Today as a 58 year old coin collector I occasionally think back on my years as a YN (young numismatist). I have very fond memories of those days and the coins I collected, many of which I still proudly own today.
Those were the days when I could spend the lion's share of the money I earned doing odd jobs on coins. At no other time in my life could I do this as I did when I was a YN because my parents provided the cloths on my back, a roof over my head, and plenty of good food to eat! The only stipulation they made was that I save half the money I earned and pay for things like gas for the car, insurance, and blue jeans! Yes, my parents paid for my dress cloths but as for the jeans they didn't like, well for those I was on my own. All these stipulations I gladly agreed to.
I got my first job when I was 14 years old as a golf caddie at the local country club. I made a whooping $3.85 plus tips for 18 holes! When I was 16 I got a job working on a farm for $1.50/hour. Since the farm job was a summer job, I started working at a restaurant in the fall for $2.10/hour busting suds (dishwasher). With this my parents stipulated that I maintain a B average at school to keep my job. To buy more coins, I heartily agreed to this also.
As a youth I had two main interests, coins and photography. I was very fortunate to go to a school that had a dark room for me to develop and print my own pictures. Of all the places to buy my first coin, I bought it at a photographic supplies store. This store in addition to photographic supplies had a glass display case full of various numismatic items. There I bought a proof-like 1881-S Morgan Dollar and a crisp uncirculated $2 star note. Both of these I still own today.
As a YN I was interested in collecting silver dollars and numismatic oddities such as the half cent, 2-cent piece, 3-cent silver and nickel pieces, and the 20-cent piece. I was also interested in coins bearing the mint marks of obsolete mints such as New Orleans, Carson City, Charlotte, and Dahlonega. To top that off I loved the coins listed in the back of the Red Book where all the gold coins resided. Throughout all my life, gold coins have never circulated and the fact that they were obsolete in circulation attracted me to them.
In the early 70's it was difficult to buy coins unless there was a dealer in town. Unfortunately, the photographic supply merchant only sold coins on the side. There was no internet either, thus if you wanted to follow numismatics you had to subscribe to any of a number of hobby periodicals. Growing up in Wisconsin, those were Krause Publications like Coins Magazine and Numismatic News. What these publications offered in addition to interesting articles was a mail-order marketplace for coins.
It is through mail-order that I bought an 1885-CC Morgan Dollar from the Lavere Redfield hoard, an 1876 20-cent piece, an 1881 half-eagle (my first gold coin), and an 1858-C half-eagle. At that time, the Charlotte half-eagle cost me a whopping $350! It took a lot of hours working at $2.10/hour to buy that coin! Adding up the cost of all those coins, it was pretty amazing what I bought with the money I earned!
It was a pretty rare event that the small town in which I lived hosted a coin show and I remember only one such opportunity to go. At the first and only coin show I attended as a YN, I bought an 1828 half-cent. Now my only regret is that I should never have sold that coin. All the other aforementioned coins I still own today.
I also purchased a few books as a YN, first and foremost among them was the Red Book of United States Coins. I literally wore out the binding of my Red Book paging through it and dreaming of the coins I wanted to buy someday. I also purchased the official ANA New Photograde Guide for Grading US Coins. I still find the Photograde Guide a useful book today!
Today I own coins from all the US Mints along with a Morgan Dollar collection that is 68% complete including a VG-10 93-S. Additionally, I have a complete Dansco 7070 type set with gold coins that I am currently upgrading. Later in my life as I started assembling topically themed sets, I began collecting medals and world coins.
Finally, if I were to have any advice for YN's today, I would tell them to dream big and to start building on and realizing some of those dreams today! Furthermore, todays YN's can't read enough books about the coins they want to collect.
Lastly, my parents were wise to not sacrifice my school work for coins. You see, if you excel in your school work today you will only help yourself to earn enough money to realize many, if not all, your numismatic dreams tomorrow. Still living the dream, I recently won a type 1 double-eagle and as such it represents one of the coins I dreamed about when I thumbed through my Red Book some 40+ years ago. Happy Collecting to all and by all means enjoy this wonderful hobby that we share together.
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