US Coins

Collection helps connect to 'exciting' history: Guest Commentary

As I prepare to leave high school and attend college next fall, I have been reflecting a lot about the things in life I have done and enjoyed most. If you have ever watched the TV program, American Pickers, that is kind of me! I am a serious collector of many things, and my interests range from old cameras to vintage golf balls to Civil War buttons. However, my first real love and true passion is collecting American coinage. 

For as long as I can remember, I have had an interest in and fascination with numismatics, or coin collecting. Unlike many young coin collectors, who often collect brand new coins or modern series such as State quarters (which, by the way, is a great way to learn U.S. geography), I specialize in Early American coinage. 

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One very special coin in my collection, the highly coveted 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent, was the very first U.S. cent minted and used by the early citizens in this great country’s infancy. When I look at and hold that particular coin, I feel like I am magically transported back in time 200+ years. I can almost see, feel, smell and imagine what life must have been like when that coin was fresh off the press (a screw press). Just like my fifth grade school trip to Williamsburg, Va., which was a phenomenal experience, collecting and handling old coins lets me experience history in a different and more intimate way, which books alone simply do not provide. 

Collecting coins also provides a means for me to relate to and connect with prominent figures in early United States history. For example, I own one of only 200 Benjamin Franklin designed Libertas Americana medals ever minted. Mr. Franklin commissioned those medals to commemorate the end of the Revolutionary War. Knowing that Franklin not only designed this important piece of numismatic history, but also personally hand-delivered each of these medals, mine included, to one of the original members of Congress as an expression of thanks, still gives me chills. Through coin collecting, I am able to create meaningful connections to not only Ben Franklin, but to the very citizens who helped forge this great country. Now that is exciting, if you ask me!

A truly important life lesson I have learned from this hobby is that a person must be dedicated and have real passion to become truly expert at something. This principle applies not only to numismatics, but also to other activities like athletics, academics, or even writing for your school newspaper. Numismatics has helped shape the person I am today. What started as a seemingly innocent gesture, in which my grandmother simply gave me a set of three very “old” coins, has evolved into a major life passion and hobby that allows me to proclaim that I truly have held history in my hands! 

If you do start collecting coins, and I hope you will, I suspect that you, also, will start seeing the world and history in new and exciting ways. Happy collecting!

Taylor Elwood is a senior in high school.  He has been collecting coins since he was 10. Coppers and Early American coins are among his favorites.


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