Finders keepers

Sklarenko puts his passion for history into his coin collection

The majority of his coins from the vast collection that he has can be traced back to a specific point in history hundreds of years ago. AP European and United States History teacher Nicholas Sklarenko enjoys collecting historical foreign coins as a hobby and passion.

“I’m a history guy and coins are just a neat, tangible part of history that you can hold. Of course, they do have some monetary value, but that is not why I collect them,” Sklarenko said. “It is more for the historical significance.”

Sklarenko estimates to have around 300 coins as apart of his “core” collection alongside others that are not as valuable.

“I continue growing my collection because there is always something out there that I want, so I’ve set out a pattern for my collection,” Sklarenko said. “I try to have an example from each period that fits with a certain monarch, type of government or era, etc.”

He believes collecting coins has done a good job of incorporating history into what he loves doing as a hobby.

“I plan on passing my collection down to my kids if I have any,” Sklarenko said. “I do not plan on ever selling it all because I like them too much. I like to bring them into class and share them with my students since it’s not a business for me, it’s just a hobby.”

Sophomore John Forbes, Sklarenko’s student, enjoys Sklarenko’s incorporation of his coin collection into the history lectures.

“I think it is really cool how Sklarenko can tie collecting coins into the subjects that he is teaching,” Forbes said. “It brings a different aspect to learning in the classroom.”

Forbes believes that the coins are more interesting than reading out of a textbook and put an interesting “spin” on how history can be taught tangibly.

“His coins add a sense of realism to the lectures during class,” Forbes said. “It is a reminder that these events actually happened and encourages me to actually pay attention and care about the lesson.”

Sklarenko enjoys incorporating the coins into his lesson plan, as it brings history “alive.”

“Most people think my collection is pretty nerdy, and I will be honest—it totally is—but that is okay because we all have our things that we enjoy doing,” Sklarenko said.

Sklarenko says he does not care what others say about his collection because he likes it and is accepting of his “nerdy” hobby.

“I respect Sklarenko a lot for taking the time and money to build his passion around history using coins,” Forbes said. “Although his collection may be a bit on the nerdy side, it adds so much value to the lesson and others seem to enjoy it too.”

The majority of the coins in Sklarenko’s collection range from $50 to $100 American dollars each when he buys them, and a couple of the ones he owns are worth more than that.

“What makes a coin so valuable is its rarity, material that it’s made of, condition and if it holds any historical context or significance,” Sklarenko said.

Sklarenko collects mainly silver coins and even has one that dates back to a 1733 Spanish shipwreck after a convoy ship sank. He obtains the majority of his coins from coin shows and online auctions.

“I go to coin shows, mainly to buy coins, that occur often where a lot of individual collectors and coin dealers meet to buy, sell and trade coins,” Sklarenko said.

At these coin shows, Sklarenko negotiates so that he can get the best price for his coins.

“Luckily, Long Beach has one of the biggest coin expositions three times a year, so I enjoy going to that one and a few other local ones every couple months,” Sklarenko said.

Currently, Sklarenko looks to obtain coins from the periods of times he does not have. Although content with his current collection, he hopes to increase it.

“I’m always looking to fill the holes in my collection relative to specific time periods, and that could take forever, but who knows what is out there,” Sklarenko said. “That is what keeps me going, trying to find the next piece of the puzzle.”

Sklarenko’s background of teaching history has influenced the types of coins he looks for.

“Being a history teacher has definitely propelled my love for collecting coins,” Sklarenko said. “Quite honestly I don’t know if I would even be collecting if I wasn’t one because currently, my collection is entirely geared around what I teach, as opposed to just collecting random coins.”

Sklarenko describes collecting coins as an “enriching investment” that can be understood through the appreciation of history and the past.

“It all started with my dad. He’s the one that got me into the hobby, so he has been my greatest source of encouragement to continue collecting,” Sklarenko said. “He passed down his collection of coins to me, and I’ve just been expanding on it ever since.”

The collection first started to develop when Sklarenko was eight years old after his father gave him his collection to expand upon.

“I plan on passing my collection down to someone later in my life,” Sklarenko said. “If I had really amazing coins I would love to donate them to a museum, but I don’t think I have any that are too valuable.”

Sklarenko says that currency is a lot different now than it used to be since people didn’t start to use paper money until a hundred years or so ago He encourages others to start collecting coins since they can “preserve” history.

“I think if you’re interested in history it’s a really cool thing to be able to have a tangible part of history in your hand,” Sklarenko said. “It’s amazing to think that a if a coin is 500 years old, where has it been? Whose hands have it been in? There’s such an interesting story there that one could only be able to scratch the surface of.”