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Mass Inflation Ahead -- Save Your Nickels!
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By James Wesley, Rawles -- Editor of www.SurvivalBlog.com

Updated, January 18, 2012

I've often mused about how fun it would be to have a time machine and travel back to the early 1960s, and go on a pre-inflation shopping spree. In that era, most used cars were less than $800, and a new-in-the box Colt .45 Automatic sold for $60. In particular, it would be great to go back and get a huge pile of rolls of then-circulating US silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars at face value. (With silver presently around $30 per ounce, the US 90% silver (1964 and earlier) coinage is selling wholesale at 22 times face value--that is $22,000 for a $1,000 face value bag.)

The disappearance of 90% silver coins from circulation in the US in the mid-1960s beautifully illustrated Gresham's Law: "Bad Money Drives Out Good." People quickly realized that the debased copper sandwich coins were bogus, so anyone with half a brain saved every pre-'65 (90% silver) coin that they could find. (This resulted in a coin shortage from 1965 to 1967, while the mint frantically played catch up, producing millions of cupronickel "clad" coins. This production was so hurried that they even skipped putting mint marks on coins from 1965 to 1967.)



Alas, there are no time machines. But what if I were to tell you that there is a similar, albeit smaller-scale opportunity? Consider the lowly US five cent piece--the "nickel."

Unlike US dimes and quarters, which stopped being made of 90% silver after 1964, the composition of a nickel has essentially been unchanged since the end of World War II. It is still a 5 gram coin that is an alloy of 75% copper and 25% nickel. (An aside: Some 1942 to 1945 five cent coins were made with 35% silver, because nickel was badly-needed for wartime industrial use. Those "War Nickels" have long since been culled from circulation, by collectors.)

According to www.Coinflation.com, the 1946-2011 Nickel (with a 5 cent face value) had a base metal value of $0.0733 in February, 2011. That was 146.7% of its face value. Because of the global recession and the fact that both nickel and copper are primarily industrial metals, the melt value of a nickel declined to just $0.0516 in October, 2011. I predict that as inflation resumes--most likely beginning in 2012--the base metal value of nickels will rise substantially, regardless of the weakness in the industrial economy.

The Root of the Problem

It is inevitable that any country that issues a continually-inflated fiat paper currency will run into the problem of their coinage eventually having its base metal value exceed its face value. When this happens, it is one of those embarrassing "emperor's new clothes" moments. Unless a government takes the drastic step of lopping off a zero or two from their currency, this coinage problem is inevitable. In essence, we were robbed by our own government when silver coins were replaced with copper sandwich coins in the 1960s. I predict that essentially the same thing will soon to happen with nickels.

Helicopter Ben Bernanke will inflate his way out of the current liquidity crisis. through artificial lowering of interest rates, massive injections of liquidity, and monetization of the Federal debt. That can only spell one thing: inflation, and plenty of it. Mass inflation will mean much higher commodities prices (at least from the perspective of the US currency.)

Starting in 2009, I began warning my readers that a nickel debasement was coming. But since then, I've pleasantly surprised to see that the government moved at a snail's pace, in implementing the change. In February, 2010 it was announced that the Obama administration had endorsed a change in the metal composition of pennies and nickels. And then, in November 2010, President Obama signed "The Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010". Then, in late 2011 came news of the introduction of H.R. 3694 (the Saving Taxpayer Expenditures by Employing Less Imported Nickel ACT -- aka the "STEEL Nickel Act". It now appears likely that the STEEL Nickel Act the will be signed into law in 2012 and the U.S. mint will begin producing debased steel nickels in 2013.

In January, 2012 this was reported: Mint begins trial strikes in composition tests. The good news is that the trials strikes are part of a two year study. (The contract runs through June 30, 2013.) So we may have some extra time to stockpile nickels before the debasement. Once this change is implemented, you will then have to manually sort the "old" from the "new" debased nickels! But for now, there is still an open window of opportunity, during which time SurvivalBlog readers can salt away countless rolls, bags, and boxes of nickels. I am grateful for the delay in the niclel debasement, but this window of opportunity is likely to close in 2013. Act accordingly.

