The Michigan State Numismatic Society

How I Started Collecting Coins Featuring Clarence "Kelly" Finger

By Dany Rothfeld

How I Started Collecting Coins Featuring Clarence "Kelly" Finger

as told to Dany Rothfeld

    Two years ago, when I wrote the article, "How I Started Collecting Coins," I challenged MSNS members to write an article about their own experiences, but I was not successful. I was able to convince Pat Heller to write, and that was it. I decided to start a regular column on the subject. I will choose individuals for the column, unless you wish to contact me.  Dany


Clarence 'Kelly' Finger owns a coin-stamp shop in Lansing, Michigan. Kelly started collecting coins in 1957, when he was about nine years old. According to Kelly, his father was a design engineer and a draftsman who worked for the Highway Department, known today as MDOT.  Kelly said that one day he saw his father drawing circles on a wooden board with a compass. Young Kelly tried to make sense out of this project, without much luck. He also noticed that his father was putting dates under each circle, starting with 1909. The next day, Kelly's father emptied his piggybank on the table. He asked Kelly if he would like to help him "collect coins."

Kelly helped his father find different Lincoln cents and stick them in their corresponding circles with rubber cement. Apparently, Kelly did not do much that evening, because he had to go to bed at 9:00 o'clock. The next day, Kelly's dad brought home a few Whitman coin folders that he had found at Uncle Walt's Religious Book Store. That was in Cadillac, MI. This store was the only store in town that carried coin supplies. Young Kelly was frequently visiting that store to supply his coin needs. Three years later, Kelly and his dad were having a hard time finding coins with the dates they needed. One day, his father gave him $50, and instructed him to go to the Cadillac State Bank to buy a bag of cents. Kelly hopped on his bicycle, which had a basket on the front. That was Kelly's first bank transaction ever. After the purchase, he placed the bag in his bicycle basket, came home, and found quite a few of the dates he needed for his collection. It took him about three or so more years to complete his cent collection, which he did when he was in high school.

Kelly told me that he was also an avid golf player, and liked to go fishing in summer. So when it was raining outside, preventing him from doing his outdoor activities, he would work on his coin collecting.

He completed his cent collection with all circulated coins. The only coins that he did not find in his pocket change were the 1922 plain and the 1955 double die cent.

    At the end of this interview, Kelly casually mentioned that he still has the original board that started it all.