The coin connoisseur of Lawrence High

Senior Tristan Womble talks about his coin collections, and his peers weigh in on the unique hobby that he has chosen to partake in.


By Ryan Hardie, Sports Editor

Some people choose to collect sweatshirts, figurines, baseball cards, or even stamps at worst. Tristan, a senior, decided it suited him best to invest in the bustling business of coins and bills.

Collections are an extremely personal hobby to have, and the energy, time, and money required to maintain one is incredibly demanding. Tristan Womble knows this better than most, as he is dedicated to maintaining a collection of his own. “It started off as a tiny hobby before my great-grandpa died,”  Womble said. “I think it was when I looked through his little bag of coins I got. I got a three-cent coin from 1865, and that sparked me to keep going and get more cool stuff.”

A lineage of sorts, collecting coins was in Womble’s DNA. The boisterous art of coin collecting came easy to Tristan. The countless hours of research and painstaking examination, the money to buy more money, the patience to deal with people 70 years older than him, it all came together to form the perfect collector’s mentality.

“Yes, he seems like he would collect coins,”  senior Olivia Schoepf said. “He’s a very patient person. It also makes him seem very nerdy and passionate about searching for these coins.”

Patience, one of Womble’s most prominent virtues, allows him to find rare coins at good prices. Whether it’s at the local coin shop or from an anonymous user on eBay, staying patient and optimistic gives him the opportunity to dominate the high school coin scene.

“I see it as a hobby with potential profit. I used to just look at it as a hobby, but I treat it more as an investment,”  Womble said. “I’m very careful with what I pick at least, that way if I want to resell it I know that it’s not all random stuff. A little bit of research, but it’s mostly just looking at market value for stuff because it goes up and down over time. It’s pretty gradual, it’s not like the stock market where it’s rapidly changing every day. It is a safer investment.”

Cost is also a large aspect of coin collecting, as money costs a lot of money. Womble works tirelessly throughout the week in order to fund his precious collection.

“Between 5.5 to 6 thousand dollars. That’s where it’s at. I’ve probably put about 3 thousand to 3.5 thousand into collecting coins. Other than that my grandma buys me stuff, but sadly they’re mostly fake. She doesn’t know the intricacies of collecting things. I haven’t been scammed yet because I really do my research. Coin scammers are a danger to the hobby,”  Womble said.

With so much value at stake, it is fair to assume that Tristan treats his collection with the utmost care and dignity. Best locked in a safe or laying on his bedroom floor, each coin and bill needs to be kept sealed and labeled.

“Tristan has a special, heavy safe. In case anyone wants to steal his safe, beware its weight,” Schoepf said.

The safe is just the final process of keeping his coins tidy and safe, however. The dirty work that comes with pursuing objects dating back to 1793 is shown in the recovery process that Womble is careful to follow.

“You typically never clean coins because it might damage them and lower their value. You usually just keep the coins with the scuffage on them,”  Womble said. “It’s better than scraping the face of the coin off. I keep most of my bills in a cellophane bag stapled close. I have a bag of other coins that I don’t really store by themselves because there’s really no point. I also don’t use gloves too often unless I am dealing with something crazy valuable.”

The lack of gloves, often seen as a sin in the coin community, is a personal strategy of Womble’s, seeing as he does not lack the resources or tools necessary.

“He spends way too much time and money on them, and he has special gloves for them too, it’s really funny,”  Schoepf said.

While many people may find the odd nature of Womble’s hobby funny or preposterous, he is pioneering a movement of youthful coin collectors. Inspiring others to pick up a collection of their own is something that would help preserve the art and secure its future.

“It’s definitely a dying art form just because there’s not a lot of young people like myself that are interested in it. Most people around my age just want the big bullion ounce coins,”  Womble said. “They don’t get any of the old stuff. They used to make coins out of silver back in the day, but they’ll just collect them in bags. They typically just collect them for the silver value or whatever. Nothing numismatic about it. That’s the fancy word you use. Just like stamp collecting is Philately.”

In response to the proposed idea of starting a coin collection of their own, Tristan’s peers weigh in on the possibility.

“I probably wouldn’t start a coin collection,”  senior Zane Cunningham said.

“No, I would not start a coin collection,”  senior Connor Mullen agreed.

“No, I wouldn’t,” junior Campbell Leitch said.

Despite the negative reaction, Womble remains optimistic in his views on keeping the coin and bill business intact. Staying in the game as a younger collector is also extremely difficult to do, as he faces a lot of discrimination from sellers and hosts due to his age.

“There are some older people who gatekeep, yeah,”  Womble said. “They think I have no money to buy anything. My reaction is just like, ‘you’re losing money man’. If you want to sell something to me, don’t treat me like an oaf.”

The reactions to Tristan’s hobby vary. The extremes of both sides show the brutal conditions many coin collectors face. Many choose to view it as a sacred activity that should only be enjoyed in a certain, numismatist-approved fashion.

“As far as I know, yes. It feels funny because all of the old people are gatekeepers or they’re very nice because it’s nice to see a young face in the game,”  Womble said. “I do know of coin dealers that have beef with each other. It’s really funny because they’re all like 60 years old talking about how hosts will prohibit certain sellers and collectors from participating in their annual coin shows.”

Despite the feedback Womble gets for his strange hobby, he continues to persevere and keep with his coins.

“The collection has taken off, a lot of people ask me about it,”  Womble said. “I could not recommend highly enough that other people try it”