Saturday, August 15, 2015
My 1914 Penny
Took it to an appraiser in midtown, who took one look at it with a magnifying glass, said it was a 1917 penny, and mumbled something about its worth.
"It's what?" I said.
"A penny, a penny," he said real fast, not wanting to waste one second on it. "It's a penny and it's worth a penny."
Here's the original post:
This morning I was pulling some change out of my pocket, to dump into a little coin jar we have in the house. I'd just come back from grocery shopping. As my hand was going toward the jar, I just happened to notice that the penny on top - back side facing up - had wheat leaves on it. That automatically means it's an older coin. They stopped the wheat leaves design in 1956.
It first, I couldn't even make out the year, so faded were the numerals. I had to actually take a picture of the coin, and magnify the picture. As you can see, it's seems to be "1914."
I did a quick Google search, and found a pretty good piece about 1914 pennies. The bottom line is I don't think my penny is worth all that much more than a penny.
There were three series that year, from mints in Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. The Denver pennies have a D under the year, and are the rarest. They have the most value. The San Francisco pennies have an S under the year, and are also valuable. The Philly pennies don't have a marking, and are the least valuable.
It's possible that my penny has an extremely worn D or S on it, but I can't see it at all. Which would make it a Philly penny, and worth about 60 cents. I also found a coin appraiser just a few blocks from my office, so I'll bring it over there just out of interest.
Still, it is absolutely wild to me that this penny is 101 years old, and that it's been in circulation all that time and is still in circulation.
1914 is a hugely important year. World War I started. Ford introduced the assembly line. The first feature-length movie made in Hollywood was produced (they were still silents, incidentally). Babe Ruth made his debut as a professional. Robert Goddard received his first patent for a liquid-fueled rocket. (I fell across this wild site, too, which reproduces the calendar from any given year. It's pretty fascinating. July 4, 1776, came on a Thursday.)
Think of that world. Radio, television didn't exist. Everybody got their news from newspapers. The 40-hour workweek hadn't been instituted yet (Henry Ford would introduce it, after he introduced that assembly line). The tallest building in the world was the Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan. How many people had cars? How many people had ever flown, or even seen an airplane? How many homes had electricity? Running water? I don't know, but I do know that the world in 1914 looked very different from the world today.
This penny's been through so much change. If it was minted in Philadelphia, and came to me today, in New Jersey, has it been in the area for that whole time? Has it traveled? How far did it go? It's kind of incredible to think that it's been in New Jersey for a century, moving from person to person, place to place. Who held it the longest? The shortest? How many people have had it in their possession? I'll almost certainly never know; it's not like tracking bitcoin, after all.
In any case, now I have it, and I'll hold onto it (unless it turns out to be rare and valuable). I have a small collection of old coins, ones that've come to me just like this one. It will become my oldest by 26 years, easily besting the 1940 penny that was my previous eldest.
Or maybe that's a 1, and not a 4 at all. I'll have to see what the coin appraiser thinks.