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What Did I Collect as a Teenager? Part Two

In Part 1 of this series I tried to explain that as a child during the Depression, there was little money around to spend on a hobby. So we kids collected bottle caps, marbles and used postage stamps.  Virtually nothing was bought, but usually found in the streets or around the house, things that would have been disregarded if we had not saved them.

As we moved later in the 1930s, tiny amounts of money became available to us kids and some of us started to save a few coins, primarily cents and five-cent pieces.  The Buffalo nickel was made till 1938 and we would search for them in change along with Lincoln cents that had been in circulation since 1909.  To assist us in collecting we had "penny boards" with holes in them for organizing coins by date and mint. These boards cost 25 cents, but we usually received them as a birthday or other gift. Later an “album” made by Whitman Publishing Co. came on the market, that opened up to house the coins that we carefully inserted and provided an orderly arrangement for the coins we found.

So our coin collections started to grow. As we looked through our change we were challenged to find different dates and mintmarks. When we got change from a food-shopping trip we would examine each coin to see if we could enhance our collection. If we found one, that was the reward for the search.

As we were in the East, we hardly if ever found coins from the Denver or San Francisco mints.  To us those were always scarce and rare. If relatives or friends came east to visit or do business we asked to look at their change to see if we could add to our collections. Living in a "coin dealer’s" house, one would think we could always get some space fillers from the inventory we had in our shop. No way! My father and uncle would tell us that the only way we could learn the business was to search our change and see how hard it was to find the "missing links." 

As I have mentioned before, my cousins Norman and Ben and I considered ourselves "indentured servants" because when ever we were had a day off from school or a summer holiday, we were expected to go to the shop and do all the menial jobs, such as sort and envelope coins, wipe the showcases, sweep the floors and greet collectors if our parents were engaged with other clients. We would be paid a quarter or half dollar for the day’s work, plus our lunch sandwich and transportation back home, which by subway was five cents.  So we would look at our pay, see if we could find anything interesting among the coins to take home and add to our collections. Sometimes if we did a good job, at the end of the day my father or uncle would reward us with a scarcer coin to take home. We would work hard to get those "special rewards."

We traded our duplicates with each other to fill spaces in our albums. Sometimes we were able to bring home coins for our friends who were also collecting from change. By the mid 1940s, Ben, Norman and I had become coin dealers. In addition, we each found some series or denominations that we liked and built collections for ourselves. However, aside from coins, as we moved out of the depression years, we also used our small amounts of spare money on other "collectibles" In the next part of this story I will discuss collecting cigar labels, baseball cards and comic books.

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