Change You Can Count On

Everyone needs an Uncle Hymie who brings change into your life. 

Aunt Sara and Uncle Hymie in 1969
As a young boy, my material grandmother’s brother-in-law Hyman Teitelbaum taught me a really big word: NUMISMATICS. I thought it had something to do with weather or math but I quickly learned it was all about a love of coins and money.  

A Barr Dollar set and some special coins from Hymie
Change Matters

I am not talking about Donald Trump love of money, but the joy and pleasure of collecting rare and unusual coins and paper money. Every year from around 1963 until 1982, Uncle Hymie would bring me a proof set that included a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar and silver dollar protected in hard plastic and in perfect mint condition. He did this for me and my siblings too.

He bought me coin collector books that had a place to hold every penny or nickel made from 1900 to the present. He would help get me started by buying a few special coins and putting them in these books like a 1909 VDB. (The S-VDB is the really rare one). Or coins from special years like my mother and father’s birth year- 1927.

Collection of Lincoln Head Pennies 
He brought me silver certificate dollar bills that had special meaning since the phrase over George’s head says “Silver Certificate” and it means that before 1964, you could get the equivalent amount of silver for the bill from the treasury. These bills aren’t all that rare and their value is modest; maybe $2.00 for $1.00 bill except for some special years. 

Hymie was a butcher by trade and owned a small store in Folcroft Pennsylvania. A town, I ironically know about as one of the food businesses I was associated with ten years ago had its manufacturing facility in an industrial park in this small town near Philadelphia. I have no recollection of visiting Uncle Hymie’s little butcher shop but I can imagine him in his little white apron with a huge butcher knife carving up the sirloin. A customer would come into the store and he would sell them a pound of chuck and end up talking for twenty minutes about rare nickel or dime he recently got as change at a Horn and Hardart
My mother's favorite restaurant from Philadelphia- Horn & Hardart
Hymie was married to my Grandma Fannie’s sister Sara. And as I have mentioned in previous blogs, it always brings a tear to my eye that there is a Fanny and Sarah in another generation of our family.

Growing up in Springfield, New Jersey was filled with rich and wonderful memories. We had numerous family occasions celebrating this or that life event. Visits from Aunt Sara and Uncle Hymie were extra special treats that came often each year since they lived just an hour and half away in Collingswood, New Jersey. Aunt Sara would bring the stuffed cabbage and Uncle Hymie would bring, what my Poppa George would call "the other cabbage"- coins and special bills." 

Uncle Hymie, Aunt Sara, My sister Diane and me at my confirmation
Uncle Hymie, who was short in stature but towering in love, would reach deep into his pocket and pull out some buffalo head nickel with a defect that made it worth 5 times the normal price. He would give me a dollar bill with the word silver certificate or some special coins from Israel.  His enthusiasm for his hobby always had a profound impact on me since I was surprised that someone could care that much about loose change. I learned from Uncle Hymie that you need to pay close attention to the littlest detail and sometimes you can uncover remarkable treasures. He was one of many family members teaching me early on about paying close attention to the special moments right in front of my eyes.

I remember him telling me wonderful stories about a penny that was worth thousands of dollars and it was found by a father buying candy for his children. His lesson to me was pay attention to the little details in life and you never know what treasures you will find. 

How wonderful it is to remember that message from my dusty collection of nickels, dimes and proof sets. 

1966 Proof Set and some Silver Certificate Bills 

Uncle Hymie gave me these Coins of Israel 

In my coin collection, a rare political
button from McGovern/Eagleton
in 1972
My coin collection is modest and until recently,was stuck in my attic. When I opened up this box of coins and proof kits from Uncle Hymie, it made me realize how lucky I was to have someone help me, at a young age, be more observant and attentive to little things like the nickels and dimes in my pocket. In this dusty box were a few other special items that my Dad put aside for me including a special commemorative stamp from the 1969 moon landing and even a rare McGovern/Eagleton campaign button from 1972. (Eagleton was the VP nomination who later resigned because he had undergone electroshock therapy). 

It was also a wonderful treat to see my father's handwriting on some of the envelopes and notes that held these proof sets. Seeing my father's notes and his distinctive handwriting was a sweet reminder of his love.

Commemorative Stamp and Envelope of Man's First Landing on the Moon 

My coin collection isn’t worth much money but the true value is in the memory of these moments. It is remarkable how the simplest gesture from decades ago represent the kindness of a gentle man. Hymie was soft spoken and one of those lovely people in your life who were always part of my family support system and appeared at many special family occasions. His wife Sara, was so special to my Mom and her beloved sister Annette, but Hymie was always in a supporting role looking on adoringly at his Sara and bringing Diane, Mitchell and me little gifts. It has taken me many years to realize how important his kindness was to me. These small gestures are the true currency of love and special moments in life. 

I can hear my Poppa George saying, "And that ain't pocket change."

Over the last decade, the thought occurred to me that I should sell this modest collection and get whatever money it might bring on eBay. As I sift through this treasure trove, I now think I need to pay this kindness forward to someone else whose life I can touch. Perhaps I will tuck it away for a future grandchild or maybe share it with a great niece or nephew when they get older. Perhaps they will find some pleasure from collecting or it will spark an affinity for being aware of their own special moments. If I can pass on the appreciation for seeing the hidden treasures right in front of our eyes, that would truly be a gift.  For now, I am enjoying looking at this loose change and seeing a loving and special Uncle named Hymie. 

I guess these sets of virgin coins are proof of love and a true coin of the realm. 

Proof of Love - 1776 -1976 Commemorative Set 

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