US Coins

Teach your children well ... the art of placing coins in

So you say you want to get your kid involved in coin collecting?

Recently, a lot of talk has circulated about interjecting more youth into the hobby. A noble pursuit that I have tried to endeavor with my own precious children.

So you go out and purchase a cent-collector folder to get started. It’s time to learn the basics: parts of a coin, sides of a coin, Mint marks, how to handle coins, don’t stick coins in your nose, don’t swallow coins or you’ll get coin poisoning, don’t swallow silver coins because at today’s silver prices daddy will force you to consume laxatives until the coin returns, and so on.

You open the folder for the inquisitive child, show her the holes with the dates.

“No honey, please don’t poke your finger through the holes.”

OK, it’s time to sift through a pile of coins on the table. She finds a nice 1987 cent and matches it to a corresponding hole and tries to put it in.

“Um, Dad, could you please help me put the penny in?”

“Yes honey, let me show you the proper way to do it. But please call it a ‘cent’; I am a numismatist after all. You see, you angle half of the coin into the hole, then gently push down on the raised rim, being careful not to put a fingerprint on the surface of the coin. You push down ... and push down maybe a little harder ... (grunt) … until it goes … (grimace) … until the coin goes … (now you’re speaking directly to the coin as if to threaten it) … until the coin goes down into the hole.” It didn’t budge. You smile and wink. Your daughter giggles. It’s time to stand up and bear down with your thumbnail — crack — your thumbnail breaks and folds backward causing you a fair amount of pain and embarrassment. Maintaining your cool, you suck your thumb, hoping your daughter can see this is part of the fun of the hobby.

“Let’s take the coin out and try a different angle.” Carefully, you apply pressure, this time with both thumbs. You push harder, a much more audible grunt sneaks out, and now you are reefing down with all your might. Simultaneously, you hop up and down while concentrating all of your force on the tips of your two thumbs, which are now firmly planted on the obverse surface.

“Um, Dad,” she squeaks, “your thumbs are touching the coin.”

“Yes honey, I know.”

“But you said …”

“I know what I said, honey.”

“Well isn’t that bad for the penny?”

“Cent!” you snap, “the coin is a CENT, honey.” (Easy big fella.) Calmly, you sit and wipe the sweat from your brow, staring at the blasted coin that remains wedged half in and half out of the hole.

The 4-year-old voice of reason emerges. “Maybe we should try a different coin, Dad.”

She finds a few; they pop in with minimal effort, Hoorah! This is fun!

But you are driven to distraction — the half-cocked coin is mocking you. It is time to analyze the situation with intellect, so you march into the garage to get the hammer. As you re-enter, you take notice that your daughter has left the room. (Just as well, your wild eyes and the 4-pound maul you’re carrying would give her nightmares.) It is time to teach this coin and the entire United States Mint a lesson. It is time to educate this coin folder and its manufacturer about the physics of coin diameter versus hole diameter. It is time to reap some friendly persuasion upon the powers that be, and prove beyond any doubt, that no inanimate object is going to keep my little girl and me from enjoying this hobby!


The dust settles and with blazing pomposity you call out; “Honey, it’s in!”

“What’s in?”

“The coin, I got it in the hole, the 1987 cent. It was no match for your old man, baby!”

She flits in to investigate, “Oh, you mean that penny we couldn’t get in the hole? Good for you Dad. But … Um … how come you smashed it in the hole marked 1987-D?”


Jeff Reichenberger, of Wisconsin, collects U.S. coins, ancient coins, medals, paper money and numismatic literature. He enjoys history, research and writing. His “Low Relief” column is dedicated to low-stress discussions of insignificant numismatic subjects, written from the angle of a “regular guy.” Comments are welcomed at

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