If you collected all the change thrown into a fountain for a year, how much money would you have? Happy Hollisters author Andrew Svenson (who wrote under the pseudonym Jerry West) may have pondered this question himself, when he came across a newspaper clipping about the New York Public Library harvesting the coins from their wishing pool. The answer: not very much! According to the undated article saved in Svenson’s research files, the New York Public Library only found $28.37 when they added up the 1,887 coins in their wishing pool. While this was disappointing for the library, the article inspired Svenson to write about coin collecting in The Happy Hollisters and the Secret of the Lucky Coins.
When Sue Hollister is rewarded with a “lucky” vintage penny for doing a good deed for a neighbor, she and her siblings learn all about numismatics, or the collection of currency. Coin collecting has been a hobby since ancient times, when early coin enthusiasts typically included royalty and nobility. The first recorded book on coin collecting dates all the way back to 1514, but numismatics really took off in the mid-1800s, when early numismatics societies were founded in the United States and internationally. Today, there are thousands of numismatists around the world. They range from young hobbyists starting their first collections to experts like Mr. Steinberg, who owns a coin shop near the Hollisters’ home and helps Sue determine the value of her lucky penny.
In The Happy Hollisters and the Secret of the Lucky Coins, Pete, Pam, Holly, Ricky, and Sue begin by collecting Lincoln pennies. To readers, this might not sound like a difficult task. After all, you probably have a few of these copper coins clanking around in your wallet or in the drink holder of your car. But since the Lincoln penny—first issued in 1909 to honor the 16th president—has been around for so long, it can be difficult for even the most hardcore collectors to track down every version. Early Lincoln pennies, those issued from 1909 to 1940, are very rare and require extensive sleuthing to find. On the other hand, Lincoln pennies minted from 1941 to 1958 are much easier to find, and modern amateur collectors usually begin by searching for coins issued after 2009.
Along with Lincoln pennies, Washington quarters are another popular item for numismatists. Decorated with the face of George Washington, the Washington quarter was originally produced by the United States Mint from 1932 to 1999, when a new program was implemented to honor each of the 50 states with their own quarter. Through this program, five new coins were introduced each year, in the order of the states’ admission to the United States. This means that states like Delaware and Pennsylvania were commemorated in 1999, while Alaska and Hawaii had to wait until 2008 for their state quarters to go into circulation.
Each state quarter is embellished with a design unique to the state. North Carolina’s quarter, for example, honors the state’s role in the first flight of Orville and Wilbur Wright, and Tennessee’s quarter is decorated with a guitar in recognition of the state’s country music legacy. Since each quarter is unique, collecting state
quarters is a fun way for budding numismatists to start their first collection. Finding all 50 of the state coins is a great challenge, plus a creative way to learn fun facts about the different states.
The Hollisters’ coin collection starts with a single penny and eventually leads them on an exciting search for more valuable old coins. You’ll have to read The Happy Hollisters and the Secret of the Lucky Coins to find out if they have better luck than the New York Public Library did when they collected coins in their wishing pool, but you can follow their lead and start your own coin collection any day.
By Libby Svenson Kennedy
Research notes, Andrew Svenson Archives of The Hollister Family Properties Trust