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Buffalo nickel makes my day

An Ohio reader has reported receiving a 1934 Buffalo nickel in change after he purchased a soda.

The found 1934 Buffalo nickel.

The found 1934 Buffalo nickel.

My mind immediately began walking down two pathways simultaneously.

My first thought was perhaps some club, dealer or collector put the coin into circulation as an attempt to interest others in coin collecting.

From time to time I report on such old coin spending activities. Almost never do reports come in following the old coins’ entry to circulation. They go off and reach someone in the population, but we never know if the finder had a “come to collecting” moment.

Here, hopefully, was one such coin coming into the hands of someone who reported it.

Many years ago, we used to jump to the conclusion that a child had raided Daddy’s collection for ice cream money, but it has been many decades since a nickel, Buffalo or otherwise, made a dent in the cost of some ice cream.

Nowadays it would take the whole Buffalo album to pay for ice cream if the coins were valued at a nickel apiece.

That is probably why the sender of the email to me asked the clerk if there were other such nickels in his cash drawer. There were none, so we can confidently cross the collection raiding child theory off the list.

My second mental pathway had to do with inflation since the Buffalo nickel was current.

Back in the 1930s a bottle of soda cost a nickel.

To get a nickel in change, the buyer would have had to have inserted a dime in the vending machine or tendered a dime to a clerk.

Tendering a quarter would have resulted in two dimes back. Tendering a half dollar to a clerk would have resulted in a quarter and two dimes back.

A bottle of soda in the Krause Publications break room machine is $1.35.

Admittedly, there are 20 ounces of soda in the bottle versus six ounces or 12 ounces in nickel bottles depending on whether you were a Coke fan or a Pepsi drinker.

Perhaps some firm should issue a soda bond where the owner’s principal is adjusted to the price of soda.

If I figure the price per ounce in the nickel 12-ounce Pepsi I get .42 cents. In the Krause bottle it is 6.75 cents an ounce, or 16 times more.

Interesting how closely this mirrors inflation since the 1930s, isn’t it?

Since Coke cost more in the 1930s, the multiple is just eight times. Not as much inflation protection there.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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