Moments and Concepts
I'm often given to wonder why I ended up becoming a coin collector. I only started about 3 years ago but it's something I had always wanted to do. The question became, what put the thought in my head? The answer I ultimately arrived at was that there were many events that occurred throughout my childhood that inclined me towards collecting coins. There weren't many coin collectors in my family really, but my family exhibits certain behaviors and modes of thought that were passed along to me. While my family seems to disagree, coin collecting became the next logical step after being introduced to basic concepts.
Spending so much time with my mother rolling coins, but not the old ones, presented the concept that old coins were special and that idea was re-enforced many times over the years. Another event, around the time I was 11 helped with this and introduced another important concept to me: the mint mark.
In the absence of a father, my Uncle used to try and teach us things he felt we needed to know. He'd give us small tasks that were aimed at understanding a core concept: The value of money, the value of work, the value of being clean and organized. Well, one summer he came to me with a task. He had brought over a massive bag filled with change. He'd been putting coins into it for a few years and he wanted me to sort it down and roll the coins with a catch. I had to sort the coins by date and mint mark. Each roll was supposed to have only 1 date and 1 mint mark of that date. I was given about 1 week to do this. I accepted the task... and as soon as he left I turned to my family with a question; "What's a mint mark?"
I had long understood the dates on the coins but up to this point I had never been curious enough to ask about those seemingly random letters that tended to appear next to the date. I got a little lesson in what they were and what they mint and I was able to set about the task armed with this new knowledge.
I dragged the bag of coins back to my room. I was 11 and this bag had about $90 in change as it turned out, most of it was pennies. I couldn't really carry it; when I say I dragged the bag back to my room I'm being quite literal. I cleared out a patch of ground in my room and got to work; my grandmother and my sister helped me. When I was done a few days later my Uncle came back. I was told to take all the old coins and hide them away. With him watching they were placed in a somewhat hard to get to nook and they remained there for the next several years; again, you don't get rid of old coins. The others I was told to cash in at the bank and I divided the haul with my sister as instructed.
At the end of the whole thing I had a little extra money to play with. I also had a new appreciation for how heavy large amounts of coins were and a slightly improved knowledge base regarding coins. It has been about 11 years and I still think back to that experience. Looking back, most of the coins I was told to hide away aren't worth anything and probably weren't worth keeping. But those coins are the most important thing I took away from sorting and counting those coins.
Having to sort them down in that way, taking a close look at each coin, made me start to think about change a little more and I began to look at change in general a little more. Understanding what the mint marks were gave me a new piece of each coin's story. I still thought the date much more important, and it would take several more years before I began to really consider mint marks in the context of coin collecting, but I had to understand them first.
Well, hopefully this doesn't read like rambling craziness.