Yesterday my son Tyler and I traveled to the Annandale (Virginia) Coin Show to attend the kids' event I helped organize. Tyler loves animals so much that one of my nicknames for him is "Doctor Dolittle". The guest speaker was Bill Mullen, and I'd heard he would be giving the kids coins with animals on them.
It was a hot, hot day and it was already 80-some degrees when we arrived about 10AM. We signed in with Wayne Herndon's daughter Tiffany, and soon ran into Wayne himself, Bill Eckberg and Roger Burdette. I introduced Tyler to everyone. He was quiet and shy, and I wondered if he was already second-guessing his decision to come. But I needn't have worried - he had a great time.
After helping me set up the room we met Mr. Mullen and I introduced myself. We'd never met in person before - he'd been recommended to me as a speaker by Howard Daniel. We took him to the room where fellow volunteers Mike Hudson and Jon Radel arrived with family members in tow. I excused myself and took Tyler over to the bourse floor for a while.
We found a foreign coin dealer and started looking for animal coins, particularly ones with dogs. We came up empty on the dog part but did find a neat bear on a Kazakhstan piece. We didn't buy it (yet), but Tyler did get a couple tokens, one from Chuck E. Cheese and another from Disneyland, picturing Cinderella's castle.
Back at the kids' event there were over thrity people already present. Shortly after 11am I introduced myself, welcomed everyone, and explained the program. Then I turned it over to Bill.
He did a great off-the-cuff presentation starting with a description of the world before there was any money. He told a great story of how two warring tribes bartered with each other: a certain amount of fish and seafood from one oceanside tribe in exchange for a certain amount of fruits from the mountain-based tribe. He discussed the pros and cons of the barter system and gradually turned to a discussion of primitive forms of money.
He illustrated his talk by handing around the room actual items such as Chinese knife money, tea money, Swedish plate money, etc. Not a piece was missing or out of place by the end of the talk. The parents later told me they were amazed that their kids paid rapt attention for 45 minutes.
QUICK QUIZ: why do Chinese cash coins have SQUARE holes in them? The talk had something for everyone, even experienced numismatists like me.
At the end he invited the kids to line up and each was able to take a free coin from one of three bags he'd brought. There was a great round of applause for him. Thanks, Bill! (And Howard, too!)
Next, I ran an auction of 17 lots of donated material ranging from an Indian cent to a One Hundred Billion Dollar Zimbabwe banknote. The kids had a great time. Tyler bagged a U.S. Mint set. He helped us straighten up the room afterwards but couldn't wait to get back to the bourse.
I had to stop at Wayne Herndon's table but told Tyler he could head back to the other dealer's table. I was about to head over there when I saw him running through the aisles toward me. He'd made a deal on the bear coin and one other (and needed Dad's five bucks). So we went back and bought the coins.
I made a bet with him on the way out. Who would have the closest guess for the outside temperature? Tyler won - when I turned on the car, the temperature reading was 93 degrees. As we drove away he asked me to hand him his coins so he could look at them.
We stopped at a McDonald's in Tyson's Corner for lunch.
Getting back in the car, we had to stop and look again at all of his coins before leaving the parking lot. I showed him how he could view more detail through my magnifying glass. As we drove home the temperature was 105 degrees, the hottest day of the year.
When we got home he had to show the whole family his purchases. Mom wasn't impressed with the Chuck E. Cheese and Disney tokens. But Tyler was happy. He even dumped toys out of a plastic bin from his closet so he could house his coins in them. Mom didn't much care for that, either.
I dug out a bag full of coins I'd set aside during my trips to London. I told him he could take three of them for his collection, and I think he made some nice picks, including a 50-pence commemorative. I made his sister Hannah the same bargain. The little golddigger went for the one and two-pound coins.
Back when we lived in Pittsburgh I'd taken both Tyler and his older brother Christopher to the Coins4Kids meetings at the PAN Shows. Once we moved to Virginia a few years ago they showed less interest in coins. So it was nice to see it rekindled in Tyler. Only time will tell how long it lasts, but Dad was sure happy for a day, despite the withering heat.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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