A 50 year journey to Half Dimes
A Brief Introduction
Way back in 1961, I was a nine year old boy growing up in Santa Barbara, CA. Like most kids in those days we spent Saturdays playing outdoor games and basically running around wild trying not to get caught doing anything we were not suppose to be doing. Often we were running around on our neighbors’ lawn until Mrs. Sturgess waved her cane and ran us off. When we needed money, we would round up all the soda bottles we could find and take them down to Mousers Grocery Store and get two cents a bottle. My goal was always to turn in five bottles for ten cents. Back then, that would get me a candy bar and five pieces of “Penny” candy.
One day my friend Jimmy Kinsey and I went down to the store with our bottles where Mr. Mouser gave me my ten Lincoln cents. One looked oddly different. I asked Mr. Mouser, “What kind of penny is this”? Mr. Mouser told me it was a steel war penny and that is just the way they looked.
Jimmy told me his dad collected coins and was sure he could tell us about it. Off on the bikes to Jimmy’s house we rode, with my treasure in hand. Jimmy’s dad (whose name is lost to history) looked at it and explained that the war effort needed copper and so they made Lincoln cents out of steel in 1943. He then pointed out the mint mark and explained that the “S” meant it was made in San Francisco. I guess I looked very interested (I was) because he asked me if I would like to look at some cool stuff from his collection. I jumped at the chance. Jimmy and I must have spent a couple of hours there as he showed me a plethora of coins that until then, I had never seen. I was in awe, and had a million questions which he tried to answer. Finally he told me that a coin show was happening the next Saturday and invited me to come along with Jimmy and himself.
To a nine year old this coin show was amazing! Everywhere I looked were cases and cases filled with coins. At one table a dealer asked me what I collected. I told him I hadn’t started yet, but I would probably save “Pennies”. He handed me an old used Library of Coins Lincoln Cent 1909-1940 coin album and told me I could have it. Not only did he give me the folder, but it had about a dozen Lincoln Cents in it. The only stipulation was to come back next year and show him how many holes I filled. Little did Jimmy Kinsey’s father know, but he started me on a journey that has taken me down some magical roads for nearly fifty years. Wherever you are Mr. Kinsey, thank you for launching me into a fascinating world.