Collecting Friends: Collecting Coins with Cub Scouts

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Dennis: A while back a friend asked if I would give a presentation on coin collecting for his Cub Scout den. I figured it would be a cakewalk. His children and my daughter are about the same age, and I’ve talked to seven- and eight-year-olds about coins before. On top of that, I was a kid once—and a Scout, and a collector.

Well, it was fun, and it was educational (for everyone, including me), but at times it was like herding cats! The group was about a dozen first- to third-graders, mostly boys, with a couple girls. Energy level: Off the charts. My friend, their den leader, was very helpful in keeping the kids focused and on task. He provided some printouts. I brought line-art diagrams of the parts of a coin, a box of Red Books and coin folders, a few other coin books, and some show-and-tell pieces.

CF_10_Cub-Scouts_coin-rubbing_Dennis-Tucker

Image: Coin rubbings with paper and pencil—a fun activity.

I talked to the Scouts about the designs of coins, and what they mean—the American eagle, portraits of presidents, etc. I told them about the ancient Greeks, and how they used symbols on coins to show what was important to them. We did a creative exercise where the Scouts drew a coin design of their own. They really liked that.

CF_6_Liberty-Barking-dollar_Dennis-Tucker (1)-1We explored how coins and medals are actually sculptures, with depth, and how they’re works of art made by real people. I showed them a medal created by my friend Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, a Saltus Award–winning artist and former member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

[Image: I brought some medals to show high-relief sculpture. This one has a portrait of my old beagle, Hyacinth (rest in peace!). Its creator, Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, and I are both “dog people,” and Jeanne’s medal is a star in my collection. The Scouts thought it was cool.]

All the kids paid attention, but, interestingly, the girls seemed the most thoroughly engaged, judging by the depth of their questions and responses. One Cub Scout’s older sister was there, and I opened the Red Book to show her the 2013 Girl Scout commemorative silver dollar. Her eyes lit up, and she excitedly showed her dad—the coin was minted the year she was born. She wanted to go out and get one right away. I loved seeing that reaction!

The boys asked questions, too—mostly of the “100 Greatest” variety: “What’s the most expensive coin you own?” “What’s the oldest coin you’ve collected?” They wanted to know about the biggest, the best, the rarest, the treasures.

CF_10_Cub-Scouts_medal_Hunter_1930_Dennis-Tucker

Image: Kids love dogs, like on Laura Gardin Fraser’s 1930 “Hunter” medal.

Talking with the Scouts was a fun experience and I recommend it to anyone who wants to share their love of the hobby with the next generation of collectors. If you give it a go, here’s some advice and observations from other collector friends:

Ron Heeren recommends a show-and-tell format: “If you have old coins with little value but are interesting keepsakes, like some Wheat pennies that are still holding their shine, or war nickels, hand them out. It may get budding collectors interested in coins.”

Brad Johnson recalls: “I’ve done a few Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts meetings.” Brad would save Lincoln cent folders when they came into his coin shop: “When I would get enough for a Scout group I would donate them and the scoutmaster would take the books and a big jar and have a meeting for their numismatic badge. Sometimes I would go and speak, mostly answer questions.” He describes it as “very enjoyable—and sometimes an eye-opening experience!”

Jeffrey Rosinia observes: “I’ve worked with Cub Scouts. They enjoyed filling holes in coin folders. Most have never seen a Kennedy half dollar.”

Ash Harrison, Jeff Burke, Rob Oberth, Christopher McDowell, Robert Fagaly, Jeff Swindling, Mitch Ernst, Lawrence Schuffman, and many other collectors have presented to Scout organizations. Rob Oberth’s comment is par for the course: “Everyone had a lot of fun.” And Dennis Beasley: “Sharing our knowledge and experience is what makes this hobby (and avocation) the best part of life.”

Jeffrey Swindling says, “Cub presentations need to be very interactive. I use coloring sheets and games from the U.S. Mint website, and let them do coin rubbings on those huge novelty coins available at gift shops for a couple bucks.”

