May 23rd Lucky Penny Day

There is no doubt that the penny is not worth what it use to be. In fact, many countries have parted ways with the penny altogether. Still, here in the US, if you find one on heads it means good luck will follow you. Remember you cannot spend it though, even if you could find something to spend it on. Should you find one on tails, leave it be because it means bad luck.  You could turn in over for the next person to find, but you are probably better off not touching it at all.

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“See a penny, pick it up … all day long you’ll have good luck.”

Pennies have been with us in America since 1793. The originals were made of copper and were worth something!  They were often called a pence. If something cost 5 pence, it was five pennies, or a nickel.

Not only are pennies good luck symbols they also indicate ghosts!  As legend tells it, if a ghost wants you to know they are there they will leave pennies behind for you to find (remember the epic scene from the 1990 movie classic Ghost). If they want you to follow them, they will leave a trail of pennies for you to follow.

There’s another reason to look down for that penny, it could be worth a small fortune.

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Most pennies were made in such volume that they are worth very little. Even the old Indian Head pennies are not worth all that much since millions of them were made. Some uncirculated coins are worth more than others. These coins have not been touched by human hands.  There is little chance you will find one of those laying out in the open on the ground, and if you just picked it up anyway, you’d ruin its value. There is one Indian Head penny worth more than $10,000.00, made in the year 1873.

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“Wheat Back”, Lincoln Head pennies are still found in loose change from time to time. Most are worth a penny but there are a few exceptions. A 1922 plain Lincoln Head, “Wheat Back”, is worth about $650.00, but a 1909S-VDB is worth $750.00 or more. In 1943 due to World War 2, pennies were made of steel to save the copper for use in bullets. A steel penny is worth a little, but in 1944 a few steel pennies were circulated by mistake as the coins were once again made of copper. So a 1944 steel penny can be worth up to $75,000.00. Going back to 1943, a few pennies were made of bronze. These pennies are very rare and look basically like a copper penny but they are lighter in weight and are a little darker in color. The 1943 bronze penny is worth more than $100,000.00.

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The 1943 copper penny is worth more than any other American coin. They were not to be released but some were, perhaps less than 50.  Find one of these and you will really have a lucky day with beginning auction prices starting at $200,000.00.

There are other coins to watch for as well. Coins that were run by mistake or had errors that no one caught before they were released to the public. Coins that were double struck, or minted with the wrong materials, or with the wrong size. Wrong Planchet pennies vary in value. Some pennies have actually be minted in silver as are obviously worth more than a plain copper penny.

How to celebrate: Keep your eyes down, looking at whatever is just waiting for you to pick up – at the very least, you’ll be a penny richer. Buy a book about coins; the book will probably cost you more than any value you ever find on the ground but it makes it more fun. Try leaving a trail of pennies on your own and see if anyone follows them. Look through your old pennies tucked away in that dresser drawer and see if you might be lucky!

April 3rd Pony Express Opened for Business

On April 3rd, 1860, the Pony Express opened for business delivering mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California.  William H. Russell, William Bradford Waddell and Alexander Majors added a governmental contract to their freight and Drayage business to deliver mail in 10 days or less, 1,800 miles in all.  Their route would take them through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada ending up at California before starting the return trip.

The company started with 120 riders, 184 stations and 400 horses.  Each rider would make a run of 75-100 miles, each horse 10 to 15 miles.  Riders were paid $25.00 a week, the horses got all the food and water they could eat and drink.  The biggest celebrity to work for the Pony Express was “Buffalo Bill” Cody.

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The fastest trip on record was the deliver of President Lincoln’s inaugural address which made the trip in 8 days.  $5.00 a half-ounce was charged for mail delivered.  Each rider carried 20 pounds of mail, a water sack, a Bible, a horn to tell of the riders approach and a revolver.

Each rider was forced to sign an oath for their pay, $25.00 a week was pretty good pay back then considering the average pay was between 43 cents and $1.00 a day in 1860.  Here is the oath, “I (name) do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.”

We have to wonder how many of these rules were forgotten when a rider was on the plains, in the rain and being chased by Indians. They didn’t have long to deal with their oath though as the Pony Express went out of business in October of 1861 when the 1st transcontinental telegraph went into use.