HUDSON — As it turns out, most everyone is a coin collector, says John Zieman Jr. It’s just that they don’t think about it that much.
The change collecting in your pocket or purse could be treasure, said Zieman, president of the Coin Collectors Club of Pasco County, a Hudson-based hobbyist organization formed in 1993.
What’s the price of not knowing the value of what’s rattling around in your pocket? Imagine paying for a Big Gulp at the local convenience store with a penny worth $30,000.
It could happen.
Zieman and his daughter, Alexandrea, joined the collecting group in 2005, when she was just 8 and getting interested in collecting. Dealers in rare coins, the pair sat down with a reporter to talk rare coins and the hobby’s struggle to attract young collectors.
“See this?” asked Zieman, waving a cell phone in hand. “This is an electronic pacifier.”
Devices and social media are tough competition for coin collectors hoping to bring more young people into the numismatic fold, said Zieman. But he and his group never stop trying, even though it seems kids’ interest in collecting coins ends at collecting just enough to buy the latest smart phone.
“Collecting in this generation is down,” said Zieman. “Kids are more interested in virtual activities; we’re trying to change that and get more kids involved.”
He said youths, or anyone of any age with an interest, is welcome to drop into the club’s meetings, which are held the second Thursday of the month at the Aripeka Elks Lodge, 9135 Denton Ave. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. and meetings start at 7 p.m.
There are about 25 active members during the summer months, with about 35 during the winter season, said Zieman. They range from beginners to serious collectors. Most are adults, but the youngest is just 10, a boy who comes to meetings with both his parents and spends his allowance to build his collection.
Alexandrea Zieman, now 23, said the club needs more youths. For her, collecting started because older collectors were supportive and often gave her coins to get her collection started. That giving spirit is alive today, if only younger people would take the time to investigate the hobby, she said. As she stuck with collecting and got older, she began to appreciate the hobby even more.
“You are holding a piece of history in your hands,” said Alexandrea, the coin club’s secretary. “And it’s not just history, but with research you see it tells you about culture, the places they (the coins) came from and then you learn about the mentality of people back then.”
Zieman said coin collecting takes effort, but the payoff can be big. People don’t have to invest a lot of time or money to get started. He said anyone can buy rolls of dimes or quarters from a bank. Unroll them and put them on edge, he advises. The older, pure silver coins will be revealed by the solid silver edges that show. The U.S. Mint recently put 10 million “W” mint quarters — denoting West Point, New York, home of the U.S. Military Academy — into circulation to stimulate collecting, he said. The quarters, which come in five sets of two million each, can’t be purchased, so people have to look for them.
“It’s about stimulating interest in the hunt,” Zieman said.
Hunting can lead to finding. A woman checking through rolls of pennies found a 1969 S mint double-die Lincoln cent that was worth $30,000, Zieman said, adding that people still find valuable wheat pennies, mercury silver dimes, silver quarters or buffalo nickels in their change today—even the occasional $2 bill. There are a few $500 bills still in circulation, he said.
Zieman said at the heart of the hobby is the “thrill of the hunt” and the excitement of discovery—finding that special, rare coin or bill that makes it all worthwhile.
Beware of getting taken, though, he cautions. Grab bags of old coins, “special limited-quantity” and “last-chance” someone might be offered usually aren’t wise buys.
Zieman said each club meeting features a speaker on a different collecting topic. The recent move to the Elks Lodge means easier access for Hernando County residents, he notes.
The meetings include a raffle, as well as a coin auction. Light refreshments are served. To join costs $10 per year for a single, or $15 for a family. A website, www.pascocoinclub.com, is coming soon.