Friday, July 29, 2005

Memories in metal.

Over the last few days, I've been steadily working on my coin collection- pulling coins out of my change jar and adding them into the books, each in their neat blue cardboard collar, shining like stars.

Yet, then, I got to thinking. Wandering through the collection, what have some of these seen? That one, in back, that 1833 half, what has it seen? Besides a major financial crisis or three, nine American wars and about twenty-five Presidents, what else has it seen? Where has it been? What has it gone through? Whose hands played over its surface, wearing Liberty in all the high spots? How did it get here? Won in a poker game, paid out as cash to a Civil War soldier, dropped as payment on a house, given to a little kid as a present? What has it seen?

Using one of my lucky pieces, a 1911 penny, what has it seen? I know in my pocket it has seen every OA Degree and Scout rank, nine states and Canada, and was passed from grandfather to grandson. But how did it end up on the sidewalk at Monroe and Erie in 1987? Who left it there? What wonders and horrors has it seen?

The new ones, the last twenty years or so, those have no memories yet, aside from blue books and cool safes. They sleep soundly and peaceably, never to feel the pain of being dropped, or the searing heat of being used as a fuse.

Riding in my front pocket is a 1944 Walker half. Think about it- 1944, FDR was President, the Germans were a mortal enemy, and the Russians were allies. Spitfires and P-51Ds roared over Europe, and most things we now know (including what I'm using to write this) hadn't been invented yet. UT was still run by the City of Toledo, one of the medical schools I'm applying to didn't yet exist, and gas was still 19 cents a gallon.

So, take a look. Pull out the oldest piece you have, and see if you can pick up where it has been. You may be surprised what a coin can tell.


Blogger Bainwen Gilrana said...

An interesting bit of musing.

It kind of points out the limits in any sort of archaeological studies. There is only so much we can tell from the artifacts left behind. The stories, the individual stories of individual lives, are lost to time. The things left behind keep their silence, bearing only mute witness to those stories they have seen.

7/30/2005 10:07 AM  

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