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One Quarter at a Time
Photo: Linda DuBose
My middle son was home from college for the weekend. Before heading back he handed me a roll of quarters. “I almost forgot,” he said. “Can you use any of these?”

I am not so financially strapped that I cadge quarters from my sons. Rather, it is something my sons and I started in 1999. My oldest son was then 18 and my youngest only eight.

The Mint had begun issuing state quarters. I told my sons I would collect four complete sets—one for myself and one for each of them. If they found a quarter I was missing, I would trade them for it. We had to find the quarters in our everyday change.

It was inexpensive. Four complete sets—with both Philadelphia and Denver mint quarters—represents $100 in quarters spread over ten years. It was fun, a way to involve my sons with me in an activity.

They played along with one of their dad’s crazy ideas. Before long they got hooked. It was just a game, but they also learned lessons about perseverance and the rewards of sticking to something—even something minor.

One son had a paper route. He checked through his change every day to see if there was something new. My youngest son insisted on keeping his folder in his own room and lost it for a while. He found it again, and learned that you get second chances. I had continued to collect his set of quarters against that day.

Importance of the Search

It took over a year to collect all of one year’s quarters. One coin stubbornly refused to appear—then I found several on a business trip. The search was as important as the destination.

I gave out the completed first half of the collection at Christmas two years ago. My oldest son was an adult by then, living on his own. They were still thrilled. It was more than a folder with fifty quarters—it was something they and their dad had done together.

With luck, we will finish up this year or next. It will be sad to end something we shared for so long. But I bet they keep them. One day they may show the coins to their grandchildren, telling them about how they collected them with their father.

It is not a big thing. Yet its value is greater than its monetary worth. It was a way to share something with my children, and to show them that they mattered to me.

Big things often matter less than small tokens that show others—especially our family—we care. Had I bought mint sets annually from the Treasury, the collection would be worth much more monetarily—but much less as a measure of my feeling for my children. We would not have shared the hunt.

Your time is the most valuable thing you can spend for and with your children—and the thing most valued by them. Look for ways to share time with them. Even one quarter at a time.

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By Mark Lardas. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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