UNCLE BILL FINDS THE 26-S
Uncle Bill, Aunt Barb, and the Kids were staying at our house for the day or so. In a day or two, we’d all be piling into the cars and heading down to a Jersey Shore beach house in Lavalette. As far as I was concerned, life couldn’t get any better. Aunt Alice and Aunt Colette came along too and, so did Grandma. It was going to be a little slice of Heaven on earth. A couple of weeks of pizzas, swimming, coffee cake for breakfast, the boardwalk, and fishing loomed before me like a giant sheet of Sunday funnies.
With vacation coming, I wanted to do a bit of work on my coin collection. I had just come from the bank downtown with a few rolls of pennies and nickels. Every few days I’d hit the bank up for some rolled coins and then take the coins home to see if there were any rare coins in the lot. Like many kids, I liked looking for rare coins. I had these blue coin folders. Say, I found a 1923-S penny in the pile of coins from the bank. I’d look in the folder to see if I already had that coin in the book. If I didn’t, or if the new coin was in better shape, I’d carefully place it into the designated hole in the folder. I guess most of my friends were into coin collecting. It was a kind of poor kids treasure hunt.
So, I’m squatting at the living room coffee table sorting through my fresh pile of pennies and nickels when Uncle Bill walked by. He couldn’t help but stop in his tracks and soon, he grabbed a chair and started digging though the coins too. It turned out that he kind of liked coin collecting too. Together, we found a few new additions for my penny book. There was a 1943 gray penny that was in better shape than the one I had so, we switched it out. Uncle Bill said how it would really be great if the coin was copper. I agreed. Copper 1943 pennies don’t seem to exist. During 1943, copper was needed for the war effort and so the mint changed to using steel for the pennies. There was a rumor that maybe a handful of copper 1943’s squeeked through but who knows. I don’t know if any were ever found. It would be worth a fortune to whoever found one. I guess it was a rumor that gave all coin collectors something to dream about as we collectively sifted through millions of pennies and nickels spread out on coffee tables across the world each day.
Uncle Bill noticed my Buffalo Nickel folder and picked it up. He noticed that I had quite a few placed in the book. He was right, I did have quite a few. For some reason, my nickel rolls from the bank, yielded pay dirt more times than once. There were just a few empty slots in my folder. Uncle Bill saw that the spot for the 1926-S buffalo nickel was still vacant. He and I both knew that it was the rarest of buffalo nickels. In fact, the coin folder left the spot filled in with a coined shaped cardboard disc. On the disc were the discouraging words, “EXTREMELY RARE.” I told Uncle Bill that I figured I’d find all the rest of the nickels sooner or later but, that 26-S, man, I don’t know. We both agreed that it sure would be cool to find one.
Uncle Bill looked at his watch. I figured that he was looking to see if it was time for a beer but, I was wrong. He said it was still a couple of hours to supper time. Then he asked me if there was a coin shop anywhere nearby. He said he needed to pick up a coin folder.
We wound up driving out to Rockaway Sales out near Dover. Back then, this store was more of a flea market than a store. There was something for everyone and it was cheap too. I knew they had a coin department. In fact, I bought a coin folder or two there not that long ago. Uncle Bill was tickled to learn that they sold fishing gear too. He wanted to get a new crab trap for the shore. Soon we were pulling out of the driveway and turning in the right direction. Uncle Bill hit the gas pedal, and we burned a strip
Down Main Street.
We got to Rockaway Sales in record time and went right in. The Coin Shop was downstairs right next to the tackle department. Things were looking up. I went straight for the penny section. I needed a 1929-D penny. I saw that they had one for a quarter. It looked pretty good to me and, I whipped out a dollar that grandma gave me before I left. Uncle Bill was talking with the other clerk. I walked over and they stopped talking. I wanted to show Uncle Bill my new penny. Uncle Bill thought it looked pretty good and then he asked me to go over to the tackle department and see if there were any crab traps on sale. He said he’d be right over.
I found a few pretty good crab traps in the bay fishing section. I kind of liked the one that wouldn’t let the crab run off with the fish head you used for bait. There wasn’t much worse than losing your bait on the first drop. I’ve seen it happen where the crabs steal the fish head so fast that you wind up having to pull the bologna out of your sandwich and use it for bait. I mean it was that or row home. Uncle Bill came by liked that one too. He bought three of them. It was buy two get one free. Rockaway Sales had great bargains.
We went past the coin shop on the way out. I asked Uncle Bill to wait up while I checked the nickel section. I wanted to see if they had a 26-S. They didn’t. I went back to Uncle Bill and said how they had one about a month ago but now, it’s gone. Uncle Bill said how he guessed that rare as it was someone must have bought it. Soon, we were peeling out of the parking lot and heading home.
Back home my father and Uncle Bill were drinking a beer and tying crab lines to the crab traps. I helped a bit. When we were done, I said how I was going to go back and fool around with my coin collection. Uncle Bill said he wanted to take a closer look at that penny I bought. He went upstairs with me. My kid brother Ed and the cousins were all out shopping with Grandma and my Mom that afternoon. I knew that, so I left my coin collection on the coffee table. I figured it would still be there when I got home. I was right. It was still there. The pennies and nickels were all mixed up in a pile on the coffee table.
I pulled out my new old penny and was ready to stick it in the folder. Uncle Bill wanted to look at it first. As he was looking it over, he stopped and looked around the floor. He was looking for his beer. He couldn’t figure where it went. I helped him look. I finally said how I figured he left it downstairs near the crab traps. Uncle Bill guessed that might be right. I volunteered to go down and get it. It was the least I could do after he drove me to Rockaway Sales. Sure enough, the beer can was sitting right on top of the crab trap. I grabbed it and took a swig. Then, I turned and ran upstairs with it before it got warm.
I gave the beer back to Uncle Bill. I told him that I checked for flies in the can and didn’t find any. He laughed and took a big sip as I got back to my coins. It was time to put everything away. The little kids would be home soon. I was putting my nickels into a shoe box, when I noticed a Buffalo Nickel in the pile. My eyes were pretty well trained to notice them. Instinctively, I grabbed it and was amazed that it was from 1926. I flipped the coin over to the reverse side and there right under the buffalo was a tiny “S”. I couldn’t believe it. I had a 26-S buffalo nickel!!!! It must have been in the rolls I got from the bank. I thought I had looked over the whole bunch from the bank earlier today. How could I miss this?
My hands just shook as I handed the treasure over to Uncle Bill. He held it in his hand and just whistled. Like me, he could only just whistle. I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to pull the cardboard spacer that said, “EXTREMELY RARE” out of my nickel book. We both made sure the new arrival was positioned just right into its new home. God, but I felt so great and, it wasn’t the beer talking. No sir! Dinner was called and I ate like a pig. It was meatloaf night.
I felt so good that I offered to do the dishes. I got them done in due time whistling a happy tune. I still couldn’t believe how I almost missed that nickel. Why didn’t I see it sooner, when I first opened the roll? The garbage was getting a bit out of control and was also a bit ripe. I gathered up the kitchen trash bag and was about to tie it off. I saw a slip of paper sitting next to a beer can right on top of the garbage in the bag. It made me smile. It was a receipt from Rockaway Sales.