Boomers Collected Coins for Fun and Profit

When Mister Boomer was a child, his father was a coin collector, sifted from coins in circulation he would receive as change. He would empty his pockets of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, and enlist the help of his children to look through them, one by one, checking dates and mint designations; the Boomer children learned to look for the most-often found mint markings at the time: D meant that coin was minted in Denver, S was San Francisco, and no marking was from Philadelphia (a P was added for Philadelphia in 1979). It was the early 1960s, and it was not uncommon to find circulating coins that were up to 50 years old or, on rare occasion, older.

The first coins issued by the United States government were minted in Philadelphia, and issued in 1793. They were a larger format than our current coins, and made from gold, silver or copper. In 1858, the large format coins were discontinued. Nostalgia for the older coins, and an interest in colonial-era coins, spurred a coin-collecting trend. At that time, coin collecting had more to do with history than it did as a potential financial investment.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, there was a resurgence of interest in coin collecting that corresponded with the introduction of the first “penny boards.” These pre-printed cardboard sheets had circular slots to hold specifically marked, dates and mints. There were penny cards issued for pennies, dimes and nickels. Many parents of boomers may have acquired their coin-collecting pastime from the process of looking for and filling these cards. Children and adults could examine any coins they had in their possession, whether found on the street or received as change in stores, to “fill their card.”

Baby Boomers became coin collectors in the 1960s. To this day, that was the era when the largest number of people professed to be coin-collecting hobbyists. As in 1858, when there was a change in coinage that prompted a coin collecting response, a similar reaction came in 1964 when the government removed silver from coins. There was so much of a rush to gather pre-1964, silver-laden coins that Congress debated a bill that would ban coin collecting altogether. The bill was ultimately defeated, partly because some blamed coin collecting for a coin shortage, which was later discovered to be not the case; a distribution problem was the culprit. Nonetheless, the government attempted to discourage coin collecting to alleviate the coin shortage by issuing coins without a mint marking. A great many of these coins came from Philadelphia, but other mint locations also issued non-marked coins between 1965 and 1967, when markings were re-established.

It may have been this time period when many boomers became amateur numismatists. By 1966, Mister Boomer had been given coin folders of his own, which were the evolution of the penny boards from decades earlier, introduced in the 1940s.

Mister Boomer still has most of the coin folders of his youthful time collecting, but alas, never located the rarest or most important coins that would secure his retirement. Still, learning the history of the WWII-era 1943 steel penny; the story of the wheat penny and remembering when the Lincoln Memorial was introduced to the back of the one cent piece; the story of the buffalo nickel; and the change from the Mercury head dime to the Roosevelt dime, brings back nostalgia for his hunt for those coins, and interest in American history in the process.

As the number of coin collectors ebbed and flowed through the years, the introduction of U.S. state quarters in 1999 prompted a renewed interest. More recently, during the pandemic, coin collecting enjoyed the highest resurgence in hobbyists since the rush of 1964.

How about you, boomers? Did you collect coins as a child? Do you collect them now?

Boomers Added Words to the Dictionary

Living languages, by their very nature, are constantly evolving. The English language is no exception, as words are added to the lexicon each year. There are many reasons words are examined and added, but a main reason is they are commonly spoken. These word candidates generally fall into a few categories: advancing technology; specific industries (like food or space); and cultural references (like fashion or the daily living experience). What’s of specific interest to the observations of Mister Boomer are the cultural touchstones that manifest themselves into words of common usage.

It’s hard to believe, for example, that the word “selfie” was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary more than twenty years ago. Certainly self-portraits were not new to the twentieth century (see Mister B’s: Boomers Watched the Evolution of the Selfie), yet the nickname shortcut of “selfie” didn’t find its way into everyday language until the first forward-facing camera made its debut in a cellphone at the end of the 1990s. The word itself was added to the dictionary in 2002.

Certainly younger people have always been at the forefront of the creation of new words, and the Boomer Generation had its share. Some made it into common language use, others did not. Mister Boomer wondered what some of those words were that had their start during the boomer heyday of the 1960s and ’70s.

1960 was an auspicious year for new word entries that told of the increasing influence of the Boomer Generation. The fashion world contributed words like “Mod” and “catsuit.” A burgeoning night life scene coined the words “discotheque” and “wait-list.” And an expanding national food industry added “junk food” and “arugula.” It’s hard to believe now, but at the time, iceberg was likely the only type of lettuce people were able to get in their region. (See Mister B’s: Boomers Watched Out for the Iceberg)

The sixties saw the beginnings of space exploration, so words relating to space appeared. Could anyone imagine the need for the word “spacewalk” before the world watched Astronaut Ed White perform the first one in 1965? One year earlier, in 1964, the compound words of “high tech,” “sucker punch,” and “Zip Code” joined the dictionary. Naturally, the Summer of Love propelled “flower child” into the books in 1967, but wouldn’t you have thought “dork” had already been inducted decades earlier?

As technology advanced into the 1970s, additional words became part of the everyday language and ultimately, welcomed into the dictionary. “Beeper” joined in 1970. Cultural compound words that also were added that year include “love handles” and “comfort food.”

At the time, few if any boomers were aware that their language was being tweaked to accommodate modern life. It may very well still be the case today, as common words are spoken. It is certainly logical that the 2022 word inductees included “greenwash” and “metaverse,” as those terms cross into everyday speech. Yet also added was a word boomers have probably heard their kids or grandkids use, but may not have had the occasion to utter with confidence themselves: “janky.” It can be defined as something that is not functioning properly or is of poor quality. This word is attributed to the influence of hip-hop culture. Groovy, man. The word beat goes on.

How about it, boomers? Do you recall words spoken in your youth that were new then and ultimately crossed into everyday language?