July 18th, 2011

krazy koati

Don't you know each cloud contains pennies from heaven

It doesn't necessarily take much to make a dad happy. Just turning off every light that's in the house so you have to stumble around in pitch blackness is often enough. I know it is around here, and that's even in the middle of the afternoon. Our house is some kind of black hole, as evidenced by all attempts to take photographs in a living room that's somehow a big open space with seven windows each about three-by-six feet opening into it.

Anyway, this time I made him surprisingly happy thanks to going out to lunch a couple minutes early. At the deli the guy ordering in front of me was talking about how he got a bundle of the strange old-style pennies in change from the bank (I was't clear if he was a teller or just got them from the bank doing one of those old-school things where you get change from a bank), and how they have this strange clinking sound because they weren't made of copper (or zinc) like regular pennies were. They were from the war years, you see, and these were steel, and he showed how they sound.

And that's what got my attention because as far as I know only one year of United States penny production was made with steel, and that was 1943. My father's birth year. My father's mentioned wanting a penny from his birth year but they're pulled out of circulation by collectors even faster than ordinary wheat pennies are. So I asked the guy if he'd be willing to sell me one of the pennies. He was willing to give one to me, but I felt, well, that can't be right. I didn't know what an ordinary steel penny was worth, though, and offered a quarter for it; he was satisfied with that. (My guess wasn't bad; about.com asserts that circulated steel pennies are worth 12 to 15 cents, and mint condition ones 50 cents, so 25 may be a little high but in the right range. I'm glad to not have cheated the guy.)

My father was bowled over, the next morning, when I gave it as a ``happy belated Father's Day'' gift. He overestimated the difficulty in affording a steel penny, but I like the serendipity that put me exactly in place to get one.

Now I can turn to getting the magazine covers from the week of his birth, which --- of course --- were pretty near all rare collector's items.

Trivia: In July 1790 Matthew Boulton took out a patent for applying steam power ``in place of men's labour'' to the making of coins. Source: The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made The Future, Jenny Uglow.

Currently Reading: Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology, Editor Bruce Sterling.