Within just a few years, the base metal value of a nickel is likely to exceed two times ("2X") its face value. (10 cents each.) The nickel will then begin to disappear from circulation. (Gresham's Law is unavoidable.) Unlike the mid-1960s experience, the missing nickels will not cause a crisis, since pennies will suffice for making small change, and most vending machines now use dimes as their smallest purchase increment. Meanwhile, most bridge tolls and toll roads have inflated so that tolls are in 10 or 25 cent increments. The demise of the nickel will hardly cause a ripple in the news.

Unless the Treasury decides to drop the issuance of nickels entirely, the US Mint will within the next three years be forced to introduce a "new" nickel with a debased composition. It will possibly be stainless steel, zinc (flashed with silver) or possibly even aluminum.

Why Not Pennies?

You may ask, why not accumulate 95% copper (pre-1982 mint date) pennies? They already seen a spike in their base metal value to 2.2 cents each. But unfortunately, pennies have two problems: confusion and bulk. They are confusing, because 95% copper pennies are now circulating side-by-side with 97.5%zinc pennies. They are also about four times as bulky (per dollar of face value) as nickels.

With nickels you won't have to spend time sorting out pre-1982 varieties. At present, visually date sorting pennies simply isn't worth your time. Although Ryedale Coin makes an automated density-measuring penny sorting machine, it is still very time consuming, and unless you have a lot of pennies to sort, it would take a long time for the machine to pay for itself. As background: The pre-1982 pennies recently had a base metal value of about $0.0295 each.) Starting in mid-1982, the mint switched to 97.5% zinc pennies that are just flashed with copper. Those presently have a base metal value of only about $0.0067 each.

Pennies are absurdly bulky and heavy to store. Nickels are also quite bulky, but are at least more manageable than pennies for a small investor's storage. (Storing pennies would take a tremendous amount of space and constitute a huge weight per dollar invested.)

The biggest advantage of nickels over pennies is that there is no date/composition confusion. At least for now, a nickel is a nickel. Even the newly-minted "large portrait" nickels have the same 75/25 cupronickel composition. But that is likely to change within just a couple of years. The US Mint cannot go on minting nickels at a loss much longer. My advice: start filling military surplus ammo cans with $2 (40 coin) rolls of nickels.

The standard U.S. military surplus .30 caliber size can is the perfect size for rolls of nickels. They will hold $188 of rolled nickels per can. Any larger containers would be difficult to move easily. (Avoid back strain!) Cardboard boxes are fragile, and lack a carry handle. But ammo cans are very sturdy, have an integral handle, and they are relatively cheap and plentiful. They are available at military surplus stores and gun shows. The current difference between a nickel's base metal value and its face value is fairly small, but trust me, it will grow! Someday, when nickels are worth 4X to 8X their face value, your children will thank you for it. Consider it an investment in your children's future.

In December of 2006, the US congress passed a law making it illegal to bulk export or melt down pennies and nickels. But once the old composition pennies and nickels have been driven out of circulation, that is likely to change. In fact, a bill now before congress would remove pre-1982 pennies from the melting ban. In any case, once the base metal value exceeds face value by about 3X, an investor's market will develop, regardless of whether or not melting is re-legalized. Count on it.

What if Uncle Sam Decides to Drop a Zero?

As previously noted in SurvivalBlog, inflation of the US dollar has been chronic, cumulative, and insidious. So much so that turns of phrase from old movies like "penny candy" and "its your nickel" (to describe the cost of a call on a pay phone) now seem quaint and outdated. When inflation goes on long enough, the number of digits required to express a price grows too large. (As has been seen with the Italian lira, the Zimbabwean dollar, and countless other currencies. One whitewash solution to chronic inflation that several other nations have chosen is dropping one, two, or even three zeros from their currency, in an overnight revaluation, with a mandatory paper currency exchange. The history of the past century has shown that when doing so, most governments re-issue only new paper currency, but leave the old coinage in circulation, at the same face value. This is because the sheer logistics of a coinage swap would be daunting. Typically, this leaves the holders of coinage as the unexpected beneficiaries of a 10X, 100X.or even 1,000X gain of the purchasing power of their coins. Governments just assume that most citizens just have a couple of pocketfuls of coins at any given time. So if a currency swap were to happen while you are sitting on a big pile of nickels, then you would make a handsome profit. To "cash in", you could merely spend your saved nickels in the new currency regime.

