“Checking That Change: The CFA Interview” by Jack Topping.
[14 July 2019]
“And as always, keep checking that change!” shouted the Coins for Amateurs family, donning pirate costumes for “Talk Like a Pirate Day” as they ended their September 19, 2018 livestream. Another successful coin roll hunt, looking for all kinds of nickel varieties, errors, and hidden “treasure” waiting to be discovered inside bank wrapped rolls.
Family friendly fun with a numismatic theme is what the Sirnio family is all about. Known on YouTube as the “Coins for Amateurs” channel, the family promotes coin collecting on all levels, with livestreams, giveaways, educational videos and much more. The intention of the community that they’ve built is clear on giving back in some capacity, whether it be physical livestream giveaways, free videos on numismatic terms that might not be so clear to new collectors, or promoting other channels and collectors in their community. It should be no surprise that because of all this, their channel recently reached 10,000 YouTube subscribers, with that number increasing everyday.
I recently sat down with Chad, also known simply as “CFA”, his wife, Mrs. CFA, and their daughter, CFA Jr., to discuss coins, the channel, and hitting the illustrious 10,000 subscriber mark.
I asked each family member questions individually and then had a few questions for the family as a whole. I started with the same question for all three family members:
What got you into numismatics? If it was a person (and if you are comfortable sharing) who was it and what did they do to spark your interest?
I chose this as the first question because all of us as collectors and numismatists started collecting coins at some point in time, usually influenced by one particular person or event. There’s no better way to discuss who or what influenced the initial spark of numismatics than at the start of the interview.
Chad: No particular person got me into Numismatics- I believe its a couple things that got me into it. I love History and learning about coins you find they are intertwined very much with Historic times/events. Also, I can remember as a kid my Parents owned a Newspaper delivery business and they had a lot of machines that people would pay for their papers with quarters at. I can remember stacks of quarters on the Dinner table in $1 increments but there would be a small pile off to the side- my Dad would tell me those are silver quarters and they don’t go to the Bank they stay with me. That finding a different coin and it being worth keeping must have made an impression on a young future CFA.
Mrs. CFA: I’ve always liked coins and I wouldn’t say it was a person that got me into it. I was a cashier years ago and used to see some unusual coins occasionally and it was intriguing (I even found a Buffalo Nickel once!) and I guess that feeling of excitement has just stuck with me.
CFA. Jr.: My Father, he did it all the time and it was interesting. I really enjoy teaching my friends about things to search for in their change and the look they get when I tell them about something they could be looking for and what it might be worth.
For the next series of questions, I asked Chad about starting the channel, and his thoughts on some hobby related topics.
JET: What was your inspiration for starting CFA?
Chad: Honestly I was getting very much into Metal Detecting and my Daughters (we have 3 of them) were very much into YouTube at the time and said that I should start filming my hunts and start a Channel. I thought who the heck would want to watch that Lol? But I started and did a couple coin videos as well. I quickly found a lot a cool people on YouTube, made some great friends and learned a ton about Coins and Metal Detecting! From then on I’ve been hooked!
JET: What is the selection process for determining what topics to discuss in your videos?
Chad: Some are just what hunts we’ve been doing lately and experiences we’ve had. Others are questions we get regularly from others that I’m trying to answer through a video or questions I’ve had myself at one point. We want to try and teach and have fun all at once!
JET: In 2014 you started the channel with an informational video. Four and a half years, and 10,000 subscribers later, where do you think you have grown the most since then?
Chad: Oh, for sure my knowledge of the hobby, I knew very little about coins and Metal Detecting back in 2014 (certainly an Amateur) and now while I’m no Pro I can answer a lot of people’s questions.
For the next question, I asked Chad about involving kids in numismatics. The CFA Family puts a lot of effort in their programs they have for getting kids interested in our hobby. Likewise, JET Numismatics also recognizes the vital importance of introducing kids to coins.
