As we were exploring the drawers and cupboards of Cheri’s mom’s place, trying to figure out what needs to go where, we came across two Ziploc bags and a pill bottle full of pennies. We are guessing they actually belonged to Cheri’s dad, but had been sitting in the drawer for years. Since I have been a coin collector for more than 55 years, I brought them home, to sort through and see the history. One bag had pennies normally called the “Lincoln Memorial” pennies, which were first minted in 1959. The pill bottle was actually full of Canadian pennies, which up here in the northland often get slipped into change as payment by the folks from Manitoba who come down to North Dakota to shop.
The other bag, however, was full of what are typically called “wheat pennies.” They were the first design on the reverse of the Lincoln penny, starting in 1909. They are actually becoming a bit rare nowadays, since the last one was minted in the first part of 1959, making the “newest” ones 62 years old. Of course, we don’t know the story of the pennies, but going through them, there were of course a number of them from the 50s, and also a good number from the 40s – minus, of course, 1943, when the pennies were produced from steel and not copper, since the copper was needed for munitions in World War II. In the pile, I also found one from 1937 and one from 1936, which really did have some good age on them.
Then, in the midst of the pile on the dining room table, I pulled out one, used the magnifying glass, and was kind of shocked. It was a 1919 wheat cent, in pretty good shape.
Now, I have lots of older coins in my collection. I even have some of the large copper Australian pennies, from when we lived there, that date back to 1912, with King George V stamped on to it. However, I let my imagination run a bit, as I realized I was holding a random penny that was 102 years old. More than old, it was/is a near relic of a long ago time. Three years ago, it was estimated that only 100 people in the world were born in 1919. Today, that number is only a fraction.
So – what happened in 1919 as this little penny was being produced?
Romania reincorporated Transylvania.
A large molasses tank burst in Boston filling the streets with hot molasses, killing 21 people.
Prohibition was passed.
Oregon instituted a one penny tax on gasoline, become the first to levy a gas tax. A horse, Sir Barton, became the first to win the Triple Crown.
Woodrow Wilson had a massive stroke which left him speechless and paralyzed. Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees.
100 years later, the entire American society was shut down, due to the coronavirus.
And that poor little penny is still hanging around, sitting quietly in a Ziploc bag with all its younger neighbors. It was already 40 years old when the Lincoln memorial penny was first minted. It didn’t get lost down some sewer or left on a sidewalk, or flattened by a train, or just dropped in the woods somewhere. It survived, even if it is only worth a penny. Well, actually, it’s worth around 43 cents, but I’m not selling it.
In our world, unfortunately, we have become very used to throwing things away without a second thought. Some folks, if they drop a penny on the parking lot, won’t bother even to bend down and pick it up. After all, it’s only worth one cent. Not me, however. I always pick it up, and repeat the famous words:
Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have … a penny.
How we live in this world in an intentional way, seeing things of value and things that deserve at least consideration, makes all the difference in the world, even if it isn’t noticed for 102 years. Open your eyes today, and appreciate what is around you, or in that Ziploc bag…
Word for the day: proceleusmatic. Pronounced – with its five syllables – pros-uh-loose-MAT-ick. It comes from our friends, the Greeks, and their equally long word, prokeleusmatikos, which simply means, “rouse to action.” When someone is acting in a proceleusmatic manner, they are animated, and inspiring – like many a motivational speaker, or some fellow talking about his first true love…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.