How To Build Your Pile of Nickels

How can you amass a big pile-o-nickels? Obviously just saving the few that you normally receive as pocket change is insufficient. Here are some possibilities:

1.) If you live in a state with nickel slot machine gambling (such as Nevada or New Jersey), or near an Indian tribal casino with nickel slots, go to a casino frequently and buy $50 in nickels at a time. Do your best to look like a gambler when doing so, by carrying a plastic change bucket with a few nickels in the bottom.

2.) Obtain nickels in rolls from your friendly local bank teller. Most "retail" banks are already accustomed to handing over rolls of coins to private depositors because of collector demand for statehood commemorative quarters and the new presidential dollar coins. Ask for $20 or $30 of nickels in rolls each time that you visit to do your normal banking deposits or withdrawals. It is best to ask for new "wrapped" (fresh Federal Reserve Bank issue) rolls. This way, you might have the chance of getting rolls with valuable minting errors--such as "double die" strikes. These are usually noticed and publicized a few months after the fact, and can be quite valuable. You will also be assured that you are getting full 40 coin rolls. (Getting shorted with 38 or 39 coin rolls is possible with hand-rolled coins.) If the tellers ask why you want so many, you can honestly tell them: "I'm working on a collection for my children." (You need not tell them how large a collection it is!)

3.) If you live in or near an urban area and you operate a business, you can effectively "buy" rolled coinage at face value from your commercial bank. (They generally will not do any business with anyone unless they have an account.) It might be worth your while to on paper start a side business with "Vending Service" in its name, and have business cards and stationary printed up in that name. Have that "DBA" business entity name added to your commercial bank account. At a high-volume commercial bank you could conceivably buy hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of nickels on the pretense of stocking change for a vending business. Depending on your relationship with the bank, they may waive any fees if you ask for a few rolls of coins. Be advised, however, that if you ask for any significant quantity at one time, they will probably charge you a premium. (Down in the small print of your account contract, there is probably wording something like this: "Coin Issued - Per Roll: .03 Currency Issued - Per $ 100: .08" Before you cry "foul", be aware that the Federal Reserve actually charges your bank a small premium when they obtain wrapped rolls of coins. (Most folks have held to the convenient fiction that a paper dollar was the same as a dollar in change. Obviously, it isn't.) In effect, your commercial banker will just be passing along this cost to you. Unless they charge you a heavy fee, then don't worry about it. Ten years from now, when a $2 roll of nickel is worth $16, you'll be laughing about how you obtained $4,000 face value in nickels at just a small fraction over their face value.

4.) If you know someone that has a machine vending business, offer to buy all of their excess nickels once every month or two, by offering a small premium.

5.) If you operate a "mom and pop" retail business with a walk-in clientele, put up a small sign next to your cash register that reads: "WANTED: Rolls of nickels for my collection. I pay $2.25 per 40 coin ($2) roll, regardless of year!" Once the nickel shortage develops (as it inevitably will), you should raise you premium gradually, to keep a steady stream of coin rolls coming in.

An Aside: Nickel Logistics

Nickels are heavy! Storing and transporting them can be a challenge.

In October, 2011, it was reported that Texas hedge fund manager Kyle Bass had invested $1 million to buy 20 million nickels. It was not reported where and how he had them stored. That is a lot of weight!

