By George W. Powell, Jr.
Like a lot of us older collectors like myself at the age of 75, I got started looking for, at and collecting coins back in the early days of the 1950s from change and going through rolls of coins.
When I was a kid, I would walk about six miles round-trip to my local bank on Saturday with the money I had made doing odd jobs. Sometimes I would have as much as $10 or more to get rolls of coins. I would start with cents then turn them in for nickels, then dimes, then quarters and by that time the bank was closing so I would take the quarters I had left home and go through and take them back the next Saturday. I would turn them in for half dollars and then, believe it or not, silver dollars. I wish I could still get rolls of silver dollars like I did back then. Boy, I filled most of the holes in my Whitman folder in those days.
I would find Indian and early Lincoln cents, Buffalo nickels, Barber and Mercury dimes, Standing Liberty quarters, Walking Liberty and Franklin half dollars, and Morgan and Peace silver dollars. I have also found half cents and large cents, 2-cent pieces, silver and nickel 3-cent coins, a few half dimes, Liberty Head (V) and Shield nickels and sometimes a few Seated Liberty dimes and Capped Bust halves and Seated Liberty half dollars. The good old days.
Back in the 1950s through the early 2000s, you could go to a bank and get as many rolls of coins you wanted, but now most of the time I hear, “Sorry we don’t have any for you to get today,” or “You may only have one or two rolls, that’s all we can give you at this time,” so I would take them to look at.
In 1964, I joined the U.S. Navy on my 17th birthday and served two years in Vietnam. I started collecting again after coming home and getting married. But in the first years of marriage, I did not have a lot of money to get coins with, and as I got older and smarter I learned how to save better and set a little aside for coins.
As for who or what has had the largest influence on my collecting, two people come to mind. First is Leroy Van Allen, who helped me learn what and how to look for new VAMs and, with that help, I have discovered 62 new VAMs and revived 18 other VAMs for a total of 80. (The word “VAM” is used for the errors on Morgan and Peace silver dollars.) With the help of John A. Wexler, I started finding real doubled dies, and I have discovered 194 doubled die quarters so far.
I learned to look at all three sides of a coin and what to look for, and boy have I seen a lot: die cracks, die breaks, die chips, mechanical doubling and real doubling that has been already listed. And this is all part of learning about coins.
I have looked at thousands and thousands of coins and found a few rare coins that would grade from poor to MS-64. I still enjoy opening the rolls because you just don’t know what you may find. After a lot of folks come back home from their trips overseas, you get a lot of junk tokens and foreign coins that they put in rolls to get rid of them. I just put it back in the rolls; someone else might collect it.
In the spring of 2021, I found a 1927-D Standing Liberty quarter in VF-20, and a few days ago I was able to get nine rolls of quarters from my local bank. In the second roll, after the first six quarters, was a Jefferson nickel and behind it were two silver quarters, the first was a 1958-D in EF-40, and the second was a 1935-P in F-12. When I opened the last roll, in the middle of it was a 2018-S clad proof Georgia quarter that looked like it had just come out of the Mint holder.
Over the years, as I could afford, I would get Dansco albums to replace the Whitman albums just because I like them. You can see both sides of the coins, they hold up well and they also look great.
Now at my age I really enjoy this hobby a lot more because I can see the unique beauty of the artwork on most of the coin designs. I think the early years are better than a lot of the designs on coins today. One of the worst coin designs I have seen in a long time is the one that the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee recommended for the 2023 quarter for Jovita Idar. It makes her look like she’s covered in tattoos from her chin down and the rest of the obverse is blank. I don’t think we will be able to read any of it because it’s going to be so small on the quarter and all the words are so close together. Wow.
I like the early coin designs in my type set, and I have them in grades of EF-45 to MS-64. It has taken me many years to complete this set, all but the gold coins. I have never had that kind of money to get them.
George W. Powell, Jr. is a collector from Greenville, N.C.
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