I am sure I am not the only one whose desk looks like it could be declared a disaster. My desk is so bad that during a recent recon mission, I found books about information security. It has been over three years since I retired from that industry.
A side effect of the mess is while digging under the piles, I can find coins and collectibles I forgot I had. It’s a make-my-own treasure hunt.
The picture to the right is a recent find. It was a giveaway from the Dime Savings Bank from a branch in Huntington Station, Long Island. It is a 1972 Roosevelt Dime encased in clear plastic attached to a keyring. The encased dime is attached to a card and wrapped in the original plastic.
I found this coin in the 1990s during a trip to Long Island. It was likely purchased from an estate sale not too far from the branch. It must have fallen out of a nearby box that holds my New York numismatic collection. It’s the box that I have been thinking about organizing for years.
Finding it brings back memories.
As a right of passage for Baby Boomers born in Brooklyn, our parents helped us open passbook savings account at the Dime Savings Bank. Founded in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, the Dime was as part of life as stickball. Even after moving to Long Island, we kept our accounts with Dime.
If you are too young to know about passbook savings, it was a savings account where your account activity was recorded in a passbook that resembled a passport. When you deposited or withdrew money, you handed the teller your passbook. The teller would put the book in a machine that would print the transaction on the pages. Every three months, an extra entry would be added for the interest payment. Before I understood the concept of savings account interest, I thought the bank was giving me free money.
I would deposit parts of my allowance and the payment for odd jobs around the neighborhood. When I was old enough, I started to deliver Newsday after school when it was an afternoon newspaper. When the deposits passed $100 in savings, I thought that I was rich.
Every week, I would knock on the doors where I delivered the paper to collect money for the newspaper. One day, someone paid for their delivery by including ten copper coins that I did not recognize. I showed them to my father, who told me they were Indian Head cents.
I did not know these coins existed. So I dumped the coins in my pocket on the floor and started to sort through them. I started to separate the coins by type and date, laying them across the floor. My mother did not like my collecting style, so my father bought my first Lincoln cent folder and a Red Book. I still own my first blue folders.
The deposits began to change. I no longer deposited the coins. I was too fascinated with them to let them go. Slowly I began to build a collection out of pocket change while the currency was deposited in the bank. I also accumulated more blue folders.
Then my father did something that changed everything. He took me to a coin store. Suddenly, the Roosevelt dime collection was nearing completion. The blue folder for the dimes was replaced by a blue deluxe album. I was addicted!
The deposits also began to reduce. Somewhat similar to today but on a different scale!
Passbook savings programs are a relic of the past. The Dime Savings Bank is now called the Dime Community Bank. And I got to relive this memory because I found a one-time giveaway buried under a pile on my desk.
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After a busy and short week, I finally had a moment to empty my pockets and examine the week’s change. Even after all of these years, I continue to search through my pocket change to try to find something interesting. These days I most look at the quarters trying to find an elusive W mintmark.
As I looked at the pile, I was drawn to something very different. It was larger than a quarter. When I picked it up, I noticed that it was a 1971 Mexican one peso coin.
Thinking back from when I last emptied my pockets on Saturday to yesterday, I cannot remember when I could have received the coin. At the grocery store, I tend to use the self-service checkout lane, especially at night, when I am too tired to attempt a coherent conversation. Coin-op devices will not accept or dispense foreign coins.
I tried playing MegaMillions and Powerball. Most stores now have automated machines that only accept credit cards and paper money.
During my periodic coffee stops, I use the app to make those purchases with no chance to gather more coins.
If I received the peso instead of a quarter, I lost 20-cents in the transaction. At current market rates, the peso is only worth 5-cents. The coin might have a numismatic value of about 20-40 cents.
Regardless of the net results, it is a fun pocket change find.
Pocket change find of three 2017-P and a 1941 Lincoln Cent
Although I have a number of stories to post and have a few articles started, I continue to look for coins for various reasons. Sure, some of the coins I find are not part of a collection I am working on. But there are a few that when they appear in my pocket change get stored in my desktop bank.
After buying lunch, the changed included four cents. When she handed the change, I looked into my hand and noticed three very shiny, red Lincoln cents and one very brown cent. A quick glance of the red cents showed three 2017-P Lincoln cents. These are the new, one-year issue Lincoln cents with the P mintmark honoring the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Mint.
For the brown cent, I had to stop a moment and turn it into the light to see it closer. The first thing I noticed is the wheat ears reverse. Nowadays, to find a wheat back cent almost as rare as finding a pre-1965 coin in change. A quick flip and an adjustment of the bifocals reveals it is from 1942, a coin still rattling around in circulation for 75 years.