Some SurvivalBlog readers and I have done some tests:

$300 face value (150 rolls @$2 face value per roll) fits easily fit in a standard U.S. Postal Service Medium Flat Rate Box (This is the USPS "FRB1", with dimensions 11" x 8-1/2" x 5-1/2"). Full of Nickels, it weighs about 68 pounds. They can be mailed from coast to coast for less than $25. Doing so will take a bit of reinforcement. Given enough wraps of strapping tape, a corrugated box will securely transport $300 worth of Nickels. At ULINE you can get a corrugated to fit inside the corrugated Medium Flat Rate Box, to reinforce it. It is item #S-4517. It measures 10"x8"x5". These boxes presently cost 54 cents each in lots of 25.

The standard US .30 caliber ammo can works perfectly for storing rolls of Nickels at home. Each can will hold $188 of nickels in rolls. You can stack the nickel rolls vertically (on end, standing up) four to a row across the width of the ammo can. (Think of like stacking one shotgun shell on top of another.) Each of the two layers takes 11 rows of 4, plus one odd row of 3. That makes 47 rolls per layer equaling 94 rolls total. This makes for $188 of coins per can. The larger .50 caliber cans also work, but when full of coins they are too heavy to carry easily.

If you buy more than a few hundred dollars worth of nickels, do not over-stress your house. Do not store them upstairs or in an attic. Storing the boxes or ammo cans on a concrete slab floor is ideal.

Conclusion

I've already had some ridicule, with e-mails accusing me of "hoarding." So be it. Let me preemptively state that I realize that money tied up in coins will not benefit from the interest that a bank deposit would earn. But foregoing interest is not a major concern. Why? Because I think that it is a fairly safe bet that commodity price inflation will outstrip the prevailing interest rates for at least the next five years. In five years, the circulating nickel as we now know it, will be history, and it will be treated with nearly the same reverence that we now give to pre-'65 silver coinage.

We saw what happened when clad copper dimes, quarters and half dollars were introduced in 1965. We should learn from history. Something comparable will very likely soon to happen with nickels. You, as a SurvivalBlog.com reader, are now armed with that knowledge. You can and should benefit from it,before Uncle Sugar performs his next sleight of hand trick and starts passing off silver-plated steel tokens as "nickels".

- James Wesley, Rawles -- Editor of www.SurvivalBlog.com

Permission to forward, repost, or reprint this article is granted, but only in its entirely with attribution and links intact.



Copyright 2009-2012. All Rights Reserved by James Wesley, Rawles - www.SurvivalBlog.com™ Permission to reprint, repost or forward this article in full is granted, but only if it is not edited or excerpted.

About the Author:
James Wesley, Rawles is a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer and a noted author and lecturer on survival and preparedness topics. He is the author of "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse" and is the editor of SurvivalBlog.com--the very popular daily web journal for prepared individuals living in uncertain times.]]>

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http://berksrarecoin.com/index.php?entry=entry120127-132527 2012-01-27T00:00:00Z 2012-01-27T00:00:00Z

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A Scary Introduction to the Coin Hobby
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A Scary Introduction to the Coin Hobby
Chris Pilliod

It was another hot windless day on Blue Marsh Lake near our home in Pennsylvania. A tough day for fishing, real tough. Regardless, my young boys patiently waited for the big one to hit while sweat gathered inside the brow of their little caps. 20 feet away I stood silently, making yet another cast with yet another lure… and reeling it in empty yet again. As I tilted my head to clean of the effects of the afternoon I suddenly was overcome by an epiphany. Had I been younger I might have yelled, but I quietly turned to my red-faced tikes and calmly said, “Remind me to shave your Uncle Dave’s head when we get back to Ohio.”

“What are you talking about? Why??” they quickly quizzed.

“Nothing, just something that happened when we were kids.”

“Tell us, Daddy, tell us.”

“Another time,” I replied softly. As I stood on the banks fruitlessly casting away my mind recounted that wicked event from 1967, and yes, even though it had taken until now to solve, it was true… my brother was an accomplice with my Dad in my attempted premature demise. And there are no Statute of Limitations on conspiracies by brothers. No sir, no way, no how…



My brother, being older, had first choice. He took the one on the right; I got stuck with the twin bed back in the recess of the room. And there every night we’d wait for our Dad to grant us a token tiding for the evening. But I’ll never forget one night in the fall of my fifth-grade year when instead of a quick goodnight wish, he switched the bedlamp on and turned to me and asked, “Son, do you know what it means to be a Pilliod?”

