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How to start a collection


Three attractive America the Beautiful quarter designs include those for the 2014 Everglades National Park (top), the 2015 Louisiana, Kisatachie National Forest (center) and the 2015 Delaware, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (bottom).

by Dr. R.S. “Bart” Bartanowicz

“I’m really happy that you told me to collect coins from circulation before I started a serious collection. It’s cool finding coins like Jefferson nickels from the 1940s or 1950s that are still in circulation. I especially like the America the Beautiful quarters. I pick up a couple of rolls from the bank and pull out the park quarters, as I call them. The kids and I look them over together with the idea that we might plan a vacation to the place they like best.”

Our numismatist smiled. The fellow had wanted to start out by collecting Morgan dollars. He suggested taking it slow and easy before spending serious money on coins. The fellow did have one issue.

“People are generally polite when I tell them that I’m collecting coins but many non-collectors don’t seem to get it. I get a lot of raised eyebrows or condescending remarks such as, ‘I used to collect coins when I was a kid.’

“I end up becoming defensive. It’s really irritating.”

Our numismatist had been there before. He also became defensive when someone implied that the hobby was something that only little kids did. The irony was that collectors want kids to be interested in collecting coins.

He always fought off the urge to reply with a snarky fabrication such as, “Did I tell you that I purchased my Mercedes with the profits from selling one of my silver dollar collections.”

Looking at the fellow, he raised a sympathetic eyebrow and said, “I know it’s aggravating. I usually temper my response by talking up the positive aspects of the hobby.

"Sometimes folks ask what the oldest coin is that I have. I let them know that I have one that is over 2,000 years old, which usually gets their attention. Some even ask what my most valuable coin is. My answer to that one is that I would tell them, but my wife would kill me if she knew.

"My alternate answer is that I tell them they can still purchase some nice coins such as silver dollars that are around 100 years old for under $100, depending on condition and rarity.”

Our numismatist smiled and continued on, “You can also go noble, as I call it. You can tell them that you use the state and America the Beautiful quarters to teach your kids history and geography. Doing this you become the noble parent who is actively involved in his kid’s education.”

“Let me know if any of those work for you. So looking over the America the Beautiful quarters, which ones do you like the best?”

The fellow smiled, “Oh yeah, my favorite quarters are those with birds. I like the designs because they show the natural habitat of the birds and I love the detail, especially the layering of feathers. My favorites are the 2014 Everglades National Park quarter; the 2015 Louisiana, Kisatachie National Forest and the 2015 Delaware, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.”

“I also like those coins. My favorite of the three is the Kisatachie quarter that shows a wild turkey in flight. I think you have a good eye and you’re ready to look at other coins.

“Let me know when you want to start looking at Morgan dollars. I’ll hand you off to a couple of avid Morgan collectors.”

The fellow was appreciative and said, “Thanks, I feel like I’m ready to move on to Morgan dollars. I’ll probably keep picking up quarters out of circulation. The program doesn’t end until 2021, so I may as well collect the set.”

The words came quickly, “I guess we’ve got you hooked. Seriously, I can see that you’re going to become an avid collector who is going to keep things in balance. Be sure to let me see your acquisitions as you make them.”

The fellow replied, “no problem there.”

The point of the above story is that there is nothing wrong or to be ashamed of if you collect coins out of circulation. Quarters are plentiful. So when Congress ushered in a new program titled “America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008,” I was pleased.

The America the Beautiful series began in 2010 and will end in 2021 for a total of 56 different quarters produced in business strikes and proof issues (including silver issues.)

To date there are some great designs and others not so great. I’ve had fun by rank ordering the coins in two different columns.

One was best design and other best struck or executed.

This is, of course, my list, which does not have to match that of others. As I find them in circulation, I put them in the pot. Doesn’t cost me anything but face value and I enjoy it.

So don’t be afraid to let someone know that you collect modern coins such as the America the Beautiful issues.

If you have a few extra dollars you could also buy a 2,000-year-old coin for under $100 dollars to show off to those raised eyebrow non-collectors who will go “wow!”

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine. >> Subscribe today.

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