Coin Collecting – Why I Got Started

Estimated Reading Time:

6 minutes 13 seconds

Summary:

Each collector has a story to tell, a moment or moments that shaped their experience. This is my story and how I became interested in the hobby.


When I meet others who collect coins, one question I like to ask is how or why they got into the hobby. It’s fascinating to hear about all of the paths and triggering events which ultimately led an individual down the path of coin collecting.

My story starts with one of those old crayon boxes that are made of plastic, snap shut, and have a sticker on the top for you to write your name on. The crayon box is a shade of green that closely resembles that used in the Sprite logo. The boxes outside has a slightly textured surface with the top having the sticker for my name and class. The box also has some very interesting scribble, I mean art, on it of various colors and shapes. The inside of the box maintains the same shade of green as is on the outside of the box and instead of having a textured surface, is made of smooth plastic. My earliest memory of coins always starts with this artistic crayon box and at some point back in the 1990’s, the box became the way I would store my first coins, paper money, and any other item I deemed to be of value.

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The first coins that I kept in my crayon box were actually not coins at all. They were both large commemorative pieces, one celebrating the Olympic games that were held in Atlanta and replicates a medal, and the other celebrating the bicentennial with Ben Franklin on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. Each piece is roughly the same diameter of a hockey puck and I cannot recall where or how I picked up these pieces.

Sharing space in the box with these two commemorative pieces were 20 or so foreign coins, specifically coins from Lebanon. These coins I picked up during a family trip to Lebanon back in the summer of 1997. None of the coins I kept had a high face value, were rare, or had a composition of gold or silver. No nothing like that, just a 14 year old kid who came across coins I had never seen and held them in high regard as heck, they were scarce to me as I had never seen them before in my life and who knew if I’d come across them again. So I came back from that trip with a pocket full of Lebanese coins and paper money. Pop open my trusty crayon box and in they went.

For the next several years, my crayon box remained in a secret location, out of sight from my curious younger brother who had a knack for ‘borrowing’ things from me. I would occasionally uncover it to add a coin here and there that I would find in my change or something given to me by my grandfather (who loved to travel).

Up through that point in my life, I had never sought out to purchase any coins or took notice as to what the composition of certain coins were. I merely threw coins that appealed to me into my box for safekeeping. That, however, changed in a moment one random afternoon in May a few years ago.

It was about 4 or 4:30 and I had just gotten out of work and was driving home. The windows were down as it was one of those perfect May afternoons with the sun shinning bright and heating you up, but not quite hot enough to close the windows and turn on the car’s AC. Both my morning and evening commutes are comprised of listening to podcasts, typically financial in nature. This particular podcast was a financial podcast but had a guest on who was there to talk about coins and coin collecting. I thought it would be interesting as it made me think about my old green crayon box which I hadn’t recalled digging out recently. As the guest went on, I became more and more intrigued but kept saying to myself that I had enough hobbies and time consuming activities. I even at one point recall saying to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m going to become a serious coin collector’. During that podcast, I had learned about coin composition, how certain coins can retain and increase in value, and how coins can be bought and sold (side note here, I love researching individual companies and investing in stocks and the stock market, so learning of the investment opportunities coins could provide, was like a calling from the mothership!).

That night, as soon as I got home, I dug through box after box in my basement until finding I found my old crayon box and proceeded to literally  look through every single coin in my house! I grabbed my wife’s coin jars, my change bank, and even my 1 year old’s owlly bank (don’t judge me, you would have done the same!). After checking denomination, types, dates, and mint marks on every single one of those coins, I guess you could say I was hooked.

From that point on, it became normal (using ‘normal’ loosely) for me to look through change at my family member’s homes and family gatherings. I reached out to the guy I had heard on that podcast, asked him a handful of questions, and ended up with an Amazon order that contained a few books that would serve as valuable resources.  Equipped with my new tools, I now began researching and buying coins for my collection. Nothing spectacular from a numismatics standpoint, just raw coins that either appealed to me or had underlying value based on their composition, purchased at a reasonable price.

As my collection grew, I realized that I lacked direction, focus, and didn’t have a strategy. For some that suits them and there is certainly nothing wrong with that, however for me, I like having something to work towards. Problem was, I didn’t know what that was or should be until my grandfather passed away.

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My grandparents were unbelievable in every way imaginable, embodying what it meant to be selfless, grateful, and the importance of family and family values. My grandmother passed away before my grandfather and after his passing, one of the items which they left behind was an old zip lock bag (freezer size) about a third full of coins. The coins were not specifically bequeathed to anyone and I was honored when the family made the decision for them to go to me.

As I was sorting through and organizing what was in the collection, a strange feeling started to come over me. As I would take a coin out of the bag, I realized that some of the coins dated back well into my great great grandparents era. Is it possible that I’m looking and holding a coin that they once held?!?! There’s no guarantee of that, yet the swarming feeling that came over me provided me clarity and I knew right then what I wanted to collect and work towards.

That’s how I became a U.S. Type Set collector and Lebanese Type Set collector. Sure it will take many more years for me to complete each collection, but I know what I’m working towards and love the journey. It’s interesting how times of sadness can help to bring us the clarity needed to see the next step, either in life or in my case numismatics, if we are willing to to become conscious of these moments in our lives.

 

Contact me at jeff@thecoinguys.com