“No,” I stammered. And thus began his odyssey.

“You come from a great lineage of numismatists, son.”

“What’s a numismatist?” I wondered out loud.

“A coin collector,” my Dad replied. “Your Great-Great Grandfather Xavier left his older brother and emigrated from France in 1826, bringing with him many of the great technologies of the Paris Mint. After he helped usher the Philadelphia Mint into the modern age, he settled here in Northwest Ohio to become a famous lawyer. His name would be known all the way to the state of Indiana and up into the Michigan territories. He did so much pro bono work for the farmers they etched his name on top of the County Courthouse over in Wauseon. Remind me to show you the next time we’re over there.”

“Wow”, I replied. Then my brother peeked out of his blankets, “How’d he die?” he asked.

Turning to me solemnly Dad answered, “Consumption”.

“And did you know”, he continued, “that his second son, your Great Grandfather Frederick was a great numismatist? He once wrote Charles Barber a nice letter about his designs and in return was mailed a gift of a Gem BU 1892 dime inside the designer’s personally signed stationery. He went on to assemble a stunning set of Barber Dimes, missing only the 1894 San Francisco issue. In the meantime he and A.D. Baker started the Baker Steam Engine Company here in Swanton—best steam engine money could buy. 17 patents between the two of them. Why, even Henry Ford was a guest at your grandfather’s house while he came to study something called ‘mass production’ ”.

“Whew, that’s impressive” I whispered. But my brother interrupted again, “How did he die?” Now agitated, I turned to him and said, “What’s it matter, Dave?”

“It’s OK,” my father said to me calmly. “He died from consumption.” Then he continued, “And did you know that his second son, your Uncle Harry, was a World War I hero?”

“Yeah, Dad, don’t you remember how he always squeezed into his uniform to march in the town parade on the Fourth of July? And at his funeral a couple years ago they buried him in it.”

“That’s right, son. It was at the Battle of Belleau Woods where your uncle threw himself on top of a grenade to save his buddies. Fortunately for your Uncle Harry… it was a dud. But then at the Battle of Chateau Thierry, he took a piece of shrapnel to the head and they had to put a steel plate inside his skull. For his bravery he received a Purple Heart and a Croix de Guerre. Since Harry never had children I was given his wonderful collection of European Gold coinage. And someday they will be yours and your brother’s.”

Once again my brother inquired into his cause of death.

“Dave,” I said agitated, “the steel plate rusted out.”

“No,” corrected Dad, “consumption got Uncle Harry.” And not even knowing what it was, I looked at my Dad and nervously nodded my head in agreement. “Yeah, it had to be consumption… ’cause he sure didn’t look too good in that coffin.”

“You’re right! Now get to sleep,” Dad commanded as he turned off the light, “you’ve got school tomorrow.”

And in the darkness he left behind a fifth-grader that suddenly had more life to ponder than a fifth-grader ought. “Gosh,” I thought to myself, “how can I be a lawyer if I don’t even know what ‘pro bono’ means. And ‘mass production’ of automobiles—Dad doesn’t even let me start up the family station wagon. And I sure as heck don’t want to be a war hero if it means getting a steel plate in my head. The only thing that sounds good about all this stuff is the coins.”

But as I laid there deep in rumination one thing started taking on heightened relevance… “Just what is this ‘consumption’ thing? And why does it seem to single out the second born?” I lay there squirming when suddenly a sharp anxiety attack seized me and before my brother could scream, “Just what the hell are you doing?” the lights were back on in the room and the dictionary was racing to the letter ‘C’.

“Let’s see... ‘Christianity’… ‘Commandments’... maybe later. OK, here it is,” I yelled out loud, “‘Consumption’, a noun, an arcane word used to describe any acute general malaise.’ Dave, what the heck does that mean?” And I thought I heard him say he didn’t know but all I really made out was giggling under his covers.

