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Encourage hands-on activities for youth

 (Image courtesy

(Image courtesy

By the time you read this, I will have again finished co-teaching a class titled “Collecting Coins For Fun & Profit” as part of 4-H Exploration Days on the Michigan State University campus near where I work. My co-teacher will again be Brett Irick, who is the current president of the Michigan State Numismatic Society, a member of the Board of Governors for the Central States Numismatic Society, and serves the American Numismatic Association as assistant chief exhibit judge and as district club representative for Michigan.

The 4-H programs are intended to be hands-on and full of activity for the students, which this year will range in age from 12 to 15. If it were up to you to create numismatic activities that would interest novice numismatists, what kinds of things would you arrange? Keep in mind that this is specifically not meant to be dull and dry lectures with passive listeners.

Here is what we plan to pack into the five hours of class time:

After introductions, each attendee will be given an Eisenhower dollar that they will get to keep. Then we will go around the room, asking each student to describe a different feature or information they see on the coin.

Next, they get to view a PowerPoint presentation titled “Fun With Money.” Ten statements will be given at the beginning, where each student will be asked if they think they are either true or not true. If someone was not a knowledgeable numismatist, several claims would seem to be definitely not possible to be true. About half of the points mentioned include Michigan-related numismatic trivia. Then we go through each one with the details to each statement, all of which are true.

Each student also gets a free recent edition Red Book to take home. At this point, we will go around the room to ask each attendee to pick out a coin of interest to them and have them read the kinds of information that the book offers about the particular coin.

Following that, each of them will receive an empty Lincoln Cent #1 Whitman folder and be able to look through a pile of early Lincolns to pull out a handful to put into his or her folder.

For the second half of the program, we will pass around interesting coins and paper money, starting with ancients and covering the whole world.

Next will be another Power Point Presentation titled, “Oops! A Lighthearted Review Of Design Mistakes On Circulating US Coins.” Before going into details of each mistake, the attendees will be able to review their Red Books to see if they figure out what the answers are.

Each of the students also receives a binder with lots of information on numismatic resources, such as the US Mint’s H.I.P. Pocket Change Website and the American Numismatic Association’s Young Numismatists Website. There will also be information on the ANA’s Coins for A’s program, membership applications for the ANA and MSNS, and information on local Michigan coin clubs and upcoming coin shows.

For the grand finale, the students get to sort through a pile of world coins and select a handful that they get to take home. The only requirement is that they must be able to identify the country of origin. They are welcome to check some of the catalogs there or ask an adult for assistance. In past years, this has been the most popular part of the program.

Naturally, we have the flexibility to cover other subjects that the attendees are curious about. But we believe that the best way to encourage budding young numismatists is to have them experience the joy of actually collecting rather than have them first cover the “boring” aspects of the hobby such as a lecture on what supplies would be helpful. Those numismatic subjects are best covered while already having fun in numismatics.

By the way, you are welcome to use any of these activities with your own Young Numismatists. Also, if any of you have other ideas on what might be fun numismatic experiences for students, please share them with me at

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2017 Exemplary Service and 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2017 and 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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