Isaac Simon, 11, holds one of the coins in his collection as he stands in front of the display case at the Spring Valley Public Library, where his "collection of collections" is currently available for library visitors to see. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Isaac Simon, 11, holds one of the coins in his collection as he stands in front of the display case at the Spring Valley Public Library, where his "collection of collections" is currently available for library visitors to see. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Isaac Simon can coin it, cap it, card it, plate it, rock it, shell it, insulate it, marble it and keep it current.

That's just the history's beginning.

"I collect coins, bottle caps, trading cards, old license plates, rocks and agates, shells and starfish, old glass insulators and old dollar bills - I like to collect a lot of old currency," said Isaac, son of John and Jenny Simon, referring to his "collection of collections" presently on display at the Spring Valley Public Library, of which he's particularly proud.

The Spring Valley 11-year-old's "collection of collections" is far more extensive and historic than what one might expect. While some boys are very interested in action figures, Isaac's got a more sophisticated taste that extends from the vintage trading cards to his coin collection, the imperial prize of his inheritances.

"I've got some $2 bills that I got when I was 2 or 3 years old, and in 2007, when my Grandma Tinka died, I got most of her bottle caps, marbles and the glass insulators, I got the General Mills car caps from my grandpa, some of the cards were my mom's and some of them are mine, I collected all 50 state quarters," he said. "I bought license plates from a guy at Deer Creek, the pile of coins came from my grandma's and grandpa's - I found them in a cabinet at their house, and they said I could have them - and I have doorknobs and glasses from old relatives, I got jacks from my grandma's house because she had old stuff and would go to flea markets to buy stuff."

His expertise on coin and dollar bill collecting is surprising, because even though he has so many other bits and fragments of history in jars and boxes, Isaac can educate anyone who might have a question about a coin or bill.

"My coin collection probably got started when my grandpa gave me wheat pennies...I have some quarters made the very last day they made Minnesota quarters, I've got an 1879 dollar coin that my grandma gave me as a first communion gift, and probably some of the oldest U.S. coins I've got are an 1809 half cent, an 1892 half-dollar Christopher Columbus coin, and one from ancient Rome that I got at a coin store in Rochester," he explained.

He can easily point out the nearly-microscopic designer's initials on a 1909 wheat penny - the very first year wheat pennies were issued - and explain that the initials were only on a select number of wheat pennies because the initials were deemed superfluous. Regarding paper currency, he likes to point out that dollar bills used to be much larger, and in 1923, still had their serial numbers hand-stamped on them.

"This one's from Hawaii during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it has 'Hawaii' stamped on the back," he shared.

He appreciates his license plate collection for the variety of colors and tagging systems each state used, such as the unique New Jersey ambulance license plate he bought. He bought 50 from a guy at Deer Creek Speedway, but about three months before that, he found about six wrapped in old newspaper in his grandfather's basement.

The New Jersey one is off an ambulance, which he knows because it says "EMS." One of his favorites is the Missouri black and yellow, and the blue and white Missouri. The ones he probably has the most of are Wisconsin or Missouri. The guy he got them from is a trucker, and he kept one from every one of the 48 states and sold the ones he didn't want. Isaac is missing Alaska and Hawaii.

Isaac's trading cards span three decades and include some that used to belong to his parents - the stack features "Charlie's Angels," "Pokemon," "Dukes of Hazzard," "Battlestar Galactica," "Gremlins," "E.T.," "Superman II," "Buck Rogers," "Black Hole," "Star Wars," "Jaws II," some football cards and a stray baseball card or two. He likes shuffling the deck and rearranging them to show off the ones dating back to his mom's childhood, when "scary movies" were not as scary as the movies children watch now.

His shell collection was a gift from his grandparents' neighbor, Alice Hare, who gave him the finds of her travels to Virginia Beach, Va., after she no longer had a place to keep them. He especially likes a personable-looking little starfish that has stopped to "wave" at him with one of its arms. He and his mother both have an affinity for gathering rocks as they're fishing and canoeing, and his agates and everyday rocks each have a story he can easily recall and share, though their five-gallon buckets of rocks in the garage are beginning to overtake the parking space.

"Most of the agates, I found canoeing the Root River, by our back steps or at south park, and the rocks, I collected with my mom - some fishing, some canoeing," he said.

When he's not busy collecting new old things, Isaac enjoys playing soccer, softball, canoeing, fishing and visiting his mom at work at the library, but there's always the chance he'll find something to collect.

"I have a lot more stuff at home. This is just a tiny bit of my stuff," he said. "I like old things best, things that have a history and a story."