“I’ll figure it out myself,” I groused and off to the “A’s’ I zoomed. After I pieced everything together I came up with it. “Consumption, a noun, an old-fashioned word used to describe any sickness characterized by a withering away, with symptoms of a weakening appetite, weight loss and fatigue.”

“Whew,” I said to my brother smiling. “I don’t have that stuff— I just polished off a big bowl of Cap’n Crunch.”

But the next day at recess a ball thrown to me mysteriously slipped through my hands. When I got back to the huddle Timmy Lambert, our quarterback, quizzed me, “Chris, are you alright? You always catch those and run ‘em in for touchdowns.”

“Sure I’m okay—why?”

“ I dunno,” he hesitated while he stared at me… “It just looks like you’re suffering from acute general malaise.”

My eyes popped open and I stood up in the huddle, feeling my forehead. And then when we went back in for lunch I couldn’t finish my peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. I always finished my peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. After school let out at 3 o’clock I hopped on my Schwinn Typhoon but it felt like someone let the air out of the tires; I barely made it home. I trudged in and asked Ma when Dad would be home. “It’ll be late,” she said, “he has bowling league tonight.” I made a slow death march to my bed to wither away.

At ten o’clock a shadowy figure entered the room, “You boys still up?”

“Dad,” I said weakly as he walked over. Slowly I broke the news, “Dad, consumption’s got another Pilliod.”

“Really?” he replied putting his hand on my forehead. “Do you have the general malaise?”

“Dad, I got the worst case of mayonnaise you’ll ever see.”

“Did you ask your mother for the Family Medical Encyclopedia?”

“It’s no use, Dad. I’m a goner.”

“Hold on.” A minute later he walked back in carrying the medical tome. When he opened it to the letter ‘C’ a document fell out whose letterhead I recognized.

“Dad, this is from Doc Cosgrove—he’s my doctor.”

“Yes, and he is also the person who discovered the cure for consumption shortly after your Uncle Harry died. He wrote it all down here. Read it.”

I poured through it with the desire of a young rascal preparing to meet the Great Redeemer. “Wait, Dad,” I noted, “it says here there are three kinds of consumption. Which type is mine?”

“You have Type Three.”

I zoomed down to Type Three. “Geez,” I thought to myself, “they even named it after us… ‘Consumptionitis Pilliodis’”.

“It says here, Dad, the cure is to drink one large glass of milk between the hours of 10 and 11 p.m., quickly followed by three large chocolate chip cookies.”

“Well,” he quizzed, “what are you waitin’ on?”

I made a beeline to the kitchen and shimmied up to the table as Dad filled my prescription. As I took a sip of milk my eyes noticed a shiny reflection next to my bowl. “Wow,” I said in amazement. A nice red 1907 Indian cent lay on top of an empty blue Whitman folder.

“What about me?” my brother yelled, poking his head into the room. “No, no, no,” Dad cautioned, “this is only for the second-born.”

Then Dad turned to me and smiled, and that was the night I not only conquered death but also became a coin collector.
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http://berksrarecoin.com/index.php?entry=entry111214-224416 2011-12-15T00:00:00Z 2011-12-15T00:00:00Z

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Platinum: The “Cheapest” Precious Metal…
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Platinum: The “Cheapest” Precious Metal…

Historically, precious metals (such as Gold & Silver for example) had an important role as currency, but are now regarded mainly as investment and industrial commodities. Gold, silver, platinum, and palladium each have an ISO 4217 currency code.
With the ongoing crises in the Western World, precious metals are regaining their role as “currency”, as they cannot be printed out of thin air unlike fiat money.
The best-known precious metals are the coinage metals gold and silver. While both have industrial uses, they are better known for their uses in art, jewellery and coinage. Other precious metals include the platinum group metals: ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum, of which platinum is the most widely traded.
The demand for precious metals is driven not only by their practical use, but also by their role as investments and a store of value. Historically, precious metals have commanded much higher prices than common industrial metals.

