I got two wheat cents in change today, each from a separate transaction.
You don’t see many of them anymore. They haven’t made them since 1958, and every year that goes by more and more of them get pulled out of circulation by people like me. Eventually they will all be sitting in collections somewhere.
I’ve actually been on kind of a run with wheat cents of late. I think I’ve averaged about one a week since March, which is pretty rich for this sort of thing. Sometimes you go months without seeing one, and I’m the sort of person who actually checks. I found two in New Orleans – one just sitting on the sidewalk as I walked by, in fact. And since then they’ve just appeared in my change on a semiregular basis.
They’re not really worth a whole lot, I suppose. Not most of them. The two I found today might combine to be worth four bits to a serious collector. They’re in good shape – surprisingly so, for bits of metal that old – but neither rare nor in high demand.
I like them, though.
My dad taught me to collect coins, back when I was a kid. He had a raft of old wheat cents in a blue plastic tray in his dresser – many of them steel, which they minted for one year during WWII when copper got scarce – and a bunch of other stuff next to the tray, carefully tossed into an old Crown Royal bag. He and his buddies had a “couple of guys and a truck” business in high school where they would move people from one house to another, and those houses were old. His position was that anything he found in the floorboards was his. Lots of old copper, some silver. No gold. People kept track of their gold.
He taught me which coins to look for and save, and which ones to let go by. And gradually we built up the collection. You could still find silver coins in circulation then – I remember being handed three silver quarters in change at a street fair next to my old elementary school, maybe ten years after the government switched to the copper/nickel coins we have today, for example. Copper ones nobody paid attention to, so those were even easier to find.
One summer we tried to organize it all, and we got a fair bit of it into paper sleeves or plastic tubes before petering out on the project. Tabitha and I keep talking about trying to finish that project, and perhaps this summer we will.
There aren’t many people around these days to share the triumphant news of wheat cents anymore.
But I know, and that matters too.