When was the last time you received a half dollar in the course of an ordinary business transaction?
You think it was a long time ago?
That was the boat I was in until Saturday when I was a volunteer selling bratwursts and hamburgers to the public to help raise money for the care of Lake Iola.
I was put in charge of the cash box, which was a change for me.
At the car show I grill the hamburgers and chicken breasts.
At the brat fries I usually fill the buns before they are handed over to the customers.
Variety in my tasks doesn’t hurt, especially when I can view the cash coming in.
It was a pretty ordinary experience.
Prices are rounded to the nearest 25 cents, so I was pretty well confined to quarters as the only denomination received in coin form. In fact I did not receive a single cent, nickel or dime.
For paper money, we used $1s, $5s,, $10s and $20s.
One guy asked us if we could change a $100, but with the site of the brat fry in a grocery store parking lot, we sent him into the store.
There were no old series of paper money to catch my eye.
However, if a customer ordered two brats or two hamburgers without a drink, the price was $4.50.
About halfway through the five hours we were working, one individual gave me four $1 bills and then fished a half dollar out of a pocket or wallet. I did not see from where.
Of course, as soon as I was free to do so, I looked at the date. It was a 1983-D. It was not uncirculated or even AU. I guess it was actually used during the three decades it has been around.
I was so surprised that I mentioned it to a co-worker who is also old enough to remember when half dollars were not curiosities.
A little while later, another fellow did the same thing. He paid for two sandwiches and gave me exact change for the $4.50, including a half dollar.
This one was a 1971-D. It also had seen better days.
When I received it I exclaimed something like, “Look, Mary, another half dollar.”
The fellow who tendered it in payment didn’t say a word so I am left to speculate as to motive.
Did the two customers make it a habit of spreading half dollars around?
Had they somehow received them in some other transactions and they each knew they would have had no better chance to spend them than at the brat fry?
Were their purchases just one of life’s strange coincidences?
I will never know, but I can at least write that on May 7, 2016, I was a party to two genuine transactions where half dollars were used. I was probably a paperboy in the 1960s the last time that happened.
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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