Buffalo Nickels in Your Change
It was about 1967 that I received two buffalo nickels in change at Clark's neighborhood grocery store. Two buffalo nickels. Around that same time, a friend of mine received an Indian head penny in change.
I remember how we routinely used to get old coins in change, back in those days when coins were worth something and we used to get our groceries at neighborhood grocery stores. Standing Liberty quarters. Ben Franklin half dollars. Walking Liberty half dollars. Mercury dimes. All these and more were not uncommon.
As a kid I had a penny collection. I didn't have every Lincoln penny issued, I was missing some of the rarer ones, but I had most of them, going all the way back to 1909, and including a 1909 VDB penny. And I built up my penny collection entirely by watching the pennies that turned up in my change.
I don't know just when older coins began disappearing from circulation. The abandonment of silver coinage and the rising price of silver certainly had something to do with it, though I remember silver coins didn't disappear from circulation overnight. I also thought coin collectors had something to do with it, as witness the gradual vanishing of wheat pennies from circulation.
I have a wooden box which has stood on top of my dresser ever since I picked that box up at a garage sale in the summer of 1982. For many years my pocket change tended to gravitate toward that box, where it sat forever until several years ago I finally went through and sorted it out. I found in this pocket change— dating back to 1982, mind you— several silver Roosevelt dimes, several dozen wheat pennies, and a number of steel pennies. I also found three buffalo nickels, no idea where that third one came from. All of which would indicate that, as recently as 25 years ago, there were still occasional silver coins in circulation, plus various other older coins including older pennies.
I won't say you'll never see a wheat penny in change nowadays, but I can't remember the last time I received one. It's been years. Today's coins just aren't the same, to say nothing of how they aren't worth a plumb nickel anymore. Assorted state quarters, most of them lackluster and obviously designed by committee. The occasional "fantasy nickel," with an odd three-quarter profile of Tom Jeff, or a