When I was a kid in Lake Mills, Iowa, July was a prime month for coin roll searching. I would head up to the bank on my red Huffy bicycle in the morning not long after the bank opened. I always had a specific mission in mind.
I was armed with funds that I had earned on my paper route. I learned to become both methodical and persistent. In those days bank personnel were both friendly and helpful. They knew me. I had an account. I would like to say I knew them, but their names have long departed my memory.
But I am grateful to them because they did not try to stop me. There were ground rules so that I did not tie up staff time. The rules evolved. I am sure they had seen other kids who wanted to look through rolls, but I would like to think that I had the greatest numismatic fire in my belly.
I kept at it, so the practical effect I guess was I was trying to look at every coin the bank had.
I began my route in midsummer 1966, but it really wasn’t until 1967 and then the following year in 1968 that I had the funds to buy bags or rolls in reasonable numbers. A bag of 5,000 cents was $50, which was about 10 weeks of my income when I began the route. I quickly learned that cents simply represented a lot of time that would end in dashed hopes, so I moved on to other denominations.
In 1967, silver coins were still common. I knew they were disappearing, but to a kid on a summer day, it did not seem awfully urgent, so I went about filling album holes it in a leisurely sort of way.
I grabbed a copy of the July issue of Coins magazine off the newsstand at Earl’s Drug. I had hemmed and hawed and missed the June issue that I had seen earlier, but I finally ponied up the 50 cents it took to pay for a copy and I took it home.
Well, I enjoyed that so much I was anxious for the August issue to arrive. I bought it. Then I sent in my $4 for a subscription, $3 paid for the next 12 issues and $1 covered the subscription premium for one 1967 Flying Goose Canadian silver dollar. I still have the coin.
The magazine fortified my sense of purpose and by the summer of 1968 I launched my systematic attack on the bank’s coin supply. By 1968, silver quarters had pretty well disappeared and dimes became my focus because that’s where the silver was. There were war nickels also and dateless Buffalo nickels that had to be looked at because an occasional example had all or part of the date. I even tried date restorer to make it even more interesting, but what do you do with nickels with restored dates? Nothing. I still have them.
I saved all the silver coins I could by then. In 1967, I could just keep the dates I needed. By 1968 it was obvious that silver was soon to be gone for good.
By the summer of 1969 there was little left in circulation. I took summer school classes to learn how to type. It was kind of like piano lessons. My parents said I needed the skill. They were right. I can admit that now as an adult who writes for a living. Back then all I could think about was bygone days of roll searching.