I just returned from a two- week vacation visiting relatives in California and Idaho. My relatives know I collect coins so they save all their change for me to go through when I visit every four years or so.
My interest is Lincoln cents. In California at my uncle’s place I went through a large jar of mixed coins and weeded out the pennies. There were a total of over 600 cents. I found two wheaties, 12 mint state, 132 pre-1982 and 14 2009-D log Cabins (Wow, 2009s!).
In Idaho at my sister-in-law’s, I went through a piggy bank (Yes, a real piggy bank.) and found over 700 pennies. I found four wheaties, nine mint state, 87 pre-1982 and one 2009-D log cabin (Another wow!).
While having dinner one night with some friends, my brother-in-law was joking about me going through the piggy bank. A friend of his mentioned that he had a 5-gallon water bottle over half full of coins, mostly pennies, that he has been saving for over 25 years and if I wanted I could go through it and have what I wanted, of course replacing what I take. My eyes lit up and I said, “Let me have them.
The next day I went over to his house and picked up the bottle. I think it weighed over 125 pounds. With my adrenalin pumping I got it into the car and brought it back to my in-laws.
We set up a card table and my wife and sister-in-law dumped the contents on the floor, scooping up handfuls onto the table. They sorted out the pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and Canadian coins. Then they attacked the pennies. They flipped the coins face up so I could check the dates with a magnifying glass. This was repeated many times during the next five hours.
I estimated there were over 11,000 coins in the bottle with 10,000 being pennies. I found the following: 36 Canadian, 159 wheaties, 252 mint state and 2,607 pre-1982. It was a nice haul, especially the wheaties, with some as far back as the teens with mostly in the 1940s and 1950s.
That was the easy part. Now the hard part. How was I going to get all those pennies back to Pennsylvania? I rolled them (30 rolls) and put them in a wooden cigar box and the rest in a zippered leather case. I placed them in the bottom of my carry-on bag (the kind that goes over your shoulder) along with other items, you know iPod, camera, headphones and some commemorative coins I bought at a local shop in Boise (They had a sale with 20 percent off. I got some real bargains there). I gave the leather case to my wife to carry to lessen the burden on me. It weighed over 50 pounds. I figured I could handle it.
Well, we got to the Boise airport and you guessed it. The TSA agents wanted to see what was in the bag. An agent went to pick up the bag; I told her it was heavy. She struggled but made it to the checking table. I told her I was a coin collector and there were lots of coins in the bag. Of course she had to open the cigar box that was on the bottom. She chuckled and said, “Have a nice day.” I carried that bag to the waiting area and didn’t move until I had too.
Changing planes in Denver, of course the arrival gate was at the opposite end of the terminal than the departure gate for the next flight. I used the moving sidewalk and rested the bag on the handrail, got to the gate and didn’t move. Arriving in Philadelphia, of course the gate was at the end of the terminal and I had to carry that bag to baggage claim. I thought my shoulder would give in.
We got our luggage and went outside where my son was waiting. He opened his trunk; I set the bag on the ground on purpose to have him pick it up. He grabbed it and it didn’t move like he thought it should. He said, “What the heck is in there?” I said, “Coins.” He rolled his eyes. Finally, I got them home and now the real fun begins.
I’d do it all over again just for the thrill of finding something interesting. Isn’t that what coin collectors do?
Bill Fagan is a collector from Warminster, Pa.
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