by James Bovard
Old coins vaccinated me against trusting politicians long before I grew my first scruffy beard. I began collecting coins when I was eight years old in 1965, the year President Lyndon Johnson began eliminating all the silver in new dimes, quarters, and half dollars. LBJ swore that there would be no profit in “hoarding” earlier coins “for the value of their silver content.” Wrong, dude: silver coins are now worth roughly fifteen times their face value.
History had always enthralled me, and handling old coins was like shaking hands with the pioneers who built this country. I wondered if the double dented 1853 quarter I bought at a coin show was ever involved in Huckleberry Finn–type adventures when “two bits” could buy a zesty time. I had a battered copper two-cent piece from 1864, the same year that Union general Phil Sheridan burned down the Shenandoah Valley where I was raised. Some of the coins I collected might now be banned as hate symbols, such as Indian Head pennies and Buffalo nickels (with an Indian portrait engraved on the front).