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Boy, it

The temperature has gone over the 90-degree mark for the first time in Iola since last summer. What a change. Up until this week it has been much colder than normal.

For some peculiar reason, this spurt higher by the thermometer has put me into a reflective frame of mind. Perhaps my brain is just fried. Perhaps, it is something I am working on that involves nickels.

Don’t see the connection?

Well, let me explain.

Way back in the summer of 1968 when I was 13, I decided it was time to tackle nickels. I had avoided them to that point in time in the roughly five years I had been collecting.

There always seemed to be a good reason to try some other denomination. Silver was disappearing and it seemed a good idea to get as many of those coins as I could before they were all gone for good.

So, by the summer of 1968, the silver coins that I received each week in my newspaper collections for the Des Moines Register had fallen to virtually nothing.

I needed something new to look for. The hunt for coins had become a part of my essential habits. Not hunting for them was something that was unthinkable.

But I was still a kid. I had other interests.

The catalytic numismatic moment occurred on a hot summer day in the northern Iowa town of Lake Mills, where I lived. I came home from the municipal swimming pool. When I was a kid I swam a lot. I even took swimming lessons up through junior lifesaving and was looking forward to when I was old enough to be a lifeguard. Summers then were meant for those kinds of daydreams. In this case it was not to be. My family moved in 1969 and my eyesight got quite a bit worse in any case. (All those coins? Darn it.)

But on that summer day, I noticed that the change I had received was a war nickel, one of the 35 percent silver coins struck 1942-1945. I knew what it was. I had been a faithful reader of Coins magazine since the prior summer.

But what I didn’t realize until that moment was the very odd color that silver war nickels acquire after they have been used for a while. Any collector knows what I mean, that peculiar, almost streaked look of various shades that turn almost green.

I noticed that discolored silver nickel.

Bingo – all the logic of tackling the one remaining denomination that was still possible to tackle from change crystallized in my mind at that moment.

Since it was summer, this allowed me to pursue my goal aggressively. Every weekday morning in subsequent days I hightailed it up to the local bank to get as many rolls of nickels as I could carry home. I looked through them between the other activities of my day. The next day I repeated the process until I exhausted the floating nickel supply.

I actually found more war nickels than I could afford to keep and I have kicked myself ever afterwards for not finding a way to keep them all. Silver even in that form was worth hanging onto.

This is why summer heat and nickels are paired in my mind.

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