Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Visual sorting

kw: observations, visual skills, hobbies

I managed to collect all the 50 US State quarters that were produced since 1999, plus the US territory quarters that came out afterwards. When I got a duplicate, I gave it to my wife, and she also kept most of the State quarters she encountered. She has them all in a box, at least until this morning.

She decided to put them in Whitman folders, and asked for my collection to use as a model. Now, there are two ways I can think of to accomplish this task. One is to use preprinted folders that have each state and year, plus P and D mint marks, so there are two each. Then you just go through, coin after coin, and find its spot in the array.

She only wanted the backs shown, and doesn't care about mint marks, so she got blank folders. The second way is then to sort them into years, because there were five quarters minted each year. Then my collection could be used as a model to get each year into the right order. She did it a third way, a way I could not have used.

She spread them all out on the table, face down, and just looked at them for a while. Then she looked at my coins, muttered "Delaware", unerringly picked out the Delaware coin from the array and put it in the first spot in her folder. She continued with New Jersey, and so on. When I asked why she didn't sort them by years first, she told me she was just using the picture on the back of each coin. She could see it better than the year.

Somehow, probably subconsciously, she had spent no more than a couple of minutes looking at the spread of nearly 100 quarters on the tabletop, and sorted the pictures on their backs. Her visual memory really amazed me. No wonder she always wins at MasterMind!

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