Northeast Times

Collecting history

  • An all-star honor: Last month, the United States Mint recognized Walter Waholek as an age-group winner of the nationwide Kids Baseball Challenge Design Contest. He is shown in his grandfather’s Rhawnhurst home. His grandfather, Walt, is also an avid coin collector. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • An all-star honor: Last month, the United States Mint recognized Walter Waholek as an age-group winner of the nationwide Kids Baseball Challenge Design Contest. He is shown in his grandfather’s Rhawnhurst home. His grandfather, Walt, is also an avid coin collector. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • An all-star honor: Last month, the United States Mint recognized Walter Waholek as an age-group winner of the nationwide Kids Baseball Challenge Design Contest. He is shown in his grandfather’s Rhawnhurst home. His grandfather, Walt, is also an avid coin collector. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

Things don’t get much more Amer­ic­an than base­ball, the Boy Scouts, coin col­lect­ing and con­tests. That’s why May­fair’s Wal­ter Waholek may be the most pat­ri­ot­ic teen­ager in all of North­east Phil­adelphia.

Waholek is an avid par­ti­cipant in all of those tra­di­tion­ally Amer­ic­an activ­it­ies. And last month, the United States Mint re­cog­nized him as an age-group win­ner of the na­tion­wide Kids Base­ball Chal­lenge Design Con­test.

Waholek’s chal­lenge was to sub­mit an ori­gin­al design for the Mint’s forth­com­ing Base­ball Hall of Fame com­mem­or­ative coin series. The Fath­er Judge High School fresh­man and Boy Scout Troop 394 mem­ber ended up design­ing two coins, then polling the mem­bers of his coin col­lect­ing club to de­term­ine the bet­ter design.

They chose the right one as the Mint se­lec­ted Waholek’s “Base­ball Lives in the Hearts of Amer­ica” coin as the best in the na­tion among his age group. He bettered 45 oth­er entrants. The Mint had asked them to an­swer the ques­tion, “What’s so great about base­ball?” in their designs.

“Every­body was draw­ing people hit­ting home runs, but what’s so great about home runs?” Waholek said dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view with the Times.

He offered a dif­fer­ent per­spect­ive on the theme.

“I think base­ball brings people to­geth­er. It’s the king of team sports. And it’s in every­body’s hearts,” he said.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, Waholek’s design fea­tures a large base­ball, a heart, a crown and a stars ‘n’ stripes ban­ner with the slo­gan “King of Amer­ic­an Team Sports.” It has two crossed bats to sym­bol­ize the two op­pos­ing teams and a smal­ler ball to sym­bol­ize the sin­gu­lar game they play.

The design shows the year “2014” and the “In God We Trust” slo­gan, both of which are leg­ally re­quired on all U.S. coins. His ini­tials, “WW,” also ap­pear near the edge in keep­ing with tra­di­tion for the na­tion’s pro­fes­sion­al coin en­gravers.

Waholek’s design is meant to ap­pear on the ob­verse or “tails” of a coin, al­though it prob­ably won’t ap­pear on an ac­tu­al coin. The Mint has pro­fes­sion­al de­sign­ers for that. In fact, the real Base­ball Hall of Fame coins are due in April.

Waholek will get one of the col­lect­ible sil­ver $1 pieces as one of his con­test prizes. They will be the first con­vex coins ever is­sued by the U.S. Mint. They will have curved faces rather than flat ones. Waholek also earned a private tour of the U.S. Mint in Phil­adelphia last week.

“This is the first time the Mint has done this for kids,” said Waholek, who re­cog­nizes that his chosen hobby isn’t as pop­u­lar as it once was.

“They’re try­ing to re­con­nect with young people,” said the teen’s grand­fath­er, Walt, who also is an avid col­lect­or.

Form­ally, col­lect­ors are known as nu­mis­mat­ists. Wal­ter Waholek began col­lect­ing in 2007 when his grand­fath­er would bring him mod­ern-is­sue $1 coins like the Susan B. An­thony, Sacagawea and Pres­id­en­tial dol­lars.

“Then I went to the 2011 Na­tion­al Con­ven­tion of the Amer­ic­an Nu­mis­mat­ic As­so­ci­ation and they had a Boy Scout work­shop for the coin col­lect­ing mer­it badge,” Waholek said.

His grand­fath­er helped him join two area coin col­lect­ing groups, the Wil­li­am Penn and Double Eagle clubs, which each meet monthly. Waholek star­ted build­ing his col­lec­tion with some of his fa­vor­ite coins like the Amer­ic­an Eagle Sil­ver Dol­lar and the Mor­gan Dol­lar.

Coins are a fun and prac­tic­al hobby.

“I can sit there and ac­tu­ally touch them without dam­aging them,” he said. “(A coin) can stand wa­ter dam­age. And it’s ac­tu­ally worth something. It may lose mon­et­ary value, but there’s still sil­ver in it.”

Today, Waholek has hun­dreds of coins, most of them is­sued by the United States. But he also has a Ro­man coin from the third cen­tury and an In­di­an coin from the second cen­tury.

He has learned that there’s a lot more to the designs than pure aes­thet­ic value.

“The designs are meant to teach kids his­tory. It’s a teach­ing tool and to pro­mote na­tion­al pride,” the eld­er Waholek said. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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