1976 Washington Quarter with my favorite, the Drummer Boy reverse
While marveling about finding a wheat back cent, I move some of the other change around and noticed the distinct Drummer Boy reverse of at 1976 Washington quarter. Although there have been quite a few new designs over the last 20 years with all of the different programs, I still reach back to the 1976 Drummer Boy reverse as my favorite modern circulating coin design.
The wheatie and the Drummer Boy quarter have been dropped in my special bank. As for the 2017-P cents, they will go back into circulation for someone else to enjoy.
During the busy week, I will empty my pocket of change and place it on my dresser. When it gets too piled up I will see if there is anything worth a further look before dumping them into a nearby container. After a year, the container is emptied and the proceeds go to charity. But that is after I search for anything interesting.
When I pay by cash, I pay using currency and pocket all of the change so that I can see what I find. Most of the time I am able to pick out items that require further examination when the change is handed to me. Those coins are put in another pocket for later. This week there was little time. Projects have to be completed and it is almost time for football season. No time to waste.
After four days, I did not think there would be much until the single layer started to grow higher. It was time to scoop them into my jar when I started to nice that a nickel did not look right on first glance. It looked worn but it was a nickel. After looking closer the date said 1902. It is a fairly beaten up 1902 Liberty Head “V” Nickel with scratches and what looks like was once graffiti scratched into the reverse. This coin is so bad off that I do not think the third-party grading services would encapsulate it even for a low-grade registry set!
1902 Liberty Head V Nickel from a pocket change find
1902 Liberty Head V Nickel (reverse) from a pocket change find
This nickel might be the oldest coin I have found in circulation that wasn’t copper.
My next find was interesting because I figured it out before looking closely. Of all the Jefferson nickels, the easiest ones to pick out are the wartime silver nickels. Wartime nickels have a different colored toning than the regular copper-nickel alloy. These coins do not contain any nickel. They are made of .350 silver, .560 copper, and .090 manganese. Without the nickel to keep some semblance of shine the wartime nickels will tone to a distinctive dark silvery gray. If graded G-4 the coin is worth about $1.20 which is not bad considering its silver value is $1.04!
A 1942-P Jefferson Wartime Nickel from a pocket change find
Reverse of 1942-P Jefferson Wartime Nickel from a pocket change find
The final find was also easy to identify even before a more careful look. Peaking out from under another coin was the clear sign of an acid date Buffalo nickel. An acid date Buffalo nickel is a coin that had its date restored using a chemical acid, although in this case it looks like the date was worn down after the acid treatment. The distinctive mark left by the chemical can be seen even though the date has worn away again.
A dateless Buffalo Nickel with acid stain from a pocket change find
Reverse of dateless Buffalo Nickel from a pocket change find
Other than the nickels I continue to find wheat-back cents. I seem to average one per week. This past week I found four with the oldest being a fairly common 1919 cent that looks like it has been well used and cleaned.
A 1919 Lincoln Cent from a pocket change find
A 1919 Lincoln Cent (reverse) from a pocket change find
Sometimes I am amazed at what other people find in their daily change. While I tend to pick up a few foreign coins or some old wheat cents, I have never picked up anything really interesting until the other day.
During a visit to a numerically named convenience store for a cold beverage, I noticed that there were a few “golden dollars” in the register. The cashier hesitated to give them to me but I told her I was a collector and was interested especially since the one on top was very shiny. After trading three paper notes for the coins my suspicion was correct. The coin is a 2009-S James K. PolkPresidential dollar.
While the coin can be used for one dollar in trade, whomever purchased it paid more and could have sold it for at least $5 rather than placing it in circulation. While we do not know the conditions that caused this coin to be in the cash register at the time I stopped in the store, it has been rescued from circulation and will find its way into a collection. I will probably add it to my coin club’s charity auction this December.
We know that the Royal Canadian Mint struck their last 1-cent coin in 2012. During the six-month transition, Canadian banks were helping recall 1-cent coins while cash sales began to be rounded up or down to the nearest 5-cents.
But when I made a purchase at a local convenience store, my change included a 1966 Canadian 1-cent coin. Even though the coin is still legal tender it is not usable. I can visit an agent for the Bank of Canada or the Royal Canadian Mint to turn it in for updated coins. I was told that the minimum they will take for exchange is 100 coins. If I can scrape together 99 more coins I can trade it for a Loonie.
At the current exchange rate, the coin is worth only 0.0074 U.S. cents. Someone owes me 0.0026 cents!
