Have you noticed the shiny new “tail” of our great American penny? I know what you’re thinking; “What’s a penny?” but I still a carry a small amount of cash on me in case the stock market crashes again. That way, I can still buy a couple more cups of coffee before I take to the streets and riot for them. Anyway, I isolate and save old and sparkling new coins like a hoarding squirrel.* Did you know that in 1943, the government stopped minting pennies in copper? True stuff. They started stamping out steel pennies so our nation’s supply could be routed to make copper projectiles, the only thing Marvel Comics fan Franklin Delano Roosevelt thought would stop Nazi Germany’s Red Skull. I made that last part up, but pennies were really made of steel to help the war effort. Three mints. One of them had an accidental copper pressing that’s so rare it’s worth pant-loads. If you were to come across one of these ’43 copper beauties, it’s likely a Chinese fake. Damn dirty commies.
Coins not made of their current bullshit composition even sound different. I was once at the checkout of a Whole Foods when I discovered a silver treasure by sound alone. The cashier dropped my change in my hand and I heard an alien clink that used to be commonplace. I must have looked like an obsessive-compulsive maniac poking through the coins in my cupped hand and then showing the silver dime to the unimpressed girl. You have to enjoy life’s pleasure when they come. If you can’t differentiate the sound or remember that the US stopped minting silver quarters and dimes after 1964, look at the rim of any “silver” coin and you’ll see a darker stripe sandwiched between the junk metal of the front and back. Damn dirty capitalists.
So yeah, I’m a geek. A few weeks ago, I was passing around a penny at work, celebrating the new design to people who wouldn’t validate their interest by taking it from me for a closer examination. The one guy who did immediately pinned down my enthusiasm and shat in its face. See, the front of the new penny still has old Abe Lincoln’s gnarly profile but the back has replaced the traditional Lincoln Memorial (if you look close enough, you can even see a faint outline of the seated Great Emancipator) with a union shield that, at first consideration, is pretty awesome. It reminds me of Captain America’s first shield. Perhaps that’s the appeal. Finally, the US Mint received my suggestion of combining my love of coins with my love of fascist superheroism. What had not occurred to me was that not only is the removed Lincoln Memorial a symbol of freedom** but the architecture itself is an homage to ancient Greek democracy. A shield, as my coworker pointed out, is defensive.
Chew on that national mood.
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