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Susie’s Backyard
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Susie’s Backyard
Carole Bollinger
with Chris Pilliod

Even though nearly 50 years have passed she had no trouble guiding me to the exact spot where it lay buried in the grass. She struggled as she reached deep into the recesses of her memory to recall that hot summer day in 1955 when her mind was on matters of much greater importance. Indeed, Carole Bollinger was preoccupied with relishing the freedom of being a 13-year old playing in her best friend Susie’s yard. School was out and laying on a green lawn with a warm breeze in their face while chatting about the boys in the class was welcome relief from algebra and geography. So rolling over and finding an old nickel buried in a patch of ryegrass was more of a distraction on this splendid day. But she picked it up, quickly looked it over and stuck it in her pocket, noting that something was different enough about it to show her folks when she got home.

It would be twilight when she finally headed north on 3rd Street, and the warm waters of the Susquehanna River disappeared behind her. The war in Korea was over, ushering in not only peace but also fresh prosperity and optimism in her little town of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The men in town were gamefully employed and after dinner many sat outside enjoying the cool air rising up from the deep river valley. As she skipped along the sidewalk a radio station was tuned into the Pittsburgh Pirates game and the announcer was reveling in a long double struck off the wall of Forbes Field by an unknown rookie named Roberto Clemente. She kept moving, remembering that the weather the following day was supposed to be just as nice… one could hardly find a better place to be she thought.

After she cleaned up the plates Carole suddenly remembered her discovery and passed it over the dinner table for her father’s inspection, “What is this, Dad?” Her father gazed at it intently, recognizing the coin as a Buffalo nickel but noting there was something unusual about it, adding “somebody carved on it-- why would anyone destroy a nickel?” he quizzed as he handed it back. Carole pondered her dilemma… a nickel could go a long way the next day at Rey & Derrick’s Soda Fountain on Market Street or for a matinee at the Campus Theatre downtown. After a few minutes of mulling it over she decided it was interesting enough to keep so she dutifully placed it in her small jewelry box. And even though it was dull, dirty and out of place next to sparkling earrings, she wanted to keep the nickel in the condition she found, so she decided to never clean it.

And there it would reside mostly unnoticed for years. Oh, occasionally she would take it out for another look, remembering back to that hot summer day, but it would soon find its place back in the jewelry box. There it would rest through her school years at Lewisburg High and then another year at the local college Bucknell.



In 1965 she married, of all people a bank teller who was a coin collector. Thinking he would be able to shed light on her discovery she shared it with him. Hoarding Lincoln cent rolls and looking for 1950-D Jefferson nickels was the collecting rage in the 1960’s; not Hobo nickels. “I don’t know,” he said and handed it back. So back to the jewelry box it would go for many more years.

It wouldn’t be until the 1990’s when an article in Coin World grabbed her attention. It was a piece written about hoboes who rode the trains across the country during the Depression era looking for work; planting crops, menial carpentry, odds and ends and so on. During their long ride a number of them learned the craft of engraving nickels, and upon deboarding would parlay their artwork in exchange for a hot meal or a bed to sleep on. Avoiding authority figures hobos bonded into a vagabond fraternity, communicating by leaving messages to newly arriving comrades. Formations of stones along the rails ahead of a depot might signal a friendly stop if fashioned one way or hostile if another. An ominous “Keep Movin!” sign nailed to a tree at a junction warned of a town with tough cops. Signs and notes carved on telephone poles or fences might lead a hobo to a bed for the night. A simple “X” or an arrow chalked on a sidewalk indicated a hospitable resident or merchant in the locality— for the lucky one maybe even a free meal. And for the reluctant restauranteur a neatly engraved nickel could often coax a hot plate. Carole felt she had finally solved her puzzle; a lonely hobo had lost his artwork in Susie’s yard. But how did he come upon that exact location?

