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It was never all about silver

When I look back to my beginnings in numismatics, I sometimes ask myself whether I should have been less the starry-eyed kid and more the commercially attuned realist.

Since I was a kid at the time I began collecting, there is no way I could change my age, but the starry-eyed part I might have shortened up a bit.

What do I mean?

When I started my Lincoln cent album it was because I had found a 1909 Lincoln cent. I was 8 years old.

A coin that was 54 years old seemed positively ancient. – and I had it in my very own hands no less.

This was 1963. And this was the starry-eyed daydreaming that I remember so well.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to fill all of the holes in my two Whitman cent albums? Wouldn’t it be great to find the valuable 1909-S VDB in change?

Such were my thoughts.

After I had filled up all of the easy holes in the albums, searching through cents became rather dull. There were small victories.

The 1955-S eluded me for quite a while. When I found one, my 1941-to-date album was completed.

The unfilled holes in the 1909-1940 album remained mostly unfilled.

Being the starry-eyed kid motivated me to stand in line at a bank to obtain Kennedy half dollars when they were first released in 1964.

It motivated me to branch out into other areas aided by my paper route income.

It took some money to be able to obtain cents by the bag, or other denominations by the roll. Because I was working, I had it.

Being the starry-eyed kid made me keep dateless Buffalo nickels rather than war nickels.

The dateless nickels had no future.

The war nickels had silver in them, which I knew about after I had begun buying guide books and subscribing to Coins Magazine.

But you couldn’t put date restorer on war nickels. The starry-eyed part of me just had to give that a try.

Even though I came to know that coins in better condition were the eventual goal, I still often opted to buy more coins rather than better coins just to have a more complete set of whatever I was working on.

In writing this and recalling my past, I know that the starry-eyed kid part of numismatics is essential. Without it, there is no motivation to collect. Without it, a steely-eyed commercial outlook would be blind.

Coins have to be desired and appreciated for what they are.

A 1909 Lincoln cent is not an 1804 dollar, but it is the coin that opened the numismatic door so that my starry-eyed self could learn about it and eventually all other U.S. issues.

Sure, it makes sense to wish to have been smarter quicker, but without the starry-eyed kid’s outlook still within me, I probably would have had a very short numismatic life.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."