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November, 2006
Year 13, Issue 11

Award Winning Newsletter

Meeting 7:30pm, Wednesday, November 1
Talk and trading 7:