By Don Jensen
If what is past is prologue, then it was the discovery of coin collecting, enhanced by access to Uncle George’s Liberty nickel hoard, that provided me with the setting for a lifetime of experience. Coin collecting has provided me with a lifetime of wonderful and rewarding experiences.
The year was 1942. I was an Iowa farm boy who lived ten miles from the nearest high school. Since there were no school buses to provide transportation to and from school each day, it was determined by my parents that it would be best if I stayed in town with an aunt and uncle. By that time I had, at the age of 13, already developed an interest in coin collecting, mostly Indian Head cents.
My uncle built truck boxes. Most were for local farmers in the area. One of his daily habits, in fact several times a day, was to stop in for coffee at one of the restaurants on Main Street. He would consume a quick cup of steaming hot coffee in one gulp and ask that his change include all of the V-nickels in the till. That had been his practice for 20 to 25 years; from the mid-teens through the 30s, I’m sure there were a lot of them.
A lot of nickels flowed into the local banks since the town had a new Coca-Cola bottling plant that serviced lots of 5-cent pop machines in the surrounding area. So, lots of nickels flowed into the town’s banks and out to the public.
One evening, after supper, my uncle asked me if I wanted to look through a few V-nickels to fill up the two coin boards he had previously purchased for me. I said sure, so down we went into the basement.
To my astonishment there they were two 5-gallon pails full of Liberty nickels. Since they were too heavy to lift, we removed a couple coffee cans full of coins at a time, searching through them to fill the holes in those coin boards.
By the end of that first school year I had looked at every coin. I kept everything from 1883 (with cents) to 1896, along with any 1912-S’s. This accounted for only about 100 coins. I had come up with only one 1885, three 1886’s and four 1912-S’s.
Because of all of the Coca-Cola vending machine nickels coming in to the banks, they were not very anxious to receive several thousand more of my uncle’s V-nickels for deposit.
My uncle also had another five-gallon bucket that was about half full of silver dollars. I came across noting of consequence sorting through them, with the exception of a very fine 1893-S which he gave me. When I went away to college a few years later I sold that coin for $150.
As I grew older and developed a profitable house building business, and with the coin collecting still biting at me, I had opportunities to buy coins.
In the past I have owned all four Stellas, several 1794 dollars, two 1802 half-dimes, a Pan-Pacific set in the copper frame, a full set of $3 gold (AU to proof, except for the 1875), at least eight Flying Eagle cents, three 1792 half-dimes and many other rarities. Alas the coins are all gone, and the money too, but the great memories remain.
Through the past six decades I have traveled many miles and made many lasting friendships, all due to my numismatic associations.
Again, in reflection, I recall that my allowance in 1942 was a dollar a week. With that I could go out on a date; go to a movie for 15 cents each, get popcorns for 5 cents each, get pops for 5 cents each, and hamburgers for 5 cents each as well and still have 40 cents left. Boy were those the days now it would take $20 or $30 to cover a similar experience.
This Viewpoint was written by Don Jensen, a hobbyist who is from Humboldt, Iowa. Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News.
To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to email@example.com.