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When 50 Cents Add Up into a Story
October 27, 2009

Serendipity plays a large role in every collector’s life.

The dictionary says the word means “the faculty of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.”

I don’t think I ever knew what the word meant until I went to work for Numismatic News.

One of its occasional writers, the late Dudley McClure, who was more well known in the pages of Coins Magazine, introduced me to the word after he had heart bypass surgery and thereafter maintained a walking exercise regimen around his home in Portland, Ore.

From time to time he would encounter various coins on the sidewalk or in the street. He decided to write a column about serendipitous coin finds.

It was well done and from time to time it was surprising what beyond the odd cent could be found lying in the streets of a city in the Pacific Northwest.

There was no gold, of course, and I do not recollect any silver, either.

I thought of Dudley yesterday when I received my change at the Crystal Cafe. In it were two quarters of the pre-state series design.

Receipt of either one separately would not raise an eyebrow, however getting them together made me wonder where they came from.

One was a 1982-P. The other was a 1982-D. They both had circulated for a long time, so it does not seem possible that they were ever in the hands of a collector.

Had they been uncirculated, I would really have a story. Those uncirculated dates have significant value for a clad issue. There were no mint sets produced that year, so there is no stash of sets to raid if you need a nice coin.

The sets were abolished due to cost cutting throughout the federal government. That was the sacrifice the Mint chose to make to take the mandatory hit.

As a result, new collectors have to face the eternal question, why were there no mint sets produced in 1982 and 1983?

And this is why I always seem to especially notice coins from either year. If they come in pairs as they did yesterday, that is serendipity.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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