A Penny Saved

Coins featuring eagles.
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The sack got so heavy by the time I last saw it that it threatened to break through the veneer bottom of the lowermost secret drawer of the dresser where she stored (read: hid) the quarters. They came from my sometimes-father’s pockets every day when he came home–when he came home–and slipped silently into the hard-times security vault of the paper bag in the bottom drawer under some sweaters. And it grew and grew, until the day came when no more new quarters were ever again added to the stash.

The years came and went, and the quarters stayed–not hoarded exactly, just kept with an assumption that some day that $75 worth of coins might mean paying the rent. But then, after moving the considerable weight and volume of them from apartment to apartment one too many times, Mom decided to see if they might be worth a bit more than their face value, since many were silver and they ranged back more than a half century.

Fortunately, she has a friend who knows is coins. She decided to ask him if he’d evaluate her quarters collection, with the thought of just giving the whole lot to him for all his kindness and the handy-man help he has offered her over the years. He came, he examined, he muttered to himself, his eyes sparkled.

“Do you know what you have here? Do  you know how much this collection is worth?

She perked up, thinking maybe she had as much as doubled her money for the decades-long trouble of holding onto her stash in the bottom drawer of the dresser, so long after my brother and I needed quarters for lunch money. And the story has a happy ending.

“What you have here is almost five thousand dollars worth of coins!”

She was dumbfounded. And both she and her friend came out much the richer when she cashed in the product of her perseverance, thrift and frugality.

The stash of hoarded quarters has long been a family secret or sorts, a testimony to the self-reliant character of a depression-era girl who grew up not knowing at times where tomorrow’s pennies would come from. And one coin at a time, she laid up a nice nest egg, and it is certainly time it hatched and did her some good. She’s earned it.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Good story, Fred. You sure brought the family up a big step with your good life and parenting. I’m glad you didn’t repeat your dad’s life, as so many do.