I sat there, gazing at the thousands of round, shiny objects in my grandpa’s basement, wondering how on earth one can have such an interest in this hobby. Hundreds of hours hunched over an old wooden table, lit by one overhead light, repeating the same task over and over just did not seem compelling to me. In that moment, I could not understand how one could put so much time and effort into an activity, not receive that great of a reward from it, and yet every day continue to go back and do it again.
My grandpa is a coin collector. He collects many different types of coins, mainly focusing on pennies, looking for misprints and special marks, which makes the coins worth way more than their original value. He’s had this hobby since he was a little boy collecting pennies from his allowance. His father taught him how to examine the coins and separate them based on ones that potentially had more value than the others. I always had some kind of idea that he did this, but never got to see his collection in person until this day. Since my grandma and grandpa live several hours away in Pennsylvania, we don’t get to see them often, so I was happy that on this trip my grandpa made a special plan to spend time teaching me about his hobby. I was thrilled when we arrived at their house because I knew that the day had come, and I was finally going to see what all this talk about coin collecting was actually about.
When I walked inside the house, I was expecting my grandpa to bring me into a big professional room, filled with all of his materials and coins. The image of a pristinely clean room with coins stacked neatly on shelves running across the walls, a perfectly organized desk, and picture frames containing prized coins raced through my mind all morning. My expectations for this extravagant room were soon crushed when my grandpa told me he did all of his work in the basement.
The basement? I had never been in the basement of his house before, but I always assumed nothing was down there except for the grumpy cat and his litter. Each stair leading to the basement creaked louder and louder every time I took a step forward. The cold, unfinished floor on my bare feet sent chills throughout my body. The sudden disturbing smell of aged furniture and objects piled all around the room along with the tray of cat litter tempted me to walk right back up the stairs and forget about anything my grandpa was about to show me. On the ceiling, there was a lone string hanging from the center, which when pulled, powered on a light that lit up a small wooden table sitting in the middle of the room.
When the light turned on, I stopped in my tracks and stared at what was in front of me. Framed coins on the wall were replaced with dusty tools and books. The perfectly organized desk was replaced with a dirty table with only a few coins scattered across it. I wondered to myself what my grandpa could possibly do down in this ancient basement for hours sitting at this messy desk. In that moment, it was as if my grandpa knew exactly what I was thinking. As I was staring down at the desk, he reached underneath and pulled out two full boxes of twenty rolls of pennies, each roll containing 100 coins. At first, I was extremely overwhelmed by the outrageous number of small pieces of copper scattered in front of me, but once we began examining the coins, the task that once confused me now had me completely engaged. I learned how to classify pennies by their mint mark and date, and learned about other unique spots and symbols on a penny that could make it valuable. Coins that I once saw as old pieces of copper were practically dancing in my grandpa’s hands as he was examining them. After spending many hours inspecting pennies with him, I quickly came to realize that although I know my grandpa’s main goal is to find special coins with great value, I could tell that this hobby of his was more than just something my he did for a reward.
That day, hours went by and we did not find one penny that was actually worth anything more than a few cents. I was disappointed we didn’t find anything worth something more, but I still found the whole process very interesting – having to classify the pennies by their different marks and then repacking the ones he didn’t need anymore to give back to the bank. After we were finished, I hoped I would have been able to run upstairs and show my family all of the impressive pennies I found, but I couldn’t. Instead, I had something more valuable to share. I spent the entire car ride home bragging about the time I spent with my grandpa that day in his dusty basement, sitting at an old dirty desk. It no longer bothered me that I didn’t find the one valuable penny that I thought I was going to. All I wanted to do was keep talking about how interesting my grandpa’s passion is and all of the new things he taught me. I felt so connected to him. What I found to be the most special was that as we were cleaning up, I helped him set up his table so it would be ready for him to come downstairs and do it all again the next day. I admired so much his dedication to his craft, even though the reward is seemingly low. My grandpa inspires me to find something I’m just as passionate about. But in the meantime, I saw a glimpse of what his passion is, and I can understand why it’s so captivating. I met a new layer of my grandpa that day. After my visit, every time I find a penny laying on the ground, I think about my grandpa and the tremendous dedication he has for this hobby. The passion my grandpa has for doing something that he loves will stick with me the rest of my life.
About the Author: Jessica Snyder grew up in New Jersey, enjoying time with her younger brother and family. She is very active in all types of arts, including performing in musical theatre productions, dance, and choir events. She loves photography and making movies, especially while traveling and seeing new places.
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