My Life as a YN

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Today as a 58 year old coin collector I occasionally think back on my years as a YN (young numismatist). I have very fond memories of those days and the coins I collected, many of which I still proudly own today.


Those were the days when I could spend the lion's share of the money I earned doing odd jobs on coins. At no other time in my life could I do this as I did when I was a YN because my parents provided the cloths on my back, a roof over my head, and plenty of good food to eat! The only stipulation they made was that I save half the money I earned and pay for things like gas for the car, insurance, and blue jeans! Yes, my parents paid for my dress cloths but as for the jeans they didn't like, well for those I was on my own. All these stipulations I gladly agreed to.


I got my first job when I was 14 years old as a golf caddie at the local country club. I made a whooping $3.85 plus tips for 18 holes! When I was 16 I got a job working on a farm for $1.50/hour. Since the farm job was a summer job, I started working at a restaurant in the fall for $2.10/hour busting suds (dishwasher). With this my parents stipulated that I maintain a B average at school to keep my job. To buy more coins, I heartily agreed to this also.


As a youth I had two main interests, coins and photography. I was very fortunate to go to a school that had a dark room for me to develop and print my own pictures. Of all the places to buy my first coin, I bought it at a photographic supplies store. This store in addition to photographic supplies had a glass display case full of various numismatic items. There I bought a proof-like 1881-S Morgan Dollar and a crisp uncirculated $2 star note. Both of these I still own today.


As a YN I was interested in collecting silver dollars and numismatic oddities such as the half cent, 2-cent piece, 3-cent silver and nickel pieces, and the 20-cent piece. I was also interested in coins bearing the mint marks of obsolete mints such as New Orleans, Carson City, Charlotte, and Dahlonega. To top that off I loved the coins listed in the back of the Red Book where all the gold coins resided. Throughout all my life, gold coins have never circulated and the fact that they were obsolete in circulation attracted me to them.


In the early 70's it was difficult to buy coins unless there was a dealer in town. Unfortunately, the photographic supply merchant only sold coins on the side. There was no internet either, thus if you wanted to follow numismatics you had to subscribe to any of a number of hobby periodicals. Growing up in Wisconsin, those were Krause Publications like Coins Magazine and Numismatic News. What these publications offered in addition to interesting articles was a mail-order marketplace for coins.


It is through mail-order that I bought an 1885-CC Morgan Dollar from the Lavere Redfield hoard, an 1876 20-cent piece, an 1881 half-eagle (my first gold coin), and an 1858-C half-eagle. At that time, the Charlotte half-eagle cost me a whopping $350! It took a lot of hours working at $2.10/hour to buy that coin! Adding up the cost of all those coins, it was pretty amazing what I bought with the money I earned!


It was a pretty rare event that the small town in which I lived hosted a coin show and I remember only one such opportunity to go. At the first and only coin show I attended as a YN, I bought an 1828 half-cent. Now my only regret is that I should never have sold that coin. All the other aforementioned coins I still own today.


I also purchased a few books as a YN, first and foremost among them was the Red Book of United States Coins. I literally wore out the binding of my Red Book paging through it and dreaming of the coins I wanted to buy someday. I also purchased the official ANA New Photograde Guide for Grading US Coins. I still find the Photograde Guide a useful book today!


Today I own coins from all the US Mints along with a Morgan Dollar collection that is 68% complete including a VG-10 93-S. Additionally, I have a complete Dansco 7070 type set with gold coins that I am currently upgrading. Later in my life as I started assembling topically themed sets, I began collecting medals and world coins.


Finally, if I were to have any advice for YN's today, I would tell them to dream big and to start building on and realizing some of those dreams today! Furthermore, todays YN's can't read enough books about the coins they want to collect.


Lastly, my parents were wise to not sacrifice my school work for coins. You see, if you excel in your school work today you will only help yourself to earn enough money to realize many, if not all, your numismatic dreams tomorrow. Still living the dream, I recently won a type 1 double-eagle and as such it represents one of the coins I dreamed about when I thumbed through my Red Book some 40+ years ago. Happy Collecting to all and by all means enjoy this wonderful hobby that we share together.




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Great post, Gary!


I enjoyed reading it.


Reminds me of my own humble beginnings, too.


So glad that I had my father and my family there to nurture my passion, as well.


Through education, a love for the hobby and hard work; I was able to evolve into the collector that I am today and I've enjoyed every minute of it.



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your experiences almost mirror mine. I was excited to save enough for each new addition to my sets and I was lucky enough to know all the dealers (almost a dozen if I recall) in Pittsburgh. I would talk to each as I made my rounds each Saturday, learning what each needed for their clients and picking them up at the others, trading back and forth to net a new coin now and then. They taught me a lot too, not like today's dealers, many who don't know enough to teach, others just too busy to help an adult let alone an inquizative kid. I have asked several younger (under 40) dealers to grade coins for me and many now tell me it would have to be slabbed for them to tell me for sure. Before slabs, WE were the 'for sure' and we had to know or take a chance on being taken. Speaking of grading, I also still have my Photograde as well as my old Brown & Dunn but I haven't dug them out of storage for a long time. Thanks for posting, this really brough back a flood of good memories. By the way- you mentioned coins were hard to find in the early days- I also bought most from mailorder. Do you remember The Restrike? That was my favorite monthly and I couldn't wait to leaf through it, cover to cover, marking all the good deals on the coins I wanted most and then singling one or two out for purchase immediately. I'd spend the entire night drinking tea to stay awake just to beat anyone else to the purchase. Great times, great memories. Thanks for bringing them back! And yes, I give the exact same advice- never think that ten dollar coin is insignificant- I never believed I would have the coins I have today because I grew up poor as dirt but I dreamed a big dream. Sometimes all you need is the dream and the desire and determination to take it somewhere. I hope all passionate YNs dream for the moon and make it to the stars...

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All this time we have been friended in NGC. I always thought you were younger than I ( 55 MPH lol ). I totally enjoyed the post ( and all your posts over the years ) and want to tell that your collection choices were wise and well thought out!! It is hard for someone to get into collecting coins and pick the right grades to start a set when they are looking at a certain budget. You are correct at saying "DREAM BIG". "Those are the coins that will only get higher in value in time, as time does go past us so quickly"!! I added the ending--- I Love It! :grin:


Enjoy Collecting


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