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. ••