JET: How do you think we can introduce kids to numismatics in the digital era without them becoming uninterested because of the latest and greatest piece of technology?
Chad: One way is we make coin roll hunting a competition- a game if you will and we roll learning about what you find into it. Still not for all kids but we hope to bring in as many as we can!
JET: Are you in favor of replacing the Dollar bill with the Dollar coin? Why or why not?
Chad: I like dollar Bills because we search for Star Notes and Fancy Notes- a bit biased I guess.
For Mrs. CFA, I asked a round of similar questions, focused on beginners starting out with numismatics.
JET: What was your inspiration for joining Chad in making videos for the CFA channel?
Mrs. CFA: Chad was very persuasive Lol, I’m very camera shy. I have come to love doing the videos now though, especially the coin roll hunts. I really enjoy the hunt! Chad has even found a way of doing many of the streams where we only have our hands on camera to assist with my occasional camera shyness.
JET: Why, in your opinion, is numismatics a good hobby for anyone of any gender or age?
Mrs. CFA: The History involved. I love History just like Mr CFA and many people don’t realize the History you can learn from them! Also, Coins are timeless, they will never go out of style.
JET: Often times people inherit coins with no knowledge about them or interest in keeping them. How would you convince these people to keep them or begin a collection of their own?
Mrs. CFA: First of all, they may not yet know what they have- and by that I mean not just monetary value but what the coins may have meant to the person who you inherited them from- what’s the story behind them if there is one? Taking a newly inherited collection and pawning it off or just selling it without learning about it first is obviously crazy to us- we really want people to educate themselves first which is what we try to do. That collection is a treasure hunt waiting to happen when you think about rare varieties and errors too!
JET: Do you think numismatics should be taught in schools? Why or why not?
Mrs. CFA: I believe public school at a young age financial responsibility is very important to teach but not necessarily Numismatics. College courses on Numismatics I believe are a great idea for those interested and could even be incorporated somehow with a history course! I do strongly encourage like minded youngsters to get Numismatic Clubs going at their schools though!
For CFA Jr., I focused on questions related to introducing numismatics to people of all ages, and her thoughts on the effects of social media and numismatics.
JET: How has numismatics affected your interests in other fields (such as history or finance, etc)?
CFA Jr.: I always thought History was interesting so finding older coins is very cool. Watching my Dad keep some things like copper coins makes me think a lot about the investment side of it and the potential possibilities!
JET: In your opinion, what can we (as a hobby) do to inspire kids, teens, and even adults to get started in numismatics?
CFA Jr.: The ‘Checking your change’ part of what we do is a great way to start. Kids thinking about money and realizing that a penny may be worth a dollar or more can really spark their interest.
JET: Do you think the numismatic hobby is positively or negatively affected by social media?
CFA Jr.: Prior to our Channel I would have said negatively but now my opinion has changed. Often when I say I’m into coins I follow that with “I know I’m kind of a Nerd” because I’m trying to beat them to what their going to say. CFA has a great video about telling kids it’s ok to “Be a Nerd” and love what you do and have fun with coins. So I see that as Social media being very positive for our Hobby. We need Kids to understand it’s ok to be who they are and enjoy it while not being concerned with what others are saying. I will tell all them from personal experience that once you teach these people who say its a Nerd thing about a cool coin or dollar they could find or we have found in change they change their way of thinking in a hurry!
JET: Should we remove the Penny from circulation? Why or why not?
CFA Jr.: No, they have been around forever. Maybe a new design eventually but we love collecting them!
For the last round of questions, I asked the CFA Family as a whole to give numismatists some advice should they want to start their own YouTube channel.
JET: What was your favorite video that you’ve made so far?
CFA Family: This is tough Lol, the first one that came to mind was when CFA Jr. and CFA had a coin roll hunt competition and the winner dumped an ice bucket on the losers head- yes CFA’s bald head was cold that day! Typically the most fun are the ones where the whole Family is involved!
