Tag Archives: coin collecting

Lame Adventure 420: Springtime Spewing

Three months ago I looked down my block and it looked like this.

Cold and snowy February.

Cold and snowy February night.

On Sunday it looked liked that.

Warm and sunny May.

Warm and sunny May afternoon.

When the weather is warm, sunny and the humidity is low, it’s the perfect time to go outside and take a hike in the hood, which is exactly what I did.

Stop raising plows!

Stop raising snow plows!

Toss that snow shovel away!

Toss that snow shovel away!

Sit the flowers on the sill.

Sit the flowers on the sill.

Upper West Side water towers looking good against a clear blue sky.

Ogle a water tower or two.

Last week, on a lovely spring day, my friend, Coco, noticed this magnificent tree that is growing on the West Side Highway at Canal Street.

Coco's magnificent tree.

Coco’s magnificent tree.

This prompted yet another in our ongoing series of philosophical text exchanges.

Exchange of deep thoughts.

Exchange of deep thoughts.

For those of you who read this site for its vast educational component, Coco accessed her inner dendrologist and has since learned that it is a Redbud tree.

I’ll admit it: I have some quirks. I fantasized about eating cigars as a small-fry thinking that tobacco tasted like chocolate. I started reading the obits at age ten. Whenever I see a ticket stub on the sidewalk I try to see what event it is for — but I don’t flip the stub over.



I also pay fairly close attention to my small change.

Recently, when I was purchasing carrots, kale and bananas in my market’s organic department, I needed a penny to complete the transaction. As I was digging through my coin purse, I noticed that I had a wheat penny. No way was I going to part with that special cent, even though the clerk insisted I do so.

Me: No, I can’t spend that one. It’s from 1920.

I pulled the year 1920 out of thin air. I had no idea of that penny’s vintage. The clerk gave me a look that screamed:

Clerk’s look: Nerd!

It takes more than a hairy eyeball to intimidate me. If she wielded a bat, knife, or surface to air missile, then I would have handed her the entire contents of my wallet and a kidney. But, the transaction reached a peaceful conclusion. It so happened that my wheat penny was not from 1920. It was from 1918. Woodrow Wilson was president. The most popular film that year was Tarzan of the Apes starring Elmo Lincoln. (Who?) The second most popular film was the infinitely more intriguing sounding I Don’t Want to Be a Man directed by Ernst Lubitsch about a crossdressing teenage girl who thinks she can have more fun being a guy.

My 1918 penny.

My 1918 penny.

How often does one have a 96-year-old penny in one’s change? Apparently I have one in the 288,104,000 that were minted in 1918. Hold the smelling salts.

I realize that this one one-hundredth of a dollar is showing its 96 years and would never be mistaken with being US mint factory fresh. But it’s been out on the front lines of the world for nearly a century, except maybe when it sat neglected in Hubert’s sock drawer for three years starting in 1936 and then it was stuck in Ida and Ralph’s couch cushions for a decade that began in 1954. Those periods of isolationism aside, it’s been kicked around proving that it’s a coin that can withstand the test of time, it’s a sliver of copper with character. How admirable. Can we say that about the nickels, dimes and pennies in our usual change?

Therefore, it was disheartening to learn that its value is only somewhere between four and forty-five cents today. How can that be? If only this heavily battered and bruised cent, tattooed with nine decades and six years of wear and tear could enter a time machine that reveals all the pockets, change purses, sidewalks, fountains, cash registers, piggy banks and occasional loafer (leather and human) it’s been in. Its many encounters with the rich, the famous, the notorious, the historical, the obscure, and now me, the hysterically insignificant, then it could come full circle and reap the respect this common but rather rare vintage of coin still floating around Manhattan island in 2014 deserves. Then, it could skyrocket in value, merit being displayed under glass and finance my retirement … or possibly just some organic carrots, kale and bananas. I’ll settle for free groceries.

1918-ish looking street lamp and flag displaying a Bill Cunningham photography exhibit at the New York Historical Society.

1918-ish looking street lamp with banner for a Bill Cunningham photography exhibit at the New York Historical Society.

Lame Adventure 345: Stiffed Again

Three days after I needed a tenth quarter to do my wash at my local Chinese laundromat, the 23 MacArthur Fellows for 2012 were announced.

Above at the Ansonia, below lies my laundromat.

Those selected in the arts included a flutist and arts entrepreneur in Brooklyn, a writer and professor at MIT, a mandolinist and composer in New York City, as well as a novelist and journalist in Washington. Recipients with singular talent also made the cut including my personal favorite a stringed instrument bow maker in Boston.  He must have appreciated the irony in receiving what the New York Times called “a no-strings-attached $100,000 a year for five years”.

I could not help but notice that many of the artistic recipients reside in the East, but once again no web writer, such as a blogger and numismatist on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, made the grade.  One would imagine that “blogger and numismatist” has enough of an esoteric ring to fit in with that elite crowd.

The MacArthur Foundation awards, also referred to as genius grants, cannot be applied for.  According to Wikipedia, “People are nominated anonymously by a body of nominators who submit recommendations to a small selection committee of about a dozen people, also anonymous.”  Therefore, nobody involved knows anyone, but then every year — poof — a select cluster receives half a million clams paid out in quarterly installments over five years.  Nice award if you can win it.  The chosen could afford air conditioning and an iPhone.  In fact they would not need to tear their hovel apart in search of that one elusive quarter.  They could afford to have their laundry done.   Unfortunately, once again, bloggers, the Rodney Dangerfields of the written word, were given no respect.

Three days earlier I had nine quarters when I needed ten to do my wash.  I looked through the quarters in my coin tray, but alas, every one of those eight dollars in quarters were either from the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful series or the 2009 District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program.

Coin tray full of rare coinage.

There are six coins in that program but thus far, I have only collected five.  It infuriates me that I’m still missing American Samoa, not that I have a clue where to find that territory on a map.  I have four Puerto Rico’s and three D.C.’s, but not a single American Samoa.  I also have five Grand Canyons and five Yosemite’s; rather popular tourist destinations with shoppers in my neighborhood unlike Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve quarter.  I think I will sooner see dead people than that one.  Even though I have duplicates of several coins in the America the Beautiful series, I refuse to subject any of my rare change the indignity of being ingested by the quarter quaffing machines at my laundromat. Although it is likely that when my niece, Sweetpea, inherits this fine collection, she’ll forget its distinction and will feed each and every one into a parking meter.

When I arrive at the laundromat, lacking a common Washington quarter circa 1998, I give the clerk two dollars and in exchange she gives me eight quarters.  One happens to be a Chaco Culture National Historical Park quarter, a quarter I did not know I lacked for a place in New Mexico I never knew existed.  When I regain feeling in my mind I celebrate and toss that quarter in my coin tray.

If a time arrives when the MacArthur selection committee either collectively slips up or lowers the bar to floor level and lifts the ban on awarding their fellowship to web writers, possibly a blogger, maybe one that wears a second chapeau as a numismatist with a now $8.25 quarter collection, will be considered to share the wealth. Or maybe that blogger and numismatist will sooner gain the ability to see stiffs.

I see balloon people.