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Taylor Webb, Age 12, California: First Place

Mentors of Numismatists

This essay also appeared in the July 30 issue of Coin World

Taylor Webb

When you started collecting, hopefully when you were young, who helped you collect, and with your collection experiences? As a young numismatist, this is especially important, because it helps you expand your collecting expertise, and it can also help you learn. A lot of collectors have been started because of a neat coin-related gift, or a nice bit of numismatic knowledge. Whatever the reason, this can jumpstart both collectors and collections.

When I started collecting, at age 8, I was surrounded both with people willing to teach me, and people willing to help me finish my collection. These people have helped me both by giving me a coin, and giving me large amounts of help.

My first encounter with a gifting person was when I met my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Z. I was going to an open house for my school, when he approached me asking whether or not I collected. Of course I said yes, and he produced from his pocket a handful of coins. I don't remember the specific dates, but I do remember that among them was a dateless Standing Liberty Quarter Dollar, a few buffalo nickels from the late 1930's, and a few common date Indian head cents. I was especially interested in these buffalo nickels, as they were new to me. I remember that they had glue on them. This encounter was especially sweet as Mr. Z went on to become one of my favorite teachers ever.

Another encounter with a great gifter came when I learned that my Great Grandfather had a coin collection. He was long deceased, and I didn't know much about him, but it made me proud that he too was a numismatist. I learned that his collection resided with my great-uncle. I immediately wrote to him asking to view some of his coins. He replied a few days later on the phone telling me he would bring them to our next family reunion. I came home the next time with a big smile and a box full of coins. He had multiple modern sets, and coin dating back to the later 1800's. The most valuable coin is the 1872 Indian head cent. I am proud to say I still have it to this day.

Another encounter came in the form of multiple opportunities with nice and loving neighbors, older folks, who were great friends of my dad. The older man used to be a coin collector from the 60's to the 70's, and then dropped out for lack of interest. I remember him bring out a large bag of wheat cents, and poured them out all over the table because he had heard of, in the newspaper, a 1943 copper cent that sold for a large sum of money, so he was looking for one. At this time, I wasn't a collector, but this memory struck me as interesting, and it made me want to be a numismatist. We never found a copper 1943 though. When I started collecting coins, I had been pestering him to show me his coin collection. Finally, a few months ago, he showed me, and let me buy what I wanted at the current Greysheet prices. Then we took the rest to a nearby coin dealer, where we sold most of his silver scrap, along with a 1928 $20 Gold Certificate. I later became good friends with the coin dealer, even though I am still a YN.

I have one last person in mind, and this person is a long time collector from New York --- I will call him Green since that's what he goes by on the coin forums. I was browsing a forum, and Green and I were good friends, and he messages me one day saying he will send me some "Stuff" and to send him my address. A week or two later, a huge package came, containing a bunch of old ANA magazines, a bunch of old and new coins, and books. The former prompted me to join the ANA.

These are just some of the many people who have helped me expand my collection, by giving me opportunities and sometimes coins. These are the people who bring new people to the hobby, and are the backbone of it. I am grateful for all of them.

Bob's comments: Are there any collectors who started without help and guidance? Having spoken to thousands of numismatists over many decades, I only encountered two --- one was a CPA who invested in coins, and the other was a most disagreeable dentist! My love affair with coins was inspired by my brother-in-law (well, he was my brother-out-law then, but I digress...) For the rest of us, numismatics is as much about friendships and sharing as it is about the coins and notes. Taylor has learned a valuable lesson about that, and my hope for him --- and the wider world of collectors --- is that they pass along these joys to a new generation.

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