Of course, you can’t talk about Scouting and coins without thinking of George Cuhaj. A few years ago George and I collaborated on the latest Whitman BSA Coin Collecting Merit Badge folder. It was one of those 80/20 or 90/10 collaborations—with George providing 80 or 90 percent of the brainpower. When it comes to presenting to Scouts, George points out that “Knowing and using the resources of the group” is a Scouting leadership principle. He recommends asking for advice from those who have done it before. “Cub Scouts [as opposed to older Boy Scouts] have different requirements and needs for their collections badge,” he advises, “as well as a very short attention span. Keep it simple, make it fun. Give them one or two world currency and world coins and have them try to identify the country and describe the design, and find that country on a globe or map. If you want to be bold, you show them the circulating dollar coins, half dollar, and two-dollar bills. Stay away from price guides and looking stuff up in a catalog. Don’t get too nerdy about it!”

Steve, you’ve done a lot of teaching in numismatics. Have you ever taught kids, and what was the experience like? Any advice for teachers? 

Steve: Dennis! My dad was an Eagle Scout and I’ve helped with a few coin collecting merit badge clinics over the years at coin shows, thankfully with experienced teachers who echoed the lessons that George Cuhaj shared with you. 

I love giving presentations and sharing the hobby, and a few years ago I presented some grading seminars with my good friend, Ohio dealer Tony Cass, at the Michigan State Numismatic Society’s conventions. It was a three-hour seminar in the morning, and with twenty participants of varying skill and interest levels. The directive was broad: teach coin grading. There were also wonderful donuts. 

For a few years prior I had collected examples of both “textbook” circulated coins – like a perfect Fine 12 Barber quarter dollar – along with some tricky ones, like a Walking Liberty half dollar that looked like a very high-end Mint State coin but had counting wheel damage. A “box of 20” was prepared for the class, the coins passed around, and then the coins were used as individual case studies for grading and problem coins. Around half of the coins presented had a problem of some sort, like improper cleaning, repairs, or rim damage. 

In retrospect, the scope of the class was too broad. In trying to educate all collectors while providing value to the more advanced ones, I think the newer collectors – which included some young numismatists – left the classes with trepidation about buying coins on the bourse floor, fearful of buying “problem coins.”  Perhaps it was a good thing, but were I to do it again, I would have focused more on the typical coins versus the outliers and provided more examples to build the confidence of the class members of all skill and interest levels. I would have saved most of the problem coins for a different course. 

*Learn more about the ANA's involvement with Scouts at money.org/scouts.


Be on the lookout for another installment of Collecting Friends next month or subscribe here and never miss a post! In the meantime, explore beautiful coins from the ANA's Edward C. Rochette Money Museum Virtual Exhibits.

About the Collecting Friends Blog

Hello! And welcome to the ANA’s blog series, “Collecting Friends.”

We decided to approach this much like a conversation between friends. One of us starts with a topic, then the other responds. Simple as that. Along those lines, we’ll keep the tone conversational as much as possible. 

We both write about coins professionally, and will keep our relative style guides in our writing. For Dennis, Publisher at Whitman Publishing, that means capitalizing “Proof” and italicizing Red Book and never saying anything bad about Ken Bressett, who’s awesome anyway. 

For Steve, who’s written with Coin World for 15 years, it means Winged Liberty Head dime instead of “Mercury” dime, and similar nuances and oddities. And, it means writing A Guide Book of United States Coins (better known as the “Red Book”). 

Both of us started collecting when we were little, introduced to coins by a chance encounter with an old coin that sparked our curiosity. One of Steve’s interests is coin valuation, and he gravitates towards the intersection of art and coins. Dennis enjoys medals and world coins, and studying modern U.S. coins in the context of older series, what came before.

We met in 2012 at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia at an event hosted by the Austrian Mint where there was both a Ben Franklin and a Betsy Ross impersonator. We’ve become great friends in the past decade. We even were appointed together to sit on the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee starting in 2016, but Steve resigned soon after he was appointed to accept a full-time job at the Treasury Department while Dennis was re-appointed in 2020.

We taught a course together on numismatic publishing and writing a few years ago at the Summer Seminar, and while life has gotten in the way of us teaching another class, we jumped at our friend Caleb’s suggestion that we write a column. We hope you enjoy it! 

steve roach circle frame (2)dennis tucker circle frame (2)

 

About the American Numismatic Association

The American Numismatic Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and encouraging people to study and collect coins and related items. The Association serves collectors, the general public, and academic communities with an interest in numismatics.

The ANA helps all people discover and explore the world of money through its vast array of educational programs including its museum, library, publications, conventions and numismatic seminars.

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