By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
When Kenneth Cute was 10 years old, he had a paper route and often was tipped by his customers in small change.
"It was 1976 or so, and I'd get buffalo nickels," he said. "That's really what got me started."
What began as collecting a few coins during childhood eventually evolved into a hobby and business for Cute, who owns and operates Texas Coin Connection in Harker Heights.
Cute's store caters to a wide range of people, including those who collect coins for their historical or monetary value.
"It's a pretty small segment of the population, I'd say less than 1 percent," he said. "They are folks who like to collect old Civil War coins and things like that."
One of those avid hobbyists is Stan Passman, 70, of Harker Heights. Like Cute, his love of coin collecting began as a child, when he was about 9 years old.
"I started collecting pennies," he said. "Everyone usually tries to start with pennies, because they think it's the cheapest way to go."
Passman said he knew immediately he wanted to be more than just a part-time coin enthusiast, and later, with his wife, owned Silver Eagle Coins for 33 years before retiring.
Passman has come a long way from collecting pennies of his youth and says he is interested in currency from the 1700s to early 1800s.
"I love the hunt, and finding the coin you've been looking for a long time," said Passman, who says he does a large amount of research before buying coins. "A lot of people asked me if I planned to go hunting or fishing, and I said no, I'm going to the coin shows."
Avid collectors like Passman are just one segment of a diverse group of hobbyists who collect currency from a variety of places and eras giving collecting a wide appeal.
"Almost every organized government has had some form of money, so you can collect just about anything," said Jay Beeton, a spokesman for the Texas Numismatic Association, which is organized to inform and educate those with an interest in coins, paper money, tokens, medals and related items.
"That can be anything from silver dollars and statehood quarters, to currency from the colonial area or even from other countries," said Beeton. "Money really tracks our history, you will find a lot of historically relevant messages built into a society's money. They give you a glimpse into what was going on during that period in history."
Beeton said the collectors in Texas are particularly lucky, because its currency is just as colorful as the state's history.
"You can look at this money, and literally chart the track of (Texas) to independence and statehood," he said.
Cute agreed the history behind the money could be one of the big draws for those who decide to collect it.
"There is definitely a nostalgia factor," he said. "There's an appeal when you can touch it. You can hold Civil War-era coins and think about who was holding it back then."
Whether they are seasoned collectors like Cute and Passman, or newcomers, Beeton said the best collectors do it out of love, and not for the monetary value of what they collect.
"It's not about the money; it's about finding something you enjoy and starting there," he said. "If you end up making money, great, but it should be more about the challenge of putting together a really great collection."
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.