My long numismatic journey began the old fashioned way - collecting Lincoln cents. In the late 1960's, a friend of my parents gave me a Whitman folder for 1941 to date Lincoln cents. Little did I know at the time that this one gift would forever change my life. I began to sort through pocket change looking for coins to fill the folder. But, this did not produce the results fast enough for an impatient teenager. Shortly thereafter, I would take my weekly allowance (around $3 dollars), and purchase 6 rolls of pennies to look for the coins I needed. In those days, wheat back cents (1909-1958), were fairly common. In just a few months, my small blue folder was nearly complete. There were a few holes however that were stubbornly difficult to fill. Most were San Francisco (S-Mint) issues that did not circulate widely in Florida where I grew up. As much as I searched, those darn S-Mint cents from the 1940's eluded me. My compulsive behavior was revealed at an early age - I had to find those coins!
I did not know it at the time, but I was the victim of one of the best marketing tools ever invented for numismatics. When collectors start to fill an album or folder, those empty holes will drive them nuts. Coin boards were invented in the 1930's, and for decades was a driving force in popularizing coin collecting. Over the years, Whitman and other companies have sold millions. For years, even the most valuable collections were stored in brown, Wayte Raymond boards. Although it has been many years, I have seen million dollar collections stored in this manner. For decades, collectors stored most of their coins in albums or boards of some type. This began to change in the early 1980's with the advent of certified coins (slabs). Today's collectors miss out on the excitement of filling an album, but their coins are now much better protected and more liquid. I have seen some extremely valuable coins ruined by slide mark damage caused by coin albums. Collecting coins in albums is still great fun for beginners, but is only recommended for circulated coins.
Now, back to my unfinished Lincoln Cent collection. Those last few holes were driving me crazy. At the time, I had never been to a coin shop, coin club meeting, or other organized numismatic event. My only exposure to the numismatic world was the small ads that populated the back of my comic books. One day, I noticed an ad by a national coin company. Somehow, I managed to place an order with them for those last coins needed to complete my set. A week or so later, a few small brown envelopes arrived in the mail with coins I needed. I felt as if I had climbed Everest! What an accomplishment - completing a 1941 to date set of Lincoln cents. I was hooked. Of course shortly after that, I purchased the 1909-1940 album, and got started all over again.
That small Lincoln folder led to a lifetime of interest in numismatics. A few years later, I was hanging out in the local coin shops, coin clubs, and coin shows. Every bit of money I earned mowing lawns went into my collection. After this was insufficient, I asked the small coin shop near my home for a part time job. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was working nearly full time as a coin dealer. My parents very reluctantly agreed to let me skip college and pursue my career in numismatics. Forty years later, I can say that choosing rare coins as a vocation was the best decision I ever made. I am one of the luckiest people in the world- I love what I do for a living! That small blue folder literally changed the course of my life. I still have it by the way, and it is one my most cherished possessions.
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