Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween, transit, and numismatics

I have long been a coin collector, a numismatist, someone who studies money. Over the years, I've learned that developing an interest in coins helps a young person put to use all the info s/he is learning in school. It helps tie together all those disparate subjects, creating a common link among them all. Once a child has a love of learning, and a reason to want to learn, and good information sources, the world is larger for it.

My contribution to this, then, is the second entry in that list. Interest the kid in numismatics! Once a year, every October 31, kids come streaming to my door, asking for a handout. So I give it to them! Every year since I moved to my current residence in 1991, the kids got some sort of coin or coin-related thing, complete with an explanation of what it is, and a proper description on the holder.

This year, I am tying transit into my give-away in an off-hand way. I am giving out 1902 5-cent pieces, each of which is worth maybe a dollar, probably more like 60 to 70 cents. The printed note which accompanies each coin mentions that at the time the coin was made, it had more buying power than a dollar has today. Among the things that coin would buy was fare on the trolley. I figure it is also necessary to point out that nobody had cars back then.

My hope is that these kids, and perhaps their parents, will use the coin as a jumping off point for conversation. I make sure I personally talk with each kid, and each parent if present, to explain what it is and why I'm doing it. My name and address are on each note.

The toothrot will be gone in a day. The coin will be around forever. Even if they're only six or seven, they will be able to dig that coin out in a couple of years and maybe then start to put all the pieces together. The ones who have been around for a couple of years will have a small but eclectic set of coins. This year's handout was actually 2002's -- very few turned out that year because of weather -- but I doubt anyone would have been here for both years. I'm more concerned that I gave out 1909 "V" nickels in 2009, and try not to have the same thing too close together. The original plan was to buy 20 of something else, but a year of unemployment compelled me to implement zero-cost Plan B.

I invite everyone to come back for more information. So far, very few have, in any year. Nor do I do any follow-up, though I have run into an old neighbor who remembered, for instance, that I gave out the 1999 Canadian 25-cent circulating coin designed by a 9-year-old girl, in 1999. At the very least, it leads to positive relations with all families in the neighborhood with kids, and that's good enough for me.

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