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Kids & the Quarters of the States?
Kids & the Quarters of the States? I hate collecting. Why buy more stuff to show off or dust or put on a shelf? I never liked stamps, didnít collect dolls, canít fathom the success of the Franklin Mint, and donít like antiquing unless itís for something practical. In sixth grade I tried collecting matchbooks but not for long. I know lots of people like collecting -- to each his own.
Itís not me. I never want to have to chase down that one piece without which a collection is worthless. In a culture where collecting stuff is de rigeur, it feels like rigor mortis to me.
Collecting Them But alas, collecting the quarters of the states has thoroughly hooked me. And for lots of reasons: Collecting them seems so natural. At the beginning, I got a good one or two every time I went shopping, even at the grocery store, so it wasnít like I was buying things I didnít need.
Itís democratic: everyone has access to quarters. Itís not expensive Ė whatís a quarter these days? For my whole collection I'll be out just $12.50, and that spread over a period of ten years as the new ones have came out state by state. They'd all have gone into the change jar anyway. (If you think ten years is a long time, you must be a lot younger than I am!)
It takes no special effort. I do have to shop, but I donít have to buy quarters as such, they fall into my hand at the checkout as I buy things I need. Each new quarter feels like a reward for Ė well, not for buying as such but for paying attention. Unavoidable shopping trips have actually rewarded me, as each added another essential element to my collection.
Itís a no-brainer: just flip each quarter over to check the back. Better than a scratch-off freebie win-a-prize card because the prize is always worth at least a quarter, new or not.
Itís convenient. As we approach the Cashless Society, Iíve been filling a jar with change anyway. Now I can do something with it. Iíve never gone out of my way for a new quarter, never to the bank, never shopped just to get change.
Thereís no rush. New states appeared over a period of years. Iíve gathered some nice trivia: what each state considers important about itself, how slowly they all joined the Union, and how some came in bunches (as in 1788) whereas others joined only after an interval of years. What has all this to do with child development and nannies? Stay with me!
Displaying Them In order to complete this project as pragmatically as Iíd begun it, I would eventually have to decide what to do with my quarters. For me, as I honestly donít like collecting, there was but one option: find a congenial method of displaying them and then give the whole thing away. Here the project attained its final, child-oriented dimension. I had received all these silvery little gifts, these shiny tokens of good luck, with no plan for them beyond putting them all in my Quarter Jar, separate from the ordinary change Iíd already been piling up (I havenít had a change purse in years). Now I would organize them to bring out their essence, i.e., Get them out of that jar to be seen and enjoyed by all. Find a format to satisfactorily demonstrate the way they represent the states.
Bring out the dates by ordering the display chronologically. Do so in an artistic, flagrantly noncommercial manner. Keep everything compact so as to delight the recipient to the max. Present them beautifully Ė behind glass? on a map? on a flag? But most of all, find the right recipient, someone who would marvel at and manipulate this treasure that I had miraculously assembled and yet preserve it and most important learn something thereby. The obvious recipient? My seven-year-old granddaughter Abby.
For Kids But I had to know that Abby would enjoy it. Iíd seen enough arrowheads and Lincoln pennies behind glass or in little plastic cases to know that such things donít immediately appeal to all children. I had to find ways to involve her in the process.
Luckily Abby is just learning to count money. In her Montessori first grade class she is also studying geography and history for the first time. She reads, she understands dates, and sheís visited at least a couple of dozen states already. Sheís volunteered that sheís learning the two-letter (postal) abbreviations for the states.
As for format, the two obvious choices were a US map with little pockets for the quarters, or a US flag, with the quarters somehow attached in the blue field in place of the stars. I kind of liked the map idea; Iíd make it a childís quilt or even a fleece blanket, hiding the quarters where they couldnít be seen but only felt, in little pockets that would let the coins weigh down just a little on whoever slept under them. Some fun! But some disadvantages, too, the worst for me being htat the quarters could easily disappear over time, leading to disappointment for any child looking thereafter.
But it turned out that one of the skills Abby was working on was how to draw a star. She couldnít quite get the stroke sequence needed to create a good, continuous five-pointer, so we worked on that, and then she decided to draw 50 stars on a single piece of paper. She colored in the blue background and taped that paper to three others on which to color the stripes of a big US flag. And that told me how I might attach the quarters: I could use white (elastic or satin) cording, tacking down at the points to make 50 continuous-line stars, each of which would hold a quarter. Behind each quarter Iíd paint (or embroider?) the postal abbreviation for its state, simplifying the problem of keeping each quarter where it belongs.
Iím still considering making a whole flag, perhaps as appliquť, but I could just use canvas and paint the blue field, with a border of red and white stripes, which would take up less space. It has to accommodate 50 stars (a quarter is 1Ē in diameter), so that will about determine total size. I may mount it all on canvas stretchers, and then frame it in redwood, not sure yet how wide or thick. And maybe, just maybe, Iíll put a glass door on it, so it can be opened and closed at will, and when the times comes, even locked Ė who knows? As for the last few quarters of the states that I havenít managed to find, my son, Abbyís dad, has a jarful of quarters, perhaps hundreds. It will be Abbyís task Ė her privilege Ė to find the missing states.