A coin, so often jingling at the bottom of a bag or buried under layers of sand, carries a world of meaning beyond its simple monetary value - at least to the Atlantic County Numismatic Society, a nationally recognized group of coin collectors who meet the first Wednesday of every month at the Linwood Public Library.
But for the society, it's not about "putting coins into holes in a chart." It's about learning the history, the design and the economics behind each piece.
"It's history you can hold in your hand," the society's treasurer, Bill Klusaritz, often says, quoting an educational video on numismatics.
ACNS does not want its knowledge, along with its impressive collections, members said, to seem exclusive. The group hopes to spread its wisdom to include local middle schools, high schools and Scout troops - a task they've already begun.
"We are trying to introduce it to younger (people)," Jerry Francisco, ACNS president, said, noting that the goal of the society is "to show, to share (and) to trade."
Recently, the region's Boy Scouts, including Somers Point Troop 62 and Northfield Troop 72, teamed with the ACNS to acquire the Boy Scout coin-collecting merit badge.
"The merit badge exposes the Scouts to history, art, politics and the value of different metals, while teaching the patience of collecting," Philip Holmer, a unit commissioner for the Jersey Shore Council of the Boys Scouts and member of the ACNS said.
The Scouts learn about grading, handling and determining the rarity and value of coins, the Northfield resident added.
Eagle Scout Zach Delcher, of Northfield Troop 72, received his merit badge for numismatics about five years ago, but remained with the group ever since.
"My grandfather got me started, and I was so interested in the designs the (coins) had and just the idea of money - saving it and investing it," the 16-year-old said at a recent ACNS meeting.
That night, nearly 40 members, mostly men, but a few women, too, discussed coins, some dating back to the 1700s.
The youngest coin collector, 9-year-old Adam Marcheski, of Ventnor, eagerly snapped photos as the guest speaker, colonial coin expert Ray Williams of Trenton, gave a presentation on coins and medals honoring George Washington.
"You go through work, day in and day out, with the pressures adding up," Williams said, an Eagle Scout himself. "You escape into your coins," he continued, following his discussion.
ACNS consists of about 100 members, founded in 2007 by Northfield resident Jason O'Grady. Before its inception, the group's treasurer said, many would have to travel as far an hour away, to Toms River or Philadelphia, to be a part of a coin-collecting society.
"Some of us are diehard coin collectors, history buffs, investors in silver and gold, novices, kids," Klusartiz said. "We are just trying to promote and give back a little."
Besides the worth of a collection, the physical connection to history appears to be the most important factor to most in the group.
"It's amazing to just to be able to hold that coin in your hand and wonder who had that in our history," said Linwood resident Mike Demling, an author on New Jersey colonial coppers. "Could George Washington have had that in his pocket? Or Ben Franklin? Or Jefferson? You don't know. That is the history of this country."
The Atlantic County Numismatic Society offers free appraisals and evaluations and meets at the Linwood Library on 301 Davis Ave. from 7 to 9 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month. New members are welcome. For more information, call 609-412-1490, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit accoins.org.
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