Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Annals of numismatics: pocket change archeology 

Having collected coins off and on for 31 years, I always inspect my change for items of numismatic interest. Today I picked up a 1952-D Lincoln cent, which is nothing to write home about in the abstract, even considering how uncommon "wheaties" have become. However, this coin had barely circulated, was scarcely worn, and retained a beautiful red luster of the sort that copper picks up over decades. This coin had obviously been entirely out of circulation for a very long time, probably since the Korean War. And it had reached New Jersey from the Denver mint.

So who found the old jar with this coin, and how many other coins of that vintage did the old jar contain? Or did it sit alone in a drawer in some grandmother's house, or in a change purse long left for empty in an attic?

Have you ever thought where a coin has been in its life? If you measure their journeys over time and space, they are humanity's most widely-traveled artifacts, even taking into account the impact of Gresham's Law.


By Blogger Marc, at Wed Jun 30, 09:20:00 AM:

I too have collected coing on and off for over 30 years and feel the same way.

I often think about my oldest coins, history, and whose hands they may have passed.

I have a silver shilling from the 1500's (it's upstairs at the moment so I can't remember the exact date).

I also have a US penny with Geroge Washington on it from who knows when. I used to know the date range of these "pennies". Sometime around Washington's time.

Wonderful stuff.  

By Blogger cbgaloot, at Mon Nov 12, 10:47:00 AM:

I worked in retail at the cash register many years ago.

At first I was surprised at the numbers of old coins that came through. I actually had a person buy a soda with a part of a roll of buffalo nickels. I saw pre 64 silver coins pretty much daily.

I traded for as many of them as I could afford on my limited salary at the time. I have about 3 quarts of them under my bed.

Why would people spend a dime that is worth several times it's face value at face value?

Eventually I gave up trying to make sense of it.  

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