JET: What is it like to run a channel as a whole family effort instead of individually?
CFA Family: Honestly we are not like many YouTubers who do it more monetary gain (90% of Ad revenue currently goes back into the Channel and the other 10% is for adding coins to our personal collection). This endeavor has given us something fun to do as a Family and spend quality time together. That’s part of why we try to show others what we do and how we do it because we feel there are many Families out there that could benefit from the treasure hunting and collecting together!
JET: 10,000+ subscribers is an incredible accomplishment. What are your thoughts about hitting such a large milestone?
CFA Family: Truly we never thought we would get to that number Lol, I remember hitting 50 subscribers and thinking “could that many people really want to watch what we’re doing here?”. Subs has never been a big goal for us but we are very happy that we have been able to help teach so many people and to provide some entertainment, now honestly it feels like almost any number is possible!
JET: What would you say to someone who wants to start a YouTube channel like yours?
CFA Family: Be passionate about it and remember it is as much work as you make it. KEEP IT FUN! Once it’s no longer fun then it’s only work and burnout will happen because with YouTube to continue to grow you have to consistently put out content which takes time. It’s a marathon not a sprint so just do what you do and don’t compare yourself to other Channels- just compare your channel to where it was a month ago or 6 months.
JET: If you could go back in time to when you first started the channel and give yourselves a piece of advice, what would it be?
CFA Family: On the technical side I’ve learned a ton and changed a ton when it comes to YouTube in particular. You need decent equipment like cameras, PC’s etc….. I’ve got quite a few templates I use as well to save time so I can spend more time on the fun stuff like coin hunting and metal detecting! Then the biggest thing like I said in the last question- YouTube is a marathon not a sprint.
JET: Other than numismatics, are there any other hobbies you do together as a family?
CFA Family: We love Camping, Fishing, watching College Basketball (we’re Duke fans), and occasionally I get some of my Daughters out Metal Detecting with me! I have lots of Nephews as well that are nearly old enough for Metal Detecting and you will see them in future CFA videos!
Finally, I asked each CFA family member the same closing question:
JET: What are some of your favorite American coin designs and why?
Chad: I get this question a lot and I have several- Large Cents, Standing Liberty Quarter, Morgan Dollar, and of course the Lincoln Cent (copper editions of course) would be at the top of my list. History behind the coins themselves are a big part of why as well as just personal eye appeal preference.
Mrs. CFA: Buffalo Nickel is at the top of my list and part of why is that they are so exciting and such a treat to find when Coin Roll Hunting!
CFA Jr.: I really like the toned American Silver Eagle dollars (My Dad does too and has a collection of them)! For coins we find I would definitely say the Buffalo Nickel because they are so much fun to find! They are so different and the feeling of pulling one from a roll is awesome!
It’s clear to me that the Coins for Amateurs family are incredible numismatists for the information and wisdom they provide to current (and future) members of our hobby. They are indispensable to YouTube for their creative and family friendly content, and invaluable to the community that they’ve built. It is because of people like the Sirnio family that our hobby, “The Hobby of Kings”, will survive for generations to come. Through education, hospitality towards new coin collectors, and a sense of community that was impossible without YouTube, the future of numismatics (especially a future in the digital era) appears to be in excellent shape.
What is comforting for myself, as a viewer and a new member of their community, is that their content is not falling on deaf ears. Thousands of views (in addition to the 10,000+ subscribers) on many of their videos is proof enough that their content is intriguing, interesting, and enjoyable. At the same time, it is a reflection on the very content they produce: everything surrounds numismatics. If there was no interest in our hobby in an era where everything seems to be focused online, why would a merging of an old hobby with “new” technology be an overwhelming success? All in all, I hope to see the Coins for Amateurs family continue to produce fantastic videos, Sunday livestreams, and other family friendly content for years to come.
Special thanks to the Sirnio family for their contributions to this interview.