Monday, November 9, 2009

Just A Little White Lie

Before I found the Realcent community I was on my own, like Lewis without Clark. Picture this, it's 1806, and it's not too hard to imagine Meriweather, clad in animal skins and fur, sheltering from the biting cold and whirling snow in the lee of a giant sequoia. "Hur it tup, Willyum," he hollers, his voice growing hoarse from the effort of yelling in the blizzard. Lewis swipes brusquely across his face to snap off multiple icicles dangling from his mustache.

There is only the sound of Nature then, finally, through the woods wends a plaintive echo "but... Meruhweather, I tole yoo...," It seems to hang in the air, frozen by the chill, the quaver petering out into silence until it is no more. "Oh fire and brimstone, Will... " shouts Lewis, "jess fine yourself a pinecone an tough et up! An hur it tup, Will, there's injuns in these here parts." That's what it felt like a month ago, before I knew there were others like me.

I can't remember what got me started. There've been numerous articles written over the last few years detailing how - assailed by the inflationary environment we are heedfully navigating - the metals that comprise some of the coins we trade in everyday exchange now exceed their face value. A nickel being one, the penny the other. As prices have since dipped, the poor penny is the lone remaining combatant.

Most people don't even know that the penny isn't the same now as it was before 1982. They know it feels a bit lighter, and sounds different if you drop it, but I'd be willing to bet they couldn't tell you that it's composition has changed. Most still refer to it as a copper, and while closer to the truth, even that wouldn't be accurate. The Lincoln cent was never an one-hundred percent copper coin, it was minted as an alloy referred to as bronze.

What that actually means is that the metal content of coins minted prior to 1982 - 95% copper and 5% zinc - is worth more than the face value. There's nearly two cents worth of copper in every penny, and with prices going up like they are they'll soon be worth more. You ought to hang onto them. I knew this all along, I suppose, but never gave it much thought. By the way, pennies after 1982 have only 2.5% copper, the rest is zinc; they're not worth much.

Then one day, I was on ebay when - instead of silver - I typed bullion into the search field. A few copper listings popped up, and more out of curiosity than anything else, I read one. It was a listing by pennybullion. His site, in addition to pictures of mountains of pennies you can buy, describes many of the reasons detailing why copper may be the "investment of the future," as inflation continues to run rampant.

With the dollar tanking, I think people's attention has been focused on silver and gold performing well as a hedge, and you could probably include platinum in that group. Precious metals bullion, that's the place to be, I know that's what I thought. But what Will at pennybullion said made all the sense (I will resist the impulse to make a pun) in the world. Copper has every reason to follow the same path blazed by it's predecessors, so why not accumulate copper before it catches the fancy of the investing public? The best time to pick up a wallet is when no one is watching.

So that's what I decided to do. I went through my change at home, and out of sixty-one cents I think seventeen of them were copper. "That's pretty good," I thought, "you could maybe even harvest enough copper out of change that you could create your own small business!" I mean the guy on ebay was doing it, right? With that instant near-double built-in profit, who could go wrong?

I began strategizing, because even before I started it dawned on me that I would likely encounter a few problems attendant with such an endeavor. Where would I get pennies? Where would I return the zincs? What would I tell the bank people if they asked me why I wanted so many pennies.? I thought and I thought about this; I wanted to come up with such a foolproof appeal that not even the Grinch Who Stole Christmas could refuse. Maybe you can identify with those thoughts, and if my gimmick seems superior to the ones you've come up with, you're free to use it.

After careful consideration, I walked into my first bank little more than a month ago and approached the teller. "How can I help you, Sir?" She smiled. "Umm," I paused, "I'm trying to get my grandkids off the Internet. They spend entirely too much time in front of the computer, X-box, and the television playing video games. Those damned things cost near sixty bucks apiece and they've figured it out in two days. I decided to see if I couldn't get them interested in coin collecting," I answered.

She seemed lost in thought for a moment, then an internal decision was made. "I hope it works out for you," she smiled, "how many pennies would you like?" I walked out of that branch with two $25 boxes, then hit up three more banks on a route I had worked out beforehand. "It worked, it worked, it worked," I chortled as I drove home. My first score? Two hundred dollars!

Oh, by the way? I'm single and I don't have any grandkids, but it was all in a good cause. After all, it was only a little white lie.

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