Maybe I should go back to that store and see if they would give me a Canadian 5-cents coin and I would give them four U.S. cents. That would make it even.
It’s Friday. Why not have a little fun after finding a Canadian cent in my change!
Every evening I empty my pockets and look at the change that I accumulate during the day. Since I almost exclusively use cash (it is safer than credit cards), I end up with at least a dollar in change. Last week, I pulled out my change and took a glance and saw a nickel that was a bit darker than the others.
Moving it aside so I can look in a better light, I was able to separate a bicentennial quarter and wheat back cent from the other coins before dumping the rest into a pitcher I keep on my dresser. After dropping the quarter and wheatie into a bank where I save these coins, I picked up the dark nickel and went to find a better light.
To make things easier I looked at the reverse to see if it was I suspected and found a large “P” over Monticello confirming that I found a war nickel. For the date, I needed to find my loupe to help my aging eyes focus to tell me that I found a 1942-P war nickel.
1942-P Jefferson “War” Nickel obverse
1942-P Jefferson “War” Nickel reverse
War nickels were struck by the U.S. Mint from mid-1942 through 1945 of an alloy that contained 56-percent copper, 35-percent silver, and 9-percent manganese. Removing the nickel and reducing the amount of copper used in these coins helped save these metals so that they can be used to produce military supplies. One specific need was the copper that went into the brass alloy used to produce bullets.
Looking at the coin and various grading images, if I sent it to a third-party grading service to be graded, it would probably be returned as a VG-8 since it has a little more definition than a flatter G-4. It could be argued that since the rims are more defined that it could be closer to a VG-10, but I would not represent this coin at that grade—besides, it is not for sale! Given that, what kind of profit did I made over the 5-cents face value.
According to the NumisMedia Price Guide, the current value of a 1942-P war nickel in VG-8 condition is $1.01. That is a 96-cent profit!
But what about the silver value? As I type this, Coinflation reports that the metal value of the coin (at the time writing this) is 85-cents with the silver value of 84-cents. That price is based on 0.0563 troy ounces of silver with the current price of silver at $14.88 per troy ounce.
Either way, I made a small profit on the coin and will add it to my hoard of interesting pocket change finds.
I know my postings have been sparse. Business has been picking up making me very busy. I will explain more at another time. But for now, I wanted to share my first 2015 find of the year.
In the past few years I have had to wait until late April or May to find a coin with the current year’s date in pocket change. This year, it took a trip to New York to find a 2015 coin earlier than in the past.
After dropping off my dogs at the house of the person who babysits them, my wife and found our way to I-95 then north to the city of my birth. Since I am a coffee hound, I have to stop in order to take care of the after effects of drinking the coffee and buy more, of course. This time, we stopped at the Chesapeake House Travel Plaza on I-95 in Cecil County, Maryland.
First, we were stunned by the new building. the state demolished the old Chesapeake House and rebuilt a new building complete with LEED Silver Certification and a better choice of side-of-the-road restaurants than the usual. One of those establishments was Peet’s Coffee and Tea where I was able to fuel myself before fueling my vehicle.
As part of my change I received a shiny, new 2015 Lincoln cent!
Not only did a get a good cup of coffee but I was treated to my first 2015 find of the year. It was a good way to start a weekend that included a family celebration!
Did you find a 2015 coin in your pocket change?
Yes I did (71%, 17 Votes)
Not yet (21%, 5 Votes)
I am not looking (8%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 24
$2 Federal Reserve Notes found at a convenience store near where I work
Earlier this week I drove up north to Long Island to spend holidays with relatives. Taking these rides reminds me that we do not live forever. While the family has been expanded with children, the number of relatives at the seder is lower than it was just 10 years ago and these trips are punctuated with trips to the cemetery.
2014 coins found in change during a recent drive to New York
One advantage of making this trip is that I get to visit different establishments where paying cash returns change that can have some surprises. Sometimes, I take a close look at what the cashier returns to me. Other times, I just glance at the little metal disks to make sure that it is the correct amount before it is dropped in my pocket.
During one of our necessary stops, I was handed some change and noticed that the dimes looked a bit shinier than usual. Quickly zeroing in on the date I saw the “2014” date. After searching all over the Washington, D.C. area for 2014 coins, I find my first somewhere on the road in New Jersey.
Later that evening I emptied my pocket to see what else I could find. In addition to the dime, there was a 2014-P nickel and a surprise.
In 1979, the Susan B. Anthony dollar was released to much fanfare. It was the first “small” dollar coin and was the first U.S. coin to feature a real woman. Prior to the famed suffragette being featured on a coin, the image was that of Lady Liberty in some form. Even the Indian Head cent was not an Indian but Liberty in a native headdress.
