I was eight when I truly became a coin collector. I was staying two weeks during summer vacation with my Grandma and Grandpa in San Fernando, California. We were in a small grocery store when there was a commotion in the check out line. A young mother was paying the cashier and one of the coins she was trying to pay with was a three-cent nickel piece.
The commotion was over the fact that the cashier didn’t know what the coin was and refused to accept it. Grandma quickly stepped up and offered to buy the coin and said she would give the cashier a dime for it. It was a done deal.
I was hooked. I held the coin in my hand. I remember admiring that old, worn, bent, coin for hours and imagining the history of 1865 and I wondered if any cowboys used my coin and I became a coin collector. I asked Grandma if I could have it and she could tell it needed to be mine.
A few days later, Grandma took me to a department store. On the way into the store I found a $10 bill and a few ones on the sidewalk. I was excited, but…
Grandma wasn’t going to let me keep the cash. When we got home and I told Grandpa about finding money, he immediately came to my defense. “He found it. It’s his. Give him the money.” I couldn’t agree more.
Grandma argued, “What’s he going to do with $14?”
I piped up, “I’m going to buy coins. I’m a coin collector now.” I was serious, as serious about what I was saying as an 8 year old could be. It was true conviction and it was to become true for the rest of my life.
A big smile crossed Grandpa’s face. He was an old-school silver stacker who pulled silver coins out of circulation in the mid 1960s. Grandma didn’t let on at first but it was her desire more than Grandpa’s for me to be a collector.
The next day Grandma took me to a coin shop in Tujunga. I spent it all. I bought some Indian “pennies,” proof Jefferson nickels, a hard-to-find date Mercury dime and a prized possession I still have today….