“A Penny Saved…”

1931spenny

Another collection I amassed as a kid was pennies. I had a blue holder with a slot for each year’s pennies in it. I learned to distinguish the pennies minted in San Francisco(s), Denver(d) and Philadelphia(no mark.) I learned that during the War copper shortages led to pennies being made from steel. The folder gave the number of pennies minted each year in each mint so I could tell each coin’s relative scarcity.

In those very pre-internet days, the public library had a book of coin values that my brother and I consulted to see what our pennies were worth. During one of these searches at the library, I learned that the 1931s penny was worth $22.50 in 1957. Needless to say, I began my search for a 1931s penny.

My parents let us rummage through their change as long as we only kept pennies we hadn’t yet collected. Of course, most were duplicates, so the coins usually went back. And then I struck gold–a 1931s penny in 1958. I thought a long time about whether to sell it or keep it hoping it would be worth more in the future. At last I decided that I knew that $22.50 was a fortune for me and that I would sell my penny to Gerson’s coin store, which I did.

I knew exactly what I would buy. The Montgomery Ward catalog had a home darkroom kit for $20.00. I bought it, set up a little darkroom in the bathroom and developed snapshots from my Brownie camera. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed $22.50 more in the years since. My 11 year old was right to sell “when the selling was good.”

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