Even after the success of my mystery-thriller, Double Eagle
(Peachtree, 2009), I knew I would never write a sequel. Double Eagle
follows two 13-year-old boys, Mike and Kyle, as they search for a
hoard of Confederate 1861 gold $20 pieces in a Civil War fort in
southern Alabama. At the end of the book, the boys part ways, each
with one of the coins in his pocket. Although readers demanded a
sequel, the improbability of repeating such a numismatic adventure
kept me from a second book — until another irresistible premise
crossed my desk.
I thank Daniel Carr for fueling my interest in the 1964-D Peace
dollar. Until he minted his controversial fantasy version of the coin,
I’d never unearthed its history. Once I learned that the Denver Mint
had produced more than a quarter million 1964-D silver dollars and
then melted them down again, however, I knew that I had to reunite
Mike and Kyle.
Although the two central characters remain the same, Double Eagle
and Cartwheel travel much different storylines. In Cartwheel, Mike and
Kyle look for a coin that really did — and probably still does —
exist, instead of a coin that I made up. I also raised the stakes for
the two boys. Now, the boys have to find the coin to extract
themselves from a disastrous situation. Finally, the book spans much
greater geographical and historical territory — territory I naturally
had to research in depth.
Research, in fact, has always been one of my favorite aspects of
writing both fiction and nonfiction. To research Cartwheel, I traveled
to the Denver Mint to get a personalized tour of the facility. I met
with Dan Carr to see the amazing coin press he restored. I also
corresponded with Michael Lanz, who actually helped mint the Peace
dollars in May, 1965. All of this helped feed my own interests in
numismatics — interests I’ve nurtured since poring through my parents’
beer stein full of Walking Liberty half dollars and Winged Liberty
Head dimes as a child.
Still, I have to admit surprise at the enthusiasm with which
today’s young people embrace both Double Eagle and Cartwheel. I visit
dozens of schools each year, and am pleased to say that kids are just
as intrigued by coins as I was as a youth. Unfortunately, that doesn’t
equate to a healthy hobby.
What’s missing today, I believe, are people willing to sit down
with youngsters, show them coins and share their passion for the
hobby. As a parent of two younger children, I can also say that coin
collecting wages an uphill battle against video games, increased
homework and chronic overscheduling. This situation isn’t likely to
change, but I do believe that books such as Double Eagle and Cartwheel
can ignite kids’ interest in the hobby. That will undoubtedly help
drive me back to my computer to mint further numismatic adventures.
Sneed B. Collard III has written more than 65 books for young people.