I remember when my son’s fourth grade class was learning about the Civil War. Like many boys and seemingly fewer girls that age judging by the feedback of my third-grade daughter at the time, the subject matter was pretty interesting. Interesting enough to do a Google search on Fort Sumter and to want to visit Gettysburg, but not interesting enough to sit through a viewing of Gone with the Wind.
Then a light bulb went off. I called a coin-collecting friend of mine who asked me to address him by his proper title of numismatist and then spoke to my son’s teacher and a few weeks later my son and his classmates were all talking about how cool it was to see and feel Civil War tokens and paper currency firsthand.
The teacher was thrilled not only to have a “free period”, but also because her students embraced the presentation and now had a new topic of Civil War discussion – something other than the actual battles or the issue of slavery or the words of the Gettysburg Address.
For many, if not all, of the students, it never occurred to them that US currency has changed over the years and that our country didn’t always have President Lincoln on the penny and five-dollar bill. This was a thought that hopefully seemed more obvious after studying the Civil War era.
What kid doesn’t like money and now this presentation on Civil War era currency really piqued their interest. And it piqued mine as well, but for a different reason.
I thought this might just be an opportunity to teach my children both about history and about money without them knowing that I am trying to do something educational. Ironically, at the same time, by reading blog posts like this one “Collecting Civil War Tokens” I was learning things myself.
One year later and my daughter is the one learning about the Civil War, but now my son is on to learning about civilizations in the Western Hemisphere. Then onto sixth grade and he is learning about the Byzantine Empire, ancient Rome, and also ancient Greece to a certain extent. Did they have currency way back then he wondered? Sure did and in looking at some of their “faces” on the coins, these guys knew how to (toga) party.
Speaking of faces, one could have a bit of fun looking in particular at ancient Roman coins and finding resemblances between Roman emperors and family members. Doesn’t Commodus look a bit like crazy uncle Danny in a way, who coincidentally does spend a lot of time in the bathroom?
In a couple of years when they begin to learn about the Tang and Song Dynasties of China I look forward to learning with my children about why these coins have square “holes” in the middle and lack human faces on the coins.
So, there is both a silly side and a serious side to coin collecting and both are important reasons why it is such a great hobby, along with the fact that you learn how to spell numismatics. Both the American Numismatic Association (ANA) https://www.money.org/events and the American Numismatic Society (ANS) http://numismatics.org/, along with other organizations host coin shows throughout the year where you and your children can see a wide variety of coins and currencies from all countries and eras. The ANA, with its simple and direct web name, also has a great section for the budding coin collector in your life https://www.money.org/#kids .
Coin collecting is a hobby that spans the generations and appeals not just to parents and their children, but grandparents and their grandchildren. Although they say that money can’t buy you love, coins and currency can by spending “unplugged” time together bonding over something that we can all relate to. By the way, did I mention how cool it is to give a unique gift like a coin or paper currency with historical significance to someone and the conversations that will ensue? That never seems to happen when I give an Amazon gift card. So, give this hobby a try and remember, as they say, coin collectors aren’t afraid of change.
Guest blogger Mike Shoule is the author of My Daddy Loves Boston College Football https://readtogetherbooks.com/ and a better speller because of this blog. His favorite coin remains the Kennedy Half Dollar that the Tooth Fairy gave him. What’s your favorite?