From the Numismatic News 60th Anniversary Special Issue – Richard L. Francis Jr. • Cape Girardeau, Mo.
What we do today, although seemingly insignificant, can have a far greater and lasting effect than we could ever imagine.
Take, for example, a speech given Nov. 19, 1863, and the words of the secondary speaker. He is quoted as saying, “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here.”
Obviously, the speaker was so confident his words would soon be forgotten that he stated as much in his speech. He was wrong. As it turned out, what was heard by few was remembered by many.
The speaker in question was President Abraham Lincoln and the words from the Gettysburg Address. The words that day which President Lincoln felt would be so quickly forgotten were pulled close to the hearts of many, so much in fact that a nation was changed.
As President Lincoln felt his words that day were insignificant, so did my grandfather, Ira, feel when he placed three simple coins into his son’s hands in 1944. Much more was given that day than just a Flying Eagle cent and two 1883 Liberty nickels. Given was a key to the door of numismatics, leading to a room filled with a rainbow of thrills and dreams.
Now, three generations later, this small act can be seen as something much greater than perceived at the time. The real value of this act simply cannot be measured.
According to my father, collecting coins while living in Poplar Bluff, Mo., was difficult to say the least. Upon speaking to friends, it became apparent there were very few numismatists in town and certainly no dealers. To remedy this problem, my father spoke to local merchants and asked them to save Liberty nickels for him. While this did not produce any great rarities, it provided much excitement.
Other pieces were added by simply being at the right place at the right time. One day while walking to school with some friends, a girl named Helen commented on an old penny she just found among her change. It was a 1909 Lincoln cent. My father made an offer of 5 cents for the coin, one which was quickly accepted. While this exchange brought some laughter among some of the other children, my father was happy with his purchase.
It was around this same time that another opportunity presented itself. While in Sunday school, one of the other children, Virgil, was showing an 1875 Seated Liberty quarter. Virgil wanted 30 cents for the coin. My father pleaded his case to his mother and was given the money to purchase the coin. Much of Sunday afternoon was spent enjoying his acquisition.
By today’s standards 30 cents would not be a sacrifice, however, it certainly was at the time. It is love born sacrifices such as these that oftentimes change the lives of many. Such is the case here. Thank you, grandma.
Though the years my father’s interest in numismatics grew as did his coin collection. Fast forward to late 1975. I was 8, my sister Marie was 5 and my brother Michael had just been born. It was at this time that my grandfather continued the pattern he began 31 years earlier in 1944. We were each given a silver dollar. As the oldest, mine was a Morgan dollar. My sister and brother were given Peace dollars. That Morgan dollar is much more than just a silver dollar. It is a hug from my grandfather.
Continuing the pattern my grandfather began, the following year on the Bicentennial my father gave me an 1876 Seated Liberty half dollar. My sister also received an 1876 Seated Liberty half dollar. My brother received an 1876 Seated Liberty quarter. This is such a special reminder of the biggest Fourth of July I’ve ever seen.
Through the years my father continued to encourage my interest in numismatics, always happy to look at coins together and answer any questions. To further foster my interest in numismatics my father took me to a local coin shop. It seems we were there every weekend, a pattern we continue to this day. I love my dad.
Let us now fast forward to 2012. The pattern which began in 1944 is now in another generation as my children and nephews have been introduced to numismatics. In addition to our weekly trips to the coin ship, our family enjoys such activities as roll searching and metal detecting.
What began with two nickels and a penny has now turned into priceless family memories. Who knows how many more generations will be touched. Could anyone ask for a better return on their investment?