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GROOVIE MOVIES

Beautiful OFS and ZAR patterns, but no toning?

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GROOVIE MOVIES

Good day

 

I see beautiful copper patterns, ZAR and OFS pennies being listed on BOB. They look exquisite, bright red, as if struck from brand new copper planchards just yesterday.

My question is how is it possible to preserve a copper coin for over a century that it retains 100% of its lustre as from the day it was struck? Is this even possible with copper?

With silver it's a given, if you come across a 100 year old bright lustrous coin without a spot of toning, it must have been dipped in the past. However I'm not aware if coppers can be dipped without damage.

I know with patterns, as with proofs, the chance of the coin retaining its mint state condition is great as these coins are generally stored in a mint case, in a safe for decades. But I have seen old union proofs in their mint boxes, in which they have undoubtedly been stored for the last 70 to 80 years and I have yet to see a set totally free of toning, especially on the coppers. 

Any thoughts?

 

regards Robert

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jwither

The coins might look different if inspected in person.  I see 19th century copper or bronze occasionally with an appearance of original orange red but most of the older supposedly "red" coins in NGC and PCGS coins are actually somewhat toned.  I don't consider these coins "red" regardless that the holder states otherwise.

There are occasional topics on this subject on the PCGS Message Boards.  According to the comments I have read, these collectors seem to assume that most "older" actually red copper and bronze coins have been "doctored".

As to how it can happen, presumably through storage in stable and dry environmental conditions.  The proof sets you mentioned are susceptible to toning from the chemical agents in the storage cases, either the velvet or the tissue paper.

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GROOVIE MOVIES
43 minutes ago, jwither said:

 

As to how it can happen, presumably through storage in stable and dry environmental conditions.  The proof sets you mentioned are susceptible to toning from the chemical agents in the storage cases, either the velvet or the tissue paper.

Funny it seems to take a few decades to determine what's good or not when it comes to storage, by which time the effects are already there to stay. Take all the uncirculated SA mint packs from the 70's for example, plagued by PVC damage these days. A whole generation of coinage spoiled, unless they were immediately removed from the original packs.

But I too find it hard to accept that a copper coin can be so perfectly stored that it retains it's true surface for 100 years, especially considering the methods of storage back then. I have a picture in my mind of a coin being wrapped in a cotton cloth and stuck in a safe back in the early 1900s. I can't think of any airtight method that could be used back then aside from storing the coin in a flask of some sort of liquid or oil... Even modern day airtight capsules have their drawbacks, as is seen with silver coins with toning on the rim that have been in airtights for 20 years or so. 

But as you say it's hard to tell if a coin truly has flawless lustre just from the photos.

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Pierre_Henri

For some reason, some coins do indeed keep their original lustre even if they are way over a centuary old.

They could be described as "Brilliant(ly) Uncirculated

I have even seen coins from the late 1700s with original lustre.

These coins were housed and stored in the perfect conditions, but what these conditions were, I do not know.

Here is a picture of a Victorian copper Penny that, in my view, shows no signs of unnatural enhancements to its lustre or condition.

As pretty as they come!
 

Penny1892_zpslo1homjx.jpg

  

 

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GROOVIE MOVIES

"Sherlock Holmes. How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" Time travel Pierre, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

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Mike Klee

To my mind, it would seem that these pattern coins might have been conserved, possibly even cleaned. I have a substantial collection of South African pattern coins from sources all around the globe - none of which look even remotely as "fresh" as these.

However, if you take a look at the obverse of the 1890 ZAR penny, the banners projecting from the oval shield are distinctly different in colour from the rest of the coin. How can this be? The metal is the same throughout and aging would thus result in the metal being uniformly discoloured. But.....the banners are lighter in colour, so oxidation of the metal over time has either been different for the same surface of the coin - which is surely chemically impossible - or the coin has been conserved.

I would hazard an opinion that this coin has been conserved.

Which then leads to another interesting point: where does conservation of a pattern coin/any coin end and cleaning begin?

