By Olivia Beauvais, Age 15, Massachusetts ……..
Heritage Auctions holds a quarterly essay contest to encourage and support young numismatists and budding authors. Contest rules can be found at HA.com/YNessay. Essays should be emailed to [email protected], or mailed to: Bob Korver (YN Essay Contest), Heritage Auctions, 3500 Maple Ave., Dallas TX 75219. With Permission we present Young Numismatist Essay Contest #2 Winner‘s essay
An Old English proverb goes “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” The same may be true for numismatics, but we’ll get back to that later.
Last year, as a freshman in high school, I decided to proudly display my love of numismatics by wearing a Peace Dollar pendant to school. The first person to comment on it was an acquaintance who could be considered a friend. As soon as she saw the silver dollar around my neck, she said “what is that?” to which I replied it was a silver dollar. She said “Oh, I thought it was a giant nickel.” As I went through the day I received other theories as to what the chunk of silver around my neck might be, ranging from a foreign coin to a replica. Each time, I would matter-of-factly explain that it was a United States Peace Dollar minted in 1923. Every single person I told this to did not even know the United States had ever made silver dollars.
I wondered why not a single person I came across seemed to be interested or knowledgeable in coins. I came up with a few theories. The first theory was that since there has been no major (obverse and reverse) design changes on circulating silver coins in our lifetime no one wanted to collect coins in which there was only one for every denomination. My second theory was that kids are just too lazy to gain the required amount of knowledge for collecting coins. The third theory was that young people did not know how many different coins exist.
What I found was the real cause is a combination of my first and third theories. Young people do not know that our coins ever looked any different or were made out of different metals. This being true, how could someone want to collect or study something that they didn’t know existed?
Now we are getting back to the quote from above. “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. However, this would only be true in numismatics if young people were being introduced to different coins. Some young people are introduced to coins, either from relatives or educators and they are uninterested. Personally, my dad introduced me to coins but did not force them on me; it was a personal decision to start collecting. However, if my dad had not introduced me to coins I probably would not have found my passion in them. This seems to be the problem as to why young people have no interest in coins, no one has ‘led them to water’ so to speak.
A couple weeks ago in history class we read David McCullough’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. In his speech, he talked about how history was being lost because our educators are uneducated and impassionate which causes young people to be uninterested. This made me think about how numismatics is being lost in our generation. If young people have not been educated on numismatics by someone who is passionate about the subject, they will take no interest in it.
This brings me to my final point, young people are not interested in numismatics because they have not been exposed to coins or someone with a passion in coins. People cannot become interested in something they don’t know exists and they won’t know collectable coins exist unless they are taught by someone passionate about them.
Bob Korver’s comments: Olivia makes an interested point. We regularly think about mentoring and helping educate the beginning collector, but an introduction to rare coins and currency must always take place first. Help or guidance can come later. The Boy Scouts’ Merit Badge in coin collecting serves as an excellent introduction, but that reaches only a small number of young people.
Last month I was invited to address a group of first through fifth graders at an after school center housed in a local school. The group involved contracted to offer alternate educational experiences.
My first first inclination was that on the whole the age spread was too broad. I have done such outreach before but to forth and fifth graders. What the heck I’ll give it a go.
Julie, the head teacher in the group was fantastic with the kids.
I had forty five minutes to somehow expose them to two and a half thousand years of coinage. So off I went and what an experience. They were mesmerized and totally involved by the topic. I put together a small coin exhibit from ancient to modern coins and currency. They brought in their own treasures for show and tell as did the teachers that worked with them each day.
I was asked if I might be able to come back and speak about history through coins. You betcha, I am ready to go back any time.
Willamette Coin Club
That is awesome! Maybe there is hope for the next generation of collectors afterall.