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2014 U.S. Coin Digest

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It wasn’t planned, but it looks like this is Young Numismatists week on the editorial pages of Numismatic News.

In the Letters section is a photograph of a 5-year-old and a letter from his proud grandpa.

At right is a Viewpoint is written by a 17-year-old.

Both arrived in my hands at the same time by complete happenstance. They serve as a welcome reminder that there is a future to numismatics, but it probably will not look like the past.

Every generation has its characteristics. I was a part of the circulation finds generation that got its start before the Coinage Act of 1965 eliminated the wide variety of coins that used to circulate before the law was adopted.

When I started, Buffalo nickels still served side by side with Jefferson nickels. To be sure, they were dwindling in number and many of them had unreadable dates, but they were there nevertheless.

Mercury dimes were much more numerous in circulation than were Buffalo nickels, which might seem odd considering the massive silver hoarding that soon took them all out of circulation. When I started looking at them, you could still contemplate building a fairly complete collection from change if you didn’t mind some pretty worn early pieces and rule out the 1916-D from the get-go. But that was easy as I had already shed any idea that I would find a 1909-S VDB cent for my Whitman 1909-1940 cent album.

Quarters were pretty well all Washington, but once in a rare while a virtually slick Standing Liberty quarter would come my way. My memory is a little foggy as to how many Standing Liberty quarters with dates I found. Not many, though I remember one distinctly, and it was a 1925. No 1916 pieces for me.

Walking Liberty half dollars were common enough that I found the 1938-D, but none of the 1921 coins. But as every veteran knows, every find of a better date simply encourages you to look all the harder.

My memories of the good old days of circulation finds basically end in 1968. That was the turning point year. By the end of it, all 90 percent silver coins were gone. The coins I collected from customers each week on my paper route were hardly worth looking at after that. I gave up my last route in the summer of 1969, and while I knew I would miss the income, I also knew that I wasn’t going to miss much in terms of circulation finds. That era was over.

That era might have ended, yet 44 years later I know that in each and every one of those years there have been collectors examining their change. They still do it. What happens is the focus changes. The way I collected became obsolete, but for newcomers, the old way was never experienced so it couldn’t be missed.

The 5-year-old below and the 17-year-old to the right will have different experiences. Each in his turn somewhere down the road will probably lament the passing of the good old days of today.

 

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