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jwither
3 hours ago, Pierre_Henri said:

For some reason, some coins do indeed keep their original lustre even if they are way over a centuary old.

They could be described as "Brilliant(ly) Uncirculated

I have even seen coins from the late 1700s with original lustre.

These coins were housed and stored in the perfect conditions, but what these conditions were, I do not know.

Here is a picture of a Victorian copper Penny that, in my view, shows no signs of unnatural enhancements to its lustre or condition.

As pretty as they come!
 

Penny1892_zpslo1homjx.jpg

  

 

I have never heard that a coin will lose it's original luster when stored "properly".   It will almost certainly tarnish (tone) but the toning process itself doesn't remove the luster.  I own a 1790 Austrian Netherlands which I bought ungraded in 2005 or 2006 which is toned but has no evidence of cleaning which meets this description.

As for the coin above, it is an example of one that I don't consider red but likely either is in a RD holder now or eligible for it.

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GROOVIE MOVIES
20 minutes ago, Mike Klee said:

Which then leads to another interesting point: where does conservation of a pattern coin/any coin end and cleaning begin?

I've seen a video on youtube where somebody from a numistmatic organization actually goes through the process of how to conserve a copper using a touch of mineral oil to cover the survice. His comments being that nearly all copper have been preserved this way or no red old coppers would exist. Though it doesn't look as if there is a layer of oil on the surface, though as previously mentioned, one can't really tell without inspecting the coin.

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jwither
3 hours ago, GROOVIE MOVIES said:

I've seen a video on youtube where somebody from a numistmatic organization actually goes through the process of how to conserve a copper using a touch of mineral oil to cover the survice. His comments being that nearly all copper have been preserved this way or no red old coppers would exist. Though it doesn't look as if there is a layer of oil on the surface, though as previously mentioned, one can't really tell without inspecting the coin.

 

3 hours ago, Mike Klee said:

To my mind, it would seem that these pattern coins might have been conserved, possibly even cleaned. I have a substantial collection of South African pattern coins from sources all around the globe - none of which look even remotely as "fresh" as these.

However, if you take a look at the obverse of the 1890 ZAR penny, the banners projecting from the oval shield are distinctly different in colour from the rest of the coin. How can this be? The metal is the same throughout and aging would thus result in the metal being uniformly discoloured. But.....the banners are lighter in colour, so oxidation of the metal over time has either been different for the same surface of the coin - which is surely chemically impossible - or the coin has been conserved.

I would hazard an opinion that this coin has been conserved.

Which then leads to another interesting point: where does conservation of a pattern coin/any coin end and cleaning begin?

"Cleaning" versus "conservation" is purely semantics.  A "cleaned" coin may be "market acceptable" or not and where not, only eligible for the dreaded "details" or "genuine" label on a TPG holder.

Conversely, a "conserved" coin absent other issues is "market acceptable" because the TPG says so, even when collectors in other countries (outside the US) where the coin originated don't give a hoot about US standards of "market acceptability" and there is really nothing wrong with a "cleaned" coin either. 

This really makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

Of course it does...

To the financial buyer who is primarily interested in money and not real collecting or to "collectors" who exaggerate the significance of trivial differences in quality in an attempt to inflate the price level as much as possible.

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GROOVIE MOVIES

I think preserved coins get away with grading because it's not invasive, so the actual coin surface isn't stripped. On the other hand, cleaning strips the surface of the coin, and is much more apparent. Graders won't turn a blind eye to this as it will encourage more cleaning and more times than not, the cleaning results in a botched up job by a fellow that doesn't know what he's doing.

It's the same with dipping PVC damaged coins in acetone. Done correctly it may remove the pvc residue, but done incorrectly it may corrode the coin surface.

It would be unfair for two coins, one unaltered surface, the other cleaned with surface fine lines, to get the same grade. The whole grading system is there to instil confidence in the buyer, in what they buying is exactly what is stated on the grade of the holder.

