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Odd Lots

Three Coins 9-20-2020 - 500 Wide.jpg

  • The old pennies appear to be back. (See my entry for November 7, 2019.) Over the last two weeks, at least 75% of the pennies I’ve gotten at McDonald’s were pre-2000, some of them very pre-2000. Yesterday alone I got three pennies, two from the ’90s, and one from…1962. This morning I actually got a parking-lot nickel. (Left, above.) It’s from 1999 in case you can’t make it out, and it’s lived a very hard life. The nickel on the right is 80 years old. The penny, a trifling 38. I wonder if, with new coins in short supply, McDonald’s is again getting them from the people who run networks of supermarket coin exchangers. I was getting shiny new pennies for a couple of months, and then suddenly I wasn’t. We’ll just have to see how it goes.
    • “How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted? And if I am compelled to take part in it, where is the manager? I would like to see him.”
      –Soren Kierkegaard, Edifying Discourses in Various Spirits (1847)

      (Hmmm. Maybe “Soren” is German for “Karen”.)

    • There’s an excellent COVID-19 stats dashboard maintained by the Arizona Department of Health Services that as best I can tell is updated daily. It covers new cases, hospitalization rates, daily death rates by date of death, demographics, and lots of other useful stuff. The daily death rates for the disease have been in single digits since September 10, and the peak death day was July 17, when 97 people died. Seeing the graphs and digesting the numbers, it’s pretty obvious that the pandemic is burning out in Arizona.
    • The older red wine is, the less trans-resveratrol it contains, and thus the fewer beneficial health effects. I’m not a wine snob, and most wine I drink these days is 2017 or 2018. I’ll open old wine now and then (we have some) when the occasion demands, but not for daily consumption.

    • Put this on your calendar: On December 21 there will be a “grand conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, which will be the closest conjunction of the two giant planets since 1623 AD. The planets will be separated by only 6 arc minutes, which is one-fifth the width of the full Moon. With a decent scope and good eyepieces, you should be able to see the disks of both planets in one view.
    • This is a good year for planet spotting. On October 6, Mars will reach its closest approach to Earth during its 2020 opposition. (The opposition itself refers to Mars with respect to the Sun, and is on October 14.) The Red Planet will reach magtnitude -2.6, and on that date will be brighter than Jupiter. It won’t be this big or bright again until 2030. So put it on your calendars.
    • Great fun: Sixty Seconds of Stella Leaf Jumps. (I remember leaves, heh.)
    • We’ve been hearing that Vitamin D enhances immune function for respiratory infections for quite awhile. It’s also true that many of the people who die from COVID-19 are significantly and often severely deficient in the vitamin. Here’s a scientific paper correlating Vitamin D levels with SARS-CoV-2 test results. Short form: The more deficient you are, the more likely you are to be infected after contact with the virus. Take some pills. Get some sun. Don’t just cower in your spare room waiting for a vaccine.
    • Twitter can be so worth it sometimes.
    • Check out the first graph in this article. Countries that treat their COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine have far lower case-fatality rates than countries (including ours) that has banned or discouraged the use of the drug.

    The COVID-19 Coin Shortage

    Well, I predicted Wikipedia in the early ’90s. How could I not have predicted this: Banks are rationing coins. Why? The US Mint cut back production of coins so it could distance its staff to reduce their chances of infection. Reasonable enough. However, something else happened during the lockdowns: People stopped going shopping as much. Bank lobbies were closed much or most of the time. And when people don’t hit the stores as often, they have fewer chances to cash in their piles of pocket change via CoinStar and other similar machines. At our usual grocery store, the coin machine was moved out to make room for a new curbside pickup system. Curbside pickup reduced the number of people entering the store, and thus traffic past the coin machine. In truth, I don’t even know if it’s still there.

    So the pennies are piling up. Even I have more of them than I generally do. Last fall I noticed that I was getting a lot of old-ish pennies in change, and wrote up my theory that older people are dying, and their kids are cashing in the penny jars in the kitchen cabinets, nightstands, or other nooks and crannies. I was getting several a day for awhile. After the first of the year they became a lot less common. I still don’t know why. I now maybe get three a week. Maybe two. Some are old while still looking very recent: last week I got a 1992-D with about 90% of its mint luster. Not bad for a penny that’s old enough to vote.

    My guess: Not only are the penny jars still out there, the old ones are filling up even faster and new ones have been started. Once we’re shut of the lockdowns, a yuge pile of pennies (and other coins) will surge into the bank lobbies and coin machines, and I will once again see 40-year-old mint luster when I pop for a coffee at McDonald’s.

