Christmas has arrived. Time for family gatherings. Time to exchange presents. Time for memories.
Because of the quirky way my mind works, I can remember gifts I received from my parents at Christmas 1962 and then for Christmas 1963.
These two holidays bookended the 12-month period during which I seriously began collecting coins. Is there any connection?
I remember 1963 was the year I began coin collecting. I do not remember the specific date. I do remember the trip to the hobby shop where my mother bought me a Whitman Lincoln cent album to fill. This trip had nothing to do with a holiday. It had nothing to do with my birthday. It had everything to do with the fact that my mother noticed I had become interested enough in coins to have checked the dates of every cent in the house.
I was familiar with the shop. I had been there a few times before. It was where I bought books about dinosaurs and other things of interest to a kid.
The cent album turned out to be one of the greatest gifts my mother ever gave me. Coin collecting eventually became one of the most important things in my life. It crowded out many other interests I had as a kid. It gave me a career.
But you probably wouldn’t know it from the reaction I had to a Lionel train set I was given for Christmas 1962. My uncle helped set it up. He was as enthralled by it as I was.
There was a railcar associated with the space program. I remember Cape Canaveral written on it or on a related piece.
Did this have anything to do with coins? Not that I can tell. At about the same time, I received a telescope. Was it for Christmas? I can’t recall. The train set made a bigger impression.
Christmas 1963 brought me Camelot Castle with knights as well as a Big Caesar battery-powered Roman galley with legionnaires. Unless you want to attribute a love of history to these toys, there is no connection to coins with these gifts, either.
What is my point? As thrilled as I was with my Christmas presents in both years, it was the spontaneous purchase of a 35-cent coin album that made all the difference in my life. This shows the importance of happenstance. A coin collector doesn’t become a coin collector until he or she is darn good and ready. The interest strikes us when it strikes us.
Holiday gifts come and go. But the gift of having a mother who was tuned in enough to notice where my interests were heading as they happened was for me the greatest gift of all.
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