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jwither
3 hours ago, GROOVIE MOVIES said:

I think preserved coins get away with grading because it's not invasive, so the actual coin surface isn't stripped. On the other hand, cleaning strips the surface of the coin, and is much more apparent. Graders won't turn a blind eye to this as it will encourage more cleaning and more times than not, the cleaning results in a botched up job by a fellow that doesn't know what he's doing.

It's the same with dipping PVC damaged coins in acetone. Done correctly it may remove the pvc residue, but done incorrectly it may corrode the coin surface.

It would be unfair for two coins, one unaltered surface, the other cleaned with surface fine lines, to get the same grade. The whole grading system is there to instil confidence in the buyer, in what they buying is exactly what is stated on the grade of the holder.

I already know what you are talking about.

The point I am making is that the differences between two proximate TPG grades are completely trivial and so are many (not all) of the quality differences between a "details" coin and many  numerically graded ones.  Many US collectors and an even higher proportion in South Africa (if this forum is any indication) just won't admit it because they care a lot more about the money than actual collecting.  Of course, I have never seen anyone on this forum, NGC or PCGS admit it but it doesn't make it any less true.  This should be obvious from the ridiculous price spreads which are evident in the price structure.

If you don't believe me, go look at historical prices in your price catalogs before TPG became prevalent in your country or ask someone.  I already know the answer, even though I assume South African collectors preferred "original" coins to cleaned ones, as there are hardly any "original" ones left, including those in TPG holders now which from those I have seen are at most a minority.  I mean, it isn't as if most collectors in your country have or had an option to buy "original" coins in any number when the coins don't even exist. 

The price spreads were much narrower in the past which proves its only the financialization of the "hobby" which has created the current preference in effect from TPG grading, not real collecting.

There is no actual distinction between "conservation" and "cleaning".  A "conserved" coin is one which looks better if done "properly" (another subjective opinion) but it's still a type of cleaning.  Conservation is just considered "market acceptable", even when the coin is dipped and part of the metal is stripped from the surface and yes, NGC (and presumably PCGS) do this and I know it firsthand from my own submissions.  They just did it without leaving hairlines.

The point I am making on the hairlines is that obviously, a coin looks better with fewer or without any but the number of hairlines or how it impacts the appearance of the coin is a matter of subjective personal preference.  In the past, it's evident from the price structure when prices were much lower that most collectors didn't really care that much. 

Given the comments I read here, on NGC and PCGS, if more of these "details" coins were in numerical holders, the coins would sell for (somewhat) more.  Not because the coin is any better, but only because the TPG says it is "market acceptable".  With non-US coins, local country collectors don't even use US standards of market acceptability, though obviously they still prefer better to inferior coins.  However, not all numerically graded coins are "better" than "details" coins.  This is certainly evident with the pillar coinage (1732-1772) I collect where NGC straight grades numerous dipped out white coins while a much lower number of actually better looking toned coins are in "details" holders or "net graded".

With pillar coinage and similar "old" coins, I have come to the conclusion that the NGC Ancients labeling for strike and surfaces is a much better system than the Sheldon scale.  For pillars, NGC seems to be worse but both fudge and arbitrarily include coins that should actually be "details" under my understanding of their grading criteria but they put them in numerical holders anyway.  Given the few actually nice or even decent coins, I'd even call a "Royal" with a hole "market acceptable" if the coin otherwise is decent and doesn't have any other noticeable problems because practically all (as in probably over 90%) of these coins are holed.  

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Mike Klee

I see the latest coin - an (1890) Griquatown penny PF 61 RB - also appears to be conserved, with brilliant highlighting to Queen Victoria's hair and equally brilliant highlighting of the body and feathers of the dove of peace on the reverse side of the coin. 

Unlike the other 2 patterns which are unslabbed  and ungraded from the same seller, this GQT penny is actually slabbed and graded. If all three pattern coins arrived at NGC - either having already been "conserved" in South Africa or sent for conservation at NGC -  why would only the one be slabbed and graded? To me, it would appear that all three coins were subjected to the same conservation/cleaning procedure, so why is only one slabbed with a grade? One would think that all three would be slabbed and graded or all three would be slabbed with the epiphet "cleaned".

