Coin collecting still a mystical hobby for some

November 13, 2012 in Coins, Collecting, Young Collectors

By: Sarah Baraba (htpp://www.

While a penny on the street may go unnoticed by many, it probably won’t miss the eye of 9-year-old Donovan Geraghty. In fact, that’s how the Ballwin resident started his coin collection.

“I found it in my back yard; I think it’s a Canadian penny,” Donovan said as he scoured over his binder of coins, each coin tucked away neatly in individual slots sealed shut with a few inches of Scotch tape.

Donovan sent a letter to the Suburban Journals requesting we write a story about his coin collection. His pitch included a hand drawing of his coin binder and tales of his trips to Coin, Stamps, and Jewelry, a Ballwin shop owned by Mike Butland.

There was something nostalgic about Donovan’s letter. Not only was he a 9-year-old collecting coins at a time when most of his peers are glued to the TV or computer, he was also a 9-year-old sending a hand-written letter to a newspaper. Some might argue coins and newspapers are both struggling icons of history, soon to be swept away with the digital age. We had to reach out.

Butland said children like Donovan are becoming almost as rare as the coins in his shop. Coins aren’t as flashy as a smart phone.

“If you can’t text your friend on it, who wants it?” Butland said. “Kids that do collect coins are really enthusiastic about it, and it’s really nice to see.”

Donovan and his father, Ryan, spend some Saturday mornings in Butland’s shop, pouring over buckets of coins for ones that stick out. He doesn’t go coin hunting with a piece in mind. When a coin is meant for his collection, it just feels right.

“My favorite coin is from Japan; it has a hole in it,” Donovan said, pointing at a dingy copper circle in his binder. Turning the page, he spotted another favorite, a two-toned coin.

“I like the details and colors. Some have presidents. This one has an eagle with a snake in its mouth,” he said, singling out a coin from Mexico. “(Collecting) feels good because I get to know what other places used a long time ago.”

That’s why Donovan’s mother, Kim, likes his collection too.

“I think it’s an interesting way to explore and find out about other places and see their currency, past and present,” she said.

The collection has been an exercise in education. While coin collecting enthusiasts may rely on the “Guide to U.S. Coins” as a bible of sorts, Donovan looks up his coins on his family’s iPad, learning about the country, time period and even the people who may have had his change in their pocket. His binder boasts mintage from China, Germany, Indonesia, Australia and France. Though he has coins from nearly every continent, Donovan said his goal is to get his hands on a “real pirate coin.”

That’s the only way to collect, Butland said.

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