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Two halves make whole experience

When was the last time you received a half dollar in the course of an ordinary business transaction?

Can’t remember?

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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4 Responses to Two halves make whole experience

  1. Bob says:

    Very cool…and that 83-D is pretty rare to find in my experience…though not really valuable. 82 P&D are pretty rate, same with 83-D, but I’ve seen lots of 83-P’s, not sure why…though I am on the east coast, so perhaps that is part of the reason.

    I routinely carry $3 in halves in my pocket…it is fun to spend them, you get all sorts of looks and comments. Also is a way to get rid of them after searching rolls from the bank. Who knows, it might pique someone’s interest and get them into coin collecting as well.

  2. gomeljohn9 says:

    The last time I used some half dollars was … lunch. True. I gave four of them to the gal at Chick FilA. I use them all the time.

    The reason I have them is that I get them from the banks when they have them. And amazingly enough, numerous times the ones I get are from 1968 or 1967. Sometimes even 1964. So I keep them. And then I spend the rest. People get excited when I give them out, and think they are valuable. I don’t mind. It is actually pretty cool to see their faces. I’ve also had people tell me they don’t accept those coins. Wendy’s, Circle K, even a different CFA. Just didn’t think it was legal tender. And then there’s the times the manager or someone else comes over and buys them out of the register because they want to keep them. They are so exciting to that person to see. It’s good to give them out. And when I don’t have any, I order a box or two from the bank, and the next week I have $1,000 worth of halves to start using again. (Minus the two or three silver ones I keep out, of course …)

  3. Bob says:

    I too have gotten lucky on a number of occasions with both 40% and 90% silver, though usually 40%. Certainly way more likely to find it there than in dimes or quarters.

    I’ve not yet had anyone say they won’t take them. The most common thing is wanting to think they are $1 coins. Occasionally someone gets really excited. One guy put them in the register and then actually used one as change for the guy behind me…wish more of them did that!

    The funniest was when I used one at a chain pizza place…the cashier got all excited and explained that in their daily closing of the register routine, there is apparently a way that they log how much of each denomination of cash and coin they have…and they always wanted to know why they even asked about half dollars, as they never got any! They did that day. 🙂

  4. Vachon says:

    I do that as a cashier. I buy around $200 in halves every month from my bank (it’s my bank for precisely that reason: they provide the service I want so they get my money). I search through them for any 90%/40% silver ones, impaired proofs, and post-2001 dates. The really beat-up ones I bring to another bank to be counted and as for the rest, I bring them into work to give out in change. I don’t ask if they want them: I just give. I get the same rejection rate that I do for other denominations (like someone asking for two $5s instead of the $10 given) so I don’t assume they are unwanted.

    I don’t know where they go after I give them out as I’ve never been paid back with any, but I’ve given out easily over $14,000 worth over the past 13 years. If any coin collector is a cashier or teller, they should be doing their part to resurrect the denomination.

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