By Patrick A Heller – Liberty Coin Service
Radio Broadcast transcript from WILS-1320 AM on 02/16/2011. The radio show titled “Things You “Know” That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” , presented by Patrick A. Heller, owner of Liberty Coin Service and Premier Coins & Collectibles in Lansing, Michigan.
Sociologists have long sought to understand what childhood experiences have positive and negative influences on adulthood. In the absence of hard research, I intuitively think that children who seriously pursue a collection are more likely than average to enjoy successful maturity.
I developed this thesis when I served as a member of the American Numismatic Association Future Of The Hobby Committee from 2003 through 2005. Members of this ANA committee were challenged to visualize how numismatics, the study of money, might evolve in the coming decades.
Naturally I reflected on how coin collecting caught my interest. Then I asked several other coin collectors, young to old, about their initial experiences. In general, coin collectors got their start by one of two different means. Either they were given a group of foreign coins or banknotes or else their curiosity was spurred by a change in US coinage (such as the discontinuation of 90% silver coins after 1964 or the debuts of the Kennedy half dollars, Eisenhower dollars, Statehood quarters, Native American dollars, and the like.
One thing I noticed was that, on average, the collectors I interviewed were more educated than the general population. At one point a question came to me. Did children who became serious coin collectors generally become more successful adults?
But, what should be considered a “successful adult?” I defined success by two measurable parameters: the extent of educational achievement and income earned. Though neither higher education nor income guarantee success, they tend to pave the way for more options in life and the ability to enjoy more material goods.
When I presented this thesis to the members of the ANA Future Of The Hobby Committee, the quick response was that it made sense. However, none knew of any long-term studies that included whether rare coin collecting generally led to higher educational achievement or higher income as an adult.
When I discussed this idea with a local Scout leader, he agreed that it made sense to him. However, he pointed out that it probably wasn’t the coins or currency that would lead to these results. Instead, he thought that a child who became a serious collector in almost any field would derive the same benefits. His point was that serious collectors learn several skills in the process, such as researching information, evaluating quality, organizing, presenting, tracking market values, and proper caring and storage of the items. This range of skills and habits is also useful in academics and in several segments of the jobs market.
If you research information for any collection, you are bound to be exposed to other areas. Coin collectors might learn things about history, geography, politics, mathematics, finance, economics, sociology, and art. An insect collector could study biology, zoology, geography, and ecology. Antique collectors might immerse themselves in history, technology, geography, and the like.
I think coin collecting, starting by sorting through pocket change, is an easy collection to begin. At least one study has found that the typical age coin collectors enter the hobby is between the ages of seven and twelve, often sharing the experience with their parents. Those who remain coin collectors during their teens will likely continue through life. Of those who stop when they become teenagers, about 10% again take it up in their adult life, often enjoying it with their own children.
So, if you see a child become a serious collector of coins, sports cards, dolls, or something else, don’t necessarily think of it as just a passing interest. The skills he or she may be learning could pay off when they grow up.
Patrick A Heller is the owner and General Manager of Liberty Coin Service, Michigan’s largest rare coin and precious metals dealer since 1971. Mr Heller is the editor of the Liberty’s Outlook Newsletter, and gold market commentator for Numismaster. In addition he is a columnist for The Greater Lansing Business Monthly, and has a radio show on WILS-AM 1320.