Do you remember those long ago days of childhood when a handful of change could send your imagination soaring?
During my growing-up years in Texas, the change my parents received from local merchants often contained a coin or two from neighboring Mexico.
As the youngest in the family, I sometimes managed to wheedle a few extra coins from mom's purse or dad's pocket to feed my always-hungry piggy bank. Before depositing the treasures into my pink ceramic pig, I took time to examine each coin. Frequently I found shiny Mexican centavos mixed in with the U.S. pennies, nickels and dimes. The thought of the many hands all those small disks had passed through on their travels to me always set off my curiosity.
Recently we were visiting with our pal, Carl, and the subject of coins came up. Immediately, his face lit with enthusiasm and he told us he, too, had become intrigued as a child with the world of coins. But, unlike you and I and most kids, Carl's fascination didn't dim as he grew up. Instead, his interest in coins - especially foreign coins - only increased.
The result is that today, Carl's carefully-organized collection of coins from every corner of the globe is nothing short of amazing.
As we talked about his hobby, Carl explained the core of his extensive collection was the accumulation he inherited from his father. In fact, those original parts of his collection were packed away and lay dormant in boxes and bags for many years, moving here and there as Carl and his family relocated.
But, thanks to a slower Florida lifestyle which recently became full retirement, Carl at last found the time to unearth the long-stored coins and start the labor-intensive, but enjoyable task of categorizing and mounting them.
We were delighted to be among the first to look at this impressive collection, now fully assembled and displayed.
The coins include some historic "old-world" pieces dating back to the early 1700s, a few mysterious-looking Asian coins covered with unintelligible markings from early China, India and Japan, and coins bearing the images of long-dead leaders of countries whose influence on the world has faded into the past.
In addition to the foreign coins, of course, Carl has an extensive collection of the coinage from the United States. This segment of his display holds such odd-looking and unusual inclusions as half-pennies and three-cent pieces.
As we examined Carl's carefully labeled sheets, I realized these small bits of metal represent ongoing history lessons of their individual countries.
And, as in those long ago days when my curiosity was captured by the occasional centavo in a handful of Texas change, I found my imagination taking flight just looking at the francs from France, centimos from Spain and lira from Turkey.
Change, no matter where it comes from, represents a pocket-full of history.