I am sure that there is an interesting story behind these 3 coins....

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GROOVIE MOVIES

I think it might also be the way the light plays off the high points on the device they could make it seem discoloured from the rest of the coin. Though what I find more curious is what those obvious hairlines are all around the bird as if steel wool where taken to the coin? Are they scuff marks on the plastic holder or hairlines on the actual coin. If they are surface highlines, it's interesting that NGC didn't give a details grade. 

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GROOVIE MOVIES
51 minutes ago, jwither said:

 

There is no actual distinction between "conservation" and "cleaning".  A "conserved" coin is one which looks better if done "properly" (another subjective opinion) but it's still a type of cleaning.  Conservation is just considered "market acceptable", even when the coin is dipped and part of the metal is stripped from the surface and yes, NGC (and presumably PCGS) do this and I know it firsthand from my own submissions.  They just did it without leaving hairlines.

I think I myself am starting to get confused with all this terminology so I just want to clarify the differences.

Preservation: As per the online videos I have watched is a process where by a copper coin is coated with a layer of mineral oil to keep air coming into contact with the surface. This slows the original red surface from toning, but doesn't prevent toning.

Conservation: From what I've read is a chemical that the coin is dipped in, whereby stripping toning from the coin reveal a brilliant white surface. With each dip, a micro layer is removed, until to the point where it leads to hairlines. This is common with silver, but I've not read or heard of it being done with copper? This is done for aesthetic reasons, to make a toned coin, bright and silvery. It should be noted that PVC cleaning with acetone falls into this category, but is a necessity as not dipping a pvc coin into acetone would result in corrosion.

Cleaning: Any type of invasive removal of the coin surface that alters the surface of the coin. 

So by these definitions I agree that conservation and cleaning is one and the same thing as both result in a layer being removed from the coin surface. Though conservation is acceptable to the market place today, it remains to be seen if this will be the case 20- 30 years from now. With each generation, what is considered acceptable changes. I once read at a stage in 70's it was common place to wizz coins, which is frowned upon today.

Just for interest sake I would like to provide a youtube link on the process on preservation. I wonder what opinions are on this process today, as from what is mention was a common practice from many years. Personally I don't think it's invasive, provided you don't scrub down the coin like a pair of dirty jeans. Not sure if it's allowed, so I will put it in the next post.

 

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GROOVIE MOVIES

Bill Eckberg, president of EAC (Early American Coppers) gives a tutorial on proper preservation:

 

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Mike Klee

I do not think that your version of "conservation" is quite correct. To see what NCS regards as conservation, go to https://www.ngccoin.com/ncs-conservation/

It would appear that "conservation" is  apparently the correct  process of cleaning coins, whereas "cleaning" would appear to cover incorrect procedures used to clean coins and which cause physical or chemical damage to these coins, eg the dreaded "hairlines".

Both involve cleaning by some method....

 

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Cold Sea
Posted (edited)

I've soaked a very grimy triple struck circulated copper 1c coin in olive oil before, hoping to bring out more detail. I completely forgot about it and found it a couple of months later in the cupboard where I had left it. The surface of the coin was actually eaten away by the olive oil, ruining the coin so much that you could not see the multiple strikes anymore. So olive oil might be an option to clean your pocket change, but keep an eye on it.

Edited by Cold Sea

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jwither
4 hours ago, GROOVIE MOVIES said:

I think I myself am starting to get confused with all this terminology so I just want to clarify the differences.

Preservation: As per the online videos I have watched is a process where by a copper coin is coated with a layer of mineral oil to keep air coming into contact with the surface. This slows the original red surface from toning, but doesn't prevent toning.

