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Use Numismatic Trivia to Spark Interest


People love stories. The field of numismatics is filled with stories galore. Why not use trivia about coins and currency to spark the interest of new collectors?

Numismatic trivia can be even more interesting to your audience if you can bring up people, places, and things that resonate with your audience. I’m from Lansing, Mich., so I try to incorporate local and state stories.

I created a PowerPoint presentation that starts off with 10 statements about America’s money. As each statement is presented, I ask the audience who thinks that statement is true, then how many think it isn’t true. These statements were carefully selected so that someone who had no idea as to whether it was true would tend to think it had to be false. By asking people to predict whether a statement is true or false, you get them involved in wanting to know if their guess was correct.

Once I go through the list, I next reveal that every single statement is true.

Here are the statements in this presentation:

• The Jefferson Nickel was designed by a former General Motors employee who lived much of his life in Owosso, Michigan

• The United States government issued paper money with the signature of R. E. Olds of Lansing, Michigan, the founder of Oldsmobile.

• The United States government issued paper money that depicted the Michigan State Seal.

• The first actual man and woman depicted on U.S. coins never heard of the United States of America.

• The United States Treasury issued coins and paper money in the denomination of three cents.

• A former member of the Michigan legislature is the only United States coin designer ever elected to a state or federal office.

• According to U.S. Mint records, the youngest person known to ever strike a United States coin was a six-year-old boy from Lansing, Michigan.

• The 2004 Michigan Quarter was the second United States coin to depict a map of the state of Michigan.

• The current $2.00 Federal Reserve Note shows President John Adams.

• President Woodrow Wilson appeared on the Series 1934 $100,000 Gold Certificate, a paper money issue that was illegal for American citizens to own.

The rest of the presentation then goes back with more information about each of these statements. To conclude, I throw in several more quick bits of Michigan-related numismatic trivia.

Invariably, before the pandemic, when I gave this presentation to an adult group, word would get around and I would get an invitation to repeat this program somewhere else.

Put yourself in the frame of mind of the general non-numismatist. If you were presented with stories such as on the list above, don’t you think that has a better prospect of creating interest in numismatics than a different program that dryly covers the nuts and bolts of the supplies a novice collector should acquire and encourages people to do more research on their own?

I am confident that no matter where you live, you can create a list of 10 numismatic trivia statements relevant to where you live that could be equally as interesting. And – know what else? Creating such a program can be as much fun for you to develop as it would be for your audiences to experience.

A Great Article to Read

Wendell Wolka, a paper money researcher extraordinaire, has a wonderful article in the September/October 2022 issue of Paper Money, the publication of the Society of Paper Money Collectors (SPMC). It is titled “In The Beginning ...”

The article traces the roots and early history of U.S. National Currency. Salmon P. Chase, the Treasury Secretary appointed by President Abraham Lincoln, was the prime advocate of issuing National Currency as a means to finance the costs to the Union of pursuing the Civil War. Chase perceived that the Civil War would be lengthy and costly and could drive the U.S. government into bankruptcy if it did not find a new way to issue bonds.

Chase previously had served as a U.S. senator and as a governor of Ohio. Chase’s first two efforts to work with congressmen to get laws authorizing such issues failed. Next, Chase enlisted the help of Ohio Senator John Sherman (brother of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman) to quickly get a bill passed by the Senate. The House quickly followed and Lincoln signed it into law on Feb. 25, 1863.

Wolka reviewed research from a half century ago about the extent to which the text in this legislation was adapted from New York’s 1838 banking legislation or from Ohio’s 1845 banking law. For example, 22 sections from the Ohio law were incorporated verbatim into the 43 sections of the federal legislation. Further, another seven sections appearing only in the Ohio law were adapted into the federal law. Wolka concludes that 67 percent of the 1863 law authorizing U.S. National Currency had its origins in the Ohio law, with another 14 percent tied to the New York law.

There are even more interesting bits of history in Wolka’s article. SPMC members can read this article online by logging in to

Patrick A. Heller was honored as a 2019 FUN Numismatic Ambassador. He is also the recipient of the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award, 2012 Harry Forman National Dealer of the Year Award and 2008 Presidential Award. Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including twice in 2020), Professional Numismatists Guild, Industry Council for Tangible Assets and the Michigan State Numismatic Society. 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 archives posted at