By Sylvia Ney
Coin collecting can be a fun, educational and profitable hobby to share with your child. Collectors of all ages are immersed in a variety of subjects: history, geography, math and politics, to name a few. This activity also can be used to improve reading, comprehension, patience and the ability to establish priorities. This pastime may even help boost self-confidence, organizational skills and improve your child’s ability to set and reach goals.
It’s relatively easy to begin a coin collection. Start with coins you already possess. Then ask friends and relatives if they have old or unusual coins to contribute. Many veterans keep money from their visits to other countries and would be happy to share.
For young children, you may want to keep all of this cash in a simple plastic dish they may access at any time. For older children and more valuable coins, consider purchasing an album to hold your denominations. Additional storage and display options include paper envelopes, plastic tubes, slabs, flips and Mylar holders. Searching online or visiting a professional coin shop can help you decide the best options for your needs.
Learning how to become a coin collector also means learning a new language. Coin collectors use a common vocabulary to discuss coins. Special terms are used to describe a coin’s condition, value and visual appearance. If you wish to research these topics, search for “The Anatamoy of a Coin” and the “Coin Term Glossary.”
Tools of the Trade
There are a few tools that will help you begin building and organizing your own coin collection. You may want to find or purchase: a high-quality magnifying glass which will aid in looking at a coin’s tiny details, a padded jeweler’s tray or some type of soft cloth to set coins on when viewing them, a plastic ruler to measure inches and millimeters (avoid the hard, metal rulers which can scratch the coins), a general coin reference book (this should include information on dates, mint marks, major varieties, grading guidelines and prices), good lighting such as a halogen lamp, soft cotton gloves, and the storage devices you chose.
These will vary depending on the age of your child and the amount of interest they show in the subject.
For beginners – All you really need is some loose change. The best way for children to start and develop an interest is to begin with a narrow focus. Allow them to play with pennies or nickels, or only the coins made after a certain year. Begin by having your child search for loose change around the house: check pockets, wallets, desk drawers, under cushions, and any other nooks where you may have stray monetary items. Children love treasure hunts, so allow them to look anywhere they can imagine.
When you are ready – A magnifying glass might come in handy for looking at the markings on each coin. Discuss how much the coin is worth, read what is written on both sides, and teach your child whose face is on the coin, when it was made, and any other significant details you can remember.
Do Some Research – There’s a history and geography lesson to each coin, which provides a wonderful opportunity for children to learn more about their own country and the world in which they live. Older children can research more about which president is on the coin and why, when the first type of that coin was made, whose idea it was to create it, and how the values have changed, etc. You might start accumulating Wheat Cents, Jefferson Nickels, Buffalo Nickels, Indian Head Pennies, Mercury Dimes, and pre-1965 Roosevelt Dimes for them to add to their collection.
Storage – Your envelope or jar will serve quite nicely in the beginning. However, once you purchase more valuable coins such as Kennedy Half Dollars, Susan B. Anthony Dollars or collections from the mint you will want special folders or albums that have slots for each coin. You can purchase these for around $5 (depending on size).
For the More Advanced Collector – A coin reference book is a must. These can be found at any library or bookstore. There is also a book called Coin Collecting for Kids that helps expand a child’s ideas beyond just collecting for fun. Once you start collecting silver quarters, halves and dollars, you’re getting into pricey coins that cross the line from “a starter collection for a child” to “investment-quality coins.”
Inheritance – Many people begin a coin collection as a sort of investment with the intention of passing it on when the child reaches a certain age. Before you start collecting coins on behalf of your kids or grandkids, consider your goal. Are these coins meant to put the child through college, are they a nice gift that hopefully has some greater future value, or do you hope these become a family heirloom passed down through the years?
Maybe you don’t have a lot of money to invest in these coins, or perhaps you just want your child to enjoy the coin-collecting hobby. Depending on your own goal and your budget, different types of coins are appropriate, and you might consider visiting a professional coin dealer for further advice. There are also local coin clubs, such as The Greater Houston Coin Club (http://houstoncoinclub.org/), where other collectors are excited to share their own knowledge and advice.
If the kids take an interest in collecting, enjoy this hobby together. If they don’t seem to care for it, consider putting the more valuable coins in the bank until they ask about them again. While coin collecting can be both educational and profitable, it should always be fun.