Conservation: From what I've read is a chemical that the coin is dipped in, whereby stripping toning from the coin reveal a brilliant white surface. With each dip, a micro layer is removed, until to the point where it leads to hairlines. This is common with silver, but I've not read or heard of it being done with copper? This is done for aesthetic reasons, to make a toned coin, bright and silvery. It should be noted that PVC cleaning with acetone falls into this category, but is a necessity as not dipping a pvc coin into acetone would result in corrosion.

Cleaning: Any type of invasive removal of the coin surface that alters the surface of the coin. 

So by these definitions I agree that conservation and cleaning is one and the same thing as both result in a layer being removed from the coin surface. Though conservation is acceptable to the market place today, it remains to be seen if this will be the case 20- 30 years from now. With each generation, what is considered acceptable changes. I once read at a stage in 70's it was common place to wizz coins, which is frowned upon today.

Just for interest sake I would like to provide a youtube link on the process on preservation. I wonder what opinions are on this process today, as from what is mention was a common practice from many years. Personally I don't think it's invasive, provided you don't scrub down the coin like a pair of dirty jeans. Not sure if it's allowed, so I will put it in the next post.

 

I can't watch your video now but I infer that your description of preservation includes lacquering, a common or at least not infrequent process on copper and bronze coins in the past.

Personally, I don't see a need to make that much of a distinction between cleaning and conservation.  In the US, opinions among experienced US collectors differs.  On the extreme end, those who strongly prefer "originality" will consider any form of human interference with the coin's surfaces to be a form of cleaning.  For the non-collecting public and less experienced collectors, I presume (as before) that no toning is considered better.

Me?  I only care if I like the coin and whether it is "attractive" or not.  Like everyone else, I obviously have to consider current market preferences of acceptability in the price but otherwise don't care at all.

It isn't part of this topic but the same concept applies to "artificial" toning.  I don't pay exorbitant (and absurd) premiums for "monster" toned coins but don't see any reason why this matters either.  The coin is either attractive or it isn't.  Of course, to those who think otherwise, what they consider or know to be "artificial" toning automatically is unattractive but mostly or entirely because of their bias which substantially originates from whether NGC or PCGS will "straight" grade it, as in assign a numerical grade.

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jwither
5 hours ago, GROOVIE MOVIES said:

So by these definitions I agree that conservation and cleaning is one and the same thing as both result in a layer being removed from the coin surface. Though conservation is acceptable to the market place today, it remains to be seen if this will be the case 20- 30 years from now. With each generation, what is considered acceptable changes. I once read at a stage in 70's it was common place to wizz coins, which is frowned upon today.

Agree

It's evident from the number and proportion of untoned coins that most of the better and currently more expensive coins have been cleaned, dipped or conserved in the past.  When I started collecting in 1975, the primary dealer I bought from miraculously only or at least predominantly had untoned coins.  In retrospect, he probably cleaned many of them himself.  Conversely, another dealer I occasionally visited (but never bought from because I couldn't afford his coins) had more toned coins, maybe most though I cannot remember.

I don't believe the current preference for "originality" is going to change in my lifetime, at least in the US.  According to Greg Reynolds who used to write for Coin Week, the most advanced collections have long included a preference for "original" coins, even as most collectors preferred untoned or "washed out" ones.  An example is the Eric P. Newman collection which was sold a few years ago by Heritage.  This collector who died last year at the age of 101 collected starting around 1928 and most of his coins attempted to show some evidence of originality.

On the NGC Forum and PCGS Message Boards, long time collectors overwhelmingly show a preference for "originality" or at least attractive toning, though this depends upon what the coin is "supposed" to look like.  It is the same preference I have.  I also see this on Coin Talk somewhat though I don't visit it as often.  Considering how slow US collector preferences have changed (which I can explain later if necessary), I doubt this preference among those who are buying the better and more expensive coins is going to change anytime soon.

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Pierre_Henri
On 4/12/2018 at 9:03 PM, jwither said:

 It will almost certainly tarnish (tone) but the toning process itself doesn't remove the luster

I don't understand your comment - I thought that toning does indeed remove the lustre in natural circumstances like aging.

