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Friday, January 1, 2016

Stuff in one's pockets

Do you look closely at coins and paper currency that you handle daily? I do, when I have the time. During 2015 I found the following:
  • A five-dollar Federal Reserve Note, series 1950C. Actually these notes were printed in 1961 and 1962; how the Federal Reserve assigns a "series" designation can be cryptic. But this is still ancient for a note in circulation. It probably sat in someone's desk drawer for a very long time.
  • Nickels from 1941, 1952, and 1954.
  • A penny from 1952.
  • And the most unusual: a steel penny from 1943 in good condition (what a numismatist would grade AU50).
The steel penny is worth 50 cents, a 50:1 ratio over face value — that's high in the coin market. The 1941 nickel is worth 30 cents. The other nickels, somewhat less. And unfortunately the $5 note is worth only $5. If it were crisp and clean, or if it were a star note or had an unusual serial number, it might have been worth a lot.

By the way, some nickels in 1942 and all nickels in 1942-45 are worth several dollars at a minimum. Nickel metal was in short supply during the war years because it was (and still is) required for the highest-strength steels such as armor plate. The U.S. government had lots of silver on its hands, so it made five-cent coins with 35% silver during the war years. Like all circulating coinage with silver content, most of them have been cherry-picked by collectors over the last 50 years. But some are still out there.

I think I'll recirculate all of them. The $5 note is certain to be marked for shredding the next time it's deposited in a bank, but the coins could keep circulating for years to come. Perhaps someone else will notice them.