-copper clad half dollars. I would like to say that among these and all of the other coins she pulled from circulation on my behalf there were a few rarities, but this is just not the case. However, this does not mean they were worth any less to me.
Earlier this year, my mother passed away after battling various ailments for several years. Her beloved Uncirculated and Proof sets will be passed on to grateful heirs who will not care about their value. They were grandma’s coins and even one set will always be a treasured possession to those who receive them.
My collection is modest, but it was inspired by someone who had a similar passion. Though we are cognizant of the value of what we buy, the monetary value of a collection is secondary to die-hard collectors — it is the challenge, the passion and the desire to obtain that one coin that moves us one step closer to completing a set on which we are working.
I already miss Mom. If heaven has a coin shop, I am sure she will stop by. If I happen to get hit on the head by a Morgan dollar that falls from the sky, I will know where it came from. Thanks, Mom, for introducing me to such a wonderful and rewarding hobby.
Wesley M. Weymers is senior vice president of the Gratz National Bank, Gratz, Pa. He has collected coins for more than 40 years.