I have no doubt in my mind that for many of us, the urge to search through rolls of coins is the result of a relatively normal inclination to connect to our childhood memories.
Simply put, I still get excited today when I can hold obsolete money in my hand in the same way that I did when I was a kid in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Today, an old coin still has an amazing ability to transport me backward through time and space to a period when I was, for example, buying a few bananas at Abey’s on Bedford Avenue only to find a tarantula under the bunch of fruit that I had just picked up. Although I know that in reality, that spider was only about 6 inches long, it seemed like it was at least 2 feet long back then! What a memory!
Well, this week’s discoveries reminded me of a different trip to that same vegetable store when, after my grandmother filled her shopping basket full of fruits and vegetables, she handed me a pile of old 5-cent coins, aka “nickels,” to give to Abey in order to pay up.
I still remember thinking that most of the coins given to me looked pretty strange and that they were really old. Of course I now know that they were what we call Liberty Head and Indian Head 5-cent coins.
Those coins of long ago looked pretty much like the ones that I found in a roll during this month’s searching. All found together in one roll were 27 older 5-cent coins.
Although these coins were heavily worn, I was amazed by what turned up. The remaining coins in the roll of 40 pieces were the current Jefferson 5-cent coins.
I found 15 Liberty Head coins, designed by Charles E. Barber. The find included coins struck in 1898, 1899 (two), 1901, 1902 (two), 1903, 1905 (two), 1906 (two), and 1910 (four).
A small herd of “Buffalo” 5-cent coins, designed by James Earle Fraser, also stampeded out of the roll and across my table. The discovery included coins minted in 1919, 1920, 1921, 1925 and 1936.
None of the coins mentioned to this point had any Mint marks, and with the exception of the coin dated 1936, each coin bore only remnants of its date, but each coin when examined with a 10X jeweler’s loupe was still identifiable.
Also found were two dateless examples, one of which had a D Mint mark and the other an S Mint mark.
The roll had a few older Jefferson 5-cent coins as well.
Although not as exciting as my aforementioned discoveries, I include them here because they were in the same roll as the other older coins. The dates found were 1939 (two), 1940, 1954-S and 1955-D.
Bill O’Rourke is a collector who has spent the past several years searching coin rolls in pursuit of his hobby.