If you are saying that toning "hides" the lustre but does not remove it, I am still not in agreement - if it does not show, it is not there? Or is it?

Maybe I do not follow your line of reasoning.

Regards

Pierre

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dcdoberman

I believe I understand what jwither is saying is that mint luster can not be removed without contact to the coin surface.

I have worked a lot of silver,  as my daughter is a jeweller,  and I often make jewellery as a hobby in her workshop. 

I think laymen don't understand what mint luster is or maybe I'm wrong , but to those here that don't I'll give a quick explanation.

To work silver or gold it is firstly annealed , this is the process of heating the material to just under melting point and then rapidly cooling it by placing it in pickle. When you remove this silver from the solution it is completely covered in luster and soft and workable .As you work the silver it starts to loose this luster and in the final polishing it is completely removed.

This is why a proof coin does not have much or any luster as the blanks a pre polished i.e. luster removed. VF coins have very little luster as it has been polished by handling etcetera.

If you are thinking of  re- lustering a coin (you sneaky coin doctors) this won't work as you will have to much luster as the process of striking the coin removes a lot of this luster. 

So what I'm trying to say is if a coin is ms and has a heavy toning which is removed by a non invasive method like a ultrasonic cleaner it will maintain its luster as it has not been worked i.e. rubbed ,  wiped or polished or whatever other invasive methods used.

Regards

 

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jwither
9 hours ago, Pierre_Henri said:

I don't understand your comment - I thought that toning does indeed remove the lustre in natural circumstances like aging.

If you are saying that toning "hides" the lustre but does not remove it, I am still not in agreement - if it does not show, it is not there? Or is it?

Maybe I do not follow your line of reasoning.

Regards

Pierre

I'm not the best person to ask about chemistry and chemical reactions which cause toning.  All I can tell you is that I have seen both in person (with coins I own) and from images many many coins which are both toned and have luster.  The ones from images might and probably do look different in person but forum members on NGC and PCGS concur with this general statement.

There are different types and stages of tarnish or toning.  Some tarnish is harmful to the coin while others are not, initially.  Coin book Coin Chemistry describes the different stages of toning as the color changes starting with no toning to black.  A black coin will have no luster while lighter shades can or will.

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Pierre_Henri

I am a bit off-topic here. 

But for those interested: – In the year 2000, Lukas van der Merwe and I joined a group of 20 Americans for a metal detecting trip to Norfolk in England. (Ten years later in 2010 we went again)  

During our first trip, I netted a few ancient Roman coins, but for some reason, Lukas could not find any Romans. His oldest coin found was a 1799 Half Penny that made him very proud – because in South Africa we seldom metal detect coins that old. 

I was thinking of that old 1799 Half Penny that Lukas dug up 18 years ago, and the topic of this thread:-– Just look at the luster on this example with the same date – it is truly astonishing that a coin that old can practically keep all its original luster after so many years. 

How beautiful is this?

1799Penny_zpsyiuy3r85.jpg

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GROOVIE MOVIES

Hi Pierre

Was this half penny dug up out of the ground, in merry old England with all that rain, but how can this be? It's a beautiful specimen for a 200 year old plus coin and you'd be pressed to find it in such condition from a safe, let alone an english field. My thought is perhaps the coin was recently lost? 

regards Robert

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GROOVIE MOVIES

I once picked up a first decimal half cent in my yard that had just been laying on the ground. I was puzzled how it could just appear from out of nowhere since I most certainly would have come across it sooner had it been in the ground since 1963/4? This was after all the yard I played in as a kid, digging up holes and how many times has the grass been mowed and cleaned over the years?

I had a collection of union pennies and first decimals handed down from my great gran, that had been stolen when our house was burgled years back. I suspect this half cent came from my collection and had been dropped by the boef as he made away with my possessions. Perhaps the dog ran up some dirt and exposed it again after the years since the break-in, or perhaps I buried it as a 9year old, hoping it would grow into a money tree and cannot recall? Who knows these things!

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