At first she thought he had freeloaded a ride on a canal boat since Susie’s backyard was just two blocks from the Lewisburg “Cut”. However, the last commerce the canal saw was in 1897, and her nickel was dated 1929. Then she remembered another block towards town the large Feed Mill, where a number of the town’s folk worked and where her Aunt Aggie would visit to pick up feedbags from which she fashioned Carole beautiful pinafores. The mill’s brisk business commanded a popular commercial stop for trains to fill their cars with the labors of local farmers. So how did the hobo get to Susie’s house, she wondered again.

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As the Reading Line crosses the Susquehanna River from the east it’s tracks turn abruptly to the north before passing through town. Two blocks beyond this curve and on the right-hand side of the line lays the Lewisburg Station, with a sun-faded wooden sign welcoming the engineers. On a lonely Sunday afternoon last year I stood at the apex of the curve and noticed that anyone riding the train on a box coupled more than 20 cars behind the engines would be behind the bend far enough so the woods along the tracks would block the view of any suspicious departure. Near this point St. Catherine’s Street dead-ends at the tracks with a clearing in the woods exposing its welcoming sidewalks. Standing on the dead end at the corner of St. Catherine’s and 5th Street one cannot discern the location of the downtown area. Heading east away from the station is the safest route for a hobo avoiding attention.

Three blocks to the east on St. Catherine’s stands a small summit at the corner of 2nd Street. It is here where one first encounters a broad view of the mighty Susquehanna River. If you are a lost hobo you are now faced with the certainty that the commercial district can only be to the north. But heading north on 2nd Street the Police Department and Jail with its ominous barred windows and large signs soon comes into view on the west side of the block. Just before the Jail and across the street there rests an old white two-story house, with a parallel alley visible behind it. A quick dodge to the alley would pass you below the living room window on the west side of the house… just over the spot where many years later two little girls frolicking in the grass would find a nickel that slipped unnoticed from your pocket.



Author’s Note: I met Carole Bollinger and her husband Bill at a coin show in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in April of 2003. In the middle of one of their cases was the subject Hobo nickel, and I quickly found out it was “for display only”. She informed me of its story and we chatted for some length about its history. A few weeks later I again ran into them at a show in Hershey, Pennsylvania and this time we negotiated a deal on the piece. As part of the agreement she allowed me to interview her for additional research on this article. I would like to thank Carole and her husband for their patience in preserving one common nickel’s history.
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Stronger Dollar Pummels Gold in After-Hours Trading
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NEW YORK (TheStreet ) -- Gold prices were volatile Wednesday as stocks tanked and investors waffled between cash and gold as safe havens.

Gold for December delivery closed down $7.60 at $1,791.60 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, but was sinking even lower in after-hours trading, down by $25. The gold price has traded as high as $1,801.10 and as low as $1,778.80 an ounce while the spot price was down $16, according to Kitco's gold index.

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Now Silver Wheaton pegs its dividend to metal prices
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TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Keeping with the latest fad among North American precious metals producers, Silver Wheaton announced on Wednesday it would also be linking its dividend to metal prices, though indirectly so.

The company said it would pay a dividend equal to one-fifth of operating cash flows in the previous quarter, with than number being directly affected by the silver price, as the streaming firm’s costs are essentially fixed at around $4/oz.

Silver Wheaton buys future silver production from companies at a set price, and then sells it at spot once the operations come into production.

Under the new policy, the Vancouver-based firm will pay a $0.09 a share dividend for the fourth quarter.

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Rare Coin Market Report – November 2011
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The rare coin market is constantly changing. Both the Bullion markets and traditional financial markets push and pull the rare coin market. With the downward trend in bullion markets since August and the European financial crisis, we have seen strengthening of the ‘dollar’ itself. The generic markets have been pulled down because of the soft bullion markets. $20 gold coins and generic Morgan and Peace Dollars are flat, although we have seen a little more interest in the generic $20 gold market since gold has bounced back up into the mid $1700’s.

Dealers are trying to hold as much good numismatic related material as they can while maintaining their cash flow. Let me give you an example to illustrate what is happening in the rare coin market. Hypothetically speaking, two deals ‘walk’ into a coin show. Both of these deals have a market value of $100,000 each.

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