    No More Penny Reports…

    …and the reason is simple: The supply of old pennies appears to have dried up in my usual haunts. I got a 1967 penny at Fry’s on the 18th, and that was it. Nothing I’ve gotten since then has been older than 2003.

    So maybe it’s a local rather than a global phenomenon: Somebody cashed out a big penny jar, and it’s taken until now to work through all those 50-60-year-old pennies. I’m going to keep watching, of course, but unless the trend appears again I’ll assume it was a one-time thing.

    Daily Penny Report

    • 1 penny at McDonald’s: 1998-D, near-unciculated, 90% mint luster.
    • 1 penny at McDonald’s: 2016-D, extremely fine, 60% mint luster.

    Daily Penny Report

    • 1 penny at McDonald’s: 1988-D, extremely fine, 30% mint luster.
    • 1 penny at Whole Foods: 2013-D, brilliant uncirculated, 100% mint luster.
    • 1 penny at Whole Foods: 2011-D, extremely fine, 85% mint luster.
    • 1 penny at Whole Foods: 2005-D, very fine, dirty, 25% mint luster.
    • 1 penny at Whole Foods: 1975-D, extremely fine, 60% mint luster.

    Daily Penny Report

    • 2 pennies at Safeway: 2019-D, brilliant uncirculated, 100% mint luster.
    • 1 penny at Safeway: 2000-D, extremely fine, 60% mint luster.
    • 1 penny at Safeway: 2001-D, fine, 5% mint luster, corrosion
    • 1 penny at McDonald’s’s: 2012-D, extremely fine, 85% mint luster

    Remember, if I don’t post a penny report on a given day, that day I didn’t buy anything for cash and get pennies in change. And no, I won’t be doing this forever. I’ll stop when I get some stats on the age of pennies in common circulation.

    Daily Penny Report

    • 1 penny at McDonald’s: 2019, brilliant uncirculated, 100% mint luster.
    • 1 penny at Fry’s: 2007-D, very good, dirty, no mint luster.
    • 1 penny at Fry’s: 2012-D, near-uncirculated, 85% mint luster
    • 1 penny at Fry’s: 1986, very fine, 10% mint luster
    • 1 penny at Fry’s: 1959-D, brilliant uncirculated, 100% mint luster

    This last one was a bit of a surprise: a 61-year-old penny that looked like it had never been touched. Photo below, beside the 2012-D with just a few smudges.

    Uncirc 1959-D - 500 Wide.jpg

    I’m not sure where a penny would have hidden for 61 years except in a penny jar. And so the experiment continues…

    Daily Penny Report

    • 1 penny at McDonald’s: 1985, fine, no mint luster.
    • 1 penny at McDonald’s: 2005-D, extremely fine, 50% mint luster.

    Daily Penny Report

    • 1 penny at McDonald’s: 1978, very fine, 5% mint luster.
    • 1 penny at McDonald’s: 2000, near-uncirculated, 60% mint luster.
    • 1 penny at McDonald’s: 2002-D, extremely fine, 20% mint luster

    Let me clarify how these reports work: I am posting a line item for every penny I receive in change on any given day, not a line item for each transaction. (Actually, if I get two pennies with the same date, I’ll report them in a single line item, as I did yesterday.) Today’s pennies came to me in one purchase at MickeyD’s. If you don’t see a Daily Penny Report, it means I didn’t buy anything that day that gave me pennies in change. Big stuff I typically charge, but I pay cash for little stuff so as not to clutter my charge statements.

    Daily Penny Report Intro

    I’m getting 25, 30, and 35-year-old pennies almost every day when I get change at all. So for awhile I’m going to post a short entry each day when I get pennies in change. I’ll give a year, a condition, and where it came from, for each penny I get. Maybe there’s no trend. Maybe I just notice the older pennies more. Except…I look at them all. The old ones outnumber the new ones. I’m doing this more to keep a log than to provide engaging reading. Is this a passing phenomenon, or is it real and long-term? I won’t be adding this intro each time. So you’ll see a lot of one- or two-line entries, even on days when I post something bigger. Let’s see what the numbers eventually say.


    • 1 penny at McDonald’s: 1985-D, near-uncirculated, 50% of mint luster
    • 2 pennies at Natural Grocer: 2019-D, brilliant uncirculated, 100% mint luster
    • 1 penny at Natural Grocer: 2016-D, uncirculated, smudgy, 90% mint luster