RYLEIGH NORGROVE/ THE CHRONICLE - Cottage Grove's Isabelle Pierzina, 6, sells her old dress-up clothes at the Cottage Grove Library Kids' Flea Market this past Saturday.

COTTAGE GROVE – Aspiring entrepreneur Gryphin Smith has big goals for his pop-up business ventures.

The 12-year-old hopes to be an artist/carpenter when he grows up, and is starting early by selling wooden swords at the Cottage Grove Library Kids’ Flea Market. The homeschooler from Cottage Grove is already savvy with a bandsaw and thinks that swords are “just really awesome.” 

The Kids’ Flea Market is the last event in the traveling exhibit Thinking Money, hosted by the Cottage Grove Library this month. Thinking Money strives to teach tweens, teens and their parents, caregivers and educators about financial literacy topics – like saving, spending and avoiding fraud – in a way that is not only understandable, but fun.

On Saturday, the market was bustling, and a few young executives were working the room: selling fidget spinners, princess dresses, paintings, board games, homemade chocolate chip cookies and even chestnut trees. 

Otis Hammond worked with his mom to water the chestnut saplings, and even transplanted them himself to bring to the fair. 

“My mom helped me bring these here,” he said. “I like working with her in the garden, I work with her every year. We sold one of them earlier.” 

Through an adventure-themed storyline, interactive content and other fun, hands-on activities, the exhibition explores the following themes: wants vs. needs, earning and paying interest, preparing for rainy/sunny days, imagining your future self and avoiding financial fraud.  

Head librarian Natasha Chitow noted that this exhibit is an opportunity for children to gain exposure on a topic they don’t get much exposure to through family or school. 

“Money is such an important topic, and it’s one that kids don’t get much exposure to from family and school,” she said. “A better understanding of personal finance will help our local youth make choices that help them succeed in their adult lives. Being able to connect education and job training to long-term financial stability benefits not only the individual but the community in which they live.”

The exhibit is funded by a competitive national grant from the American Library Association (ALA) and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Cottage Grove is one of 50 sites selected to host Thinking Money for Kids on its two-year tour of the United States. Nearly 130 public libraries across the country applied for the opportunity, according to ALA. In addition to the traveling exhibition on loan, Cottage Grove Public Library has received $1,000 to hold public events related to the exhibit.  

“Younger kids are used to seeing their parents swipe a card, and have no real connection between the concept of money that’s being exchanged,” Chitow said. “The flea market is a way to learn about assigning value to things that you want versus the things you’re willing to give.” 

At the market, Smith sold most of his wares. He even decided to give some away. 

Gryphin Smith

“It was hard to think about how much to sell these for. I want to get a fair deal because I spent a lot of time on them. But at the same time, you can’t ask for too much,” he said. “I still decided to give this one away because he really liked it,” he said, pointing to a boy who’s new sword was bigger than him.

Smith’s overhead was minimal, he got his materials from his dad’s scrap pile. And he’s never had to worry about overtime because each sword only takes a few hours to make. 

“I usually save up about $15 at a time and then blow it all on candy,” he said. “But I’ll probably save up for something else later, but that’s what I’m using money for right now.”