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U.S. Mint Should Seek Student Input

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The U.S. Mint just announced a new website called U.S. Mint Coin Classroom. You can view it at https://www.usmint.gov/learn/kids.

It appears that this website is mostly a makeover from the Mint’s previous H.I.P. Pocket Change™ website for children and students. It is possible that the new version is an attempt to better draw in educators to encourage more involvement by youngsters.

In my review, the new website incorporates many elements from the former website. However, I did not see the one feature I think would really enhance the popularity of the website with teachers and their students—the opportunity for students to contribute their ideas and suggestions to the U.S. Mint.

In hundreds of presentations to school classes and before Scouts and 4-H groups, I have found that passive participation by youngsters is not the best way to encourage new numismatists. True, the U.S. Mint’s new website does include games to play online and pages that can be printed to be colored. But these activities don’t bring home the idea of being a collector anywhere near as effectively as actually being able to hold money in your hands.

Here are some hands-on activities that have been especially popular with children and students:

  1. In advance of the creation of the design for the Michigan Statehood Quarter that came out in 2004, I created a template where people could submit their design ideas. This template included a blank area where someone could draw their concept. For those less artistically inclined, there was another section with a list of potential design elements that could be circled. A different section on the template included blank lines where a written description of their idea could be noted. A number of teachers assigned the students in their class to fill out the template with their ideas of what should appear on the Michigan Statehood Quarter, including almost 1,000 that were submitted to the Michigan State Numismatic Society as part of the public input on the actual design process.
  2. In making presentations at schools and elsewhere, I made sure to pass around actual coins and currency that are different from what is seen in circulation today. For U.S. coins, I passed around half cents, two cents, three cents, twenty cents, silver dollars and gold coins. For U.S. paper money, the Fractional Currency from the 1860s-1870s and the Large Size U.S. bank notes were eye-catching, as were Continental Currency, local Obsolete issues, and local National Currency. Students really got excited to hold in their own hands genuine $500 or $1,000 Federal Reserve Notes.
  3. I’ve had a lot of success having children each examine an Eisenhower Dollar, then going around the room to ask each of them to name one of the features they noticed, such as country of issue, date, denomination, mintmark, designer’s initials, the artwork, etc.
  4. There’s also been a number of occasions where youngsters have selected a few coins from a mixed assortment of foreign coins, where they were asked to identify the issuing country.
  5. One especially successful activity was to hand out to children the Whitman Lincoln Cent folders, then let them sort through batches of cents for them to fill as many different holes in the folder as possible (which at the end they got to keep the folder and the coins they found).

As you can see in the above list of activities, the youth have the opportunity to engage in actual collecting activities, to contribute their ideas on potential coin designs, or to actually hold history in their own hands.

For those who might become numismatists, an online website has one huge drawback—they cannot actually touch and personally inspect coins and currency. There’s no way to directly overcome that limitation. However, making it possible for students to submit suggestions and ideas would definitely make any U.S. Mint website more appealing for both teachers and their students.

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 in 2021 for Best Investment Newsletter), 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, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious. metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. 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 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).