But those of us who watch the experiment first hand soon discovered that the coin was too close in size with a quarter. In fact, the color, and reeded edges saw the Susie B. consistently being mistaken for quarters.
Almost as instantly as they appeared, the coins disappeared. Even as the public was willing to try the new coins, the rejection was almost as quick. After three years of production, the coins found a home in Las Vegas where they were used in slot machines. So many coins went unused following their last production in 1981 that was mainly for collectors, production picked up in 1999 after orders for additional coins were made from the vending machine and Las Vegas gaming industry.
The ’79 Susie B. that I received in change that was probably mistaken for a quarter.
Apparently, the mistakes of the past continue into 2014 since a 1979-P Susan B. Anthony dollar was mixed in with my change. Although some vending machines will provide change in dollar coins and could be loaded with Susie B. dollars, I did not use a machine.
I suspect that someone who previously visited that roadside oasis (how’s that for a description of a rest stop along the New Jersey Turnpike), used one of the vending machines, then spent the dollar thinking it was a quarter. The coin sat in the tray in the cash register until it was time to provide change for my purchase. The cashier, not paying attention to what she was doing, counted the requisite number of coins from the quarter section of the draw. In a rush, I just saw what was the right size coin and dropped it into my pocket on my way back out of the building.
Starting in 2000, the dollar was changed to not only honor Sacagawea but magnesium was added to the metal mix to give the coins a golden color. The color and making the edge smooth made it less possible that the coin would be mistaken for a quarter. Unfortunately, the memory of the failed Susie B. lingers among a significant segment of the population in a way that kept a similar push with the modern Presidential dollars from being successful.
But in this case, finding a Susan B. Anthony dollar made my day!
The production and circulation of currency in the United States have been largely unchanged for decades, despite the growth in electronic financial transactions. Treasury is undertaking a comprehensive review of U.S. currency, including a review of both the production and use of coins, in order to efficiently promote commerce in the 21st Century. These studies will analyze alternative metals, the United States Mint facilities, and consumer behavior and preferences, and will result in the development of alternative options for the penny and the nickel.
Some of this has been ongoing for the last few years. As part of the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010, (Public Law 111-302 [PDF]), the U.S. Mint performed and Alternatives Metals study that was completed in August 2012 and then reported to Congress in December 2012.
The problem with the study is the politics written into the law which the report addresses in the executive summary. Key to the problem is the provision written into the law that gives too much consideration to the vending and coin-operated industry. Rather than find the best metals possible while considering the factors that would have to be changed to make new coins work in devices like vending machines, parking meters, and other machines that take coins for payment, the law is written as if the vending industry has veto power over the choices.
Reading the alternative metals report is like taking a college course in metallurgy. When reading the report, it is apparent that there is no perfect solution. Either the coin sizes and weights will have to change in order to meet electromagnetic signature (EMS) requirements to make new coins similar enough to provoke fewer changes to existing equipment or the EMS of the coins will have to change and the machines reprogrammed. In either case, something will have to change.
In short, the EMS is the waveforms that are sensed when a coin is exposed to low frequency radiation (harmless to humans). The waveforms are read by sensors and compared with a programmed baseline to verify that you dropped a real coin into the machine and not a slug.
As part of the alternative metal study, the U.S. Mint is holding a stakeholders meeting. Interested members of businesses, industries, and agencies will meet with the U.S. Mint study group to share their perspectives on the impacts of alternative metal compositions on circulating coins. This meeting will be held Thursday, March 13, 2014, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (EDT) at the U.S. Mint Headquarters located at 801 Ninth Street NW, Washington, D.C., 2nd floor. Attendance is by invitation only. Anyone interested in attending can contact Leslie Schwager, Office of Coin Studies at OfficeofCoinStudies@usmint.treas.gov, or by calling 202–354–6600 no later than Monday, March 10, 2014 to request an invitation and obtain additional meeting information.
You can read the full announcement about this meeting in the Federal Register 79 F.R. 6672. [PDF]
Because of the recent storms and closing of the federal government, my work requirements have shifted making it difficult for me to attend. Anyone who will attend this meeting is invited to contact me. I would be interested in hearing all perspectives about the meeting.
Given the political nature of both the budget process and the law behind the alternative metals study, it is reasonable to believe that nothing will be accomplished by the president’s budget recommendation or the meeting at the U.S. Mint. In fact, since congress has to approve any changes to U.S. coinage and that this congress has been the least productive in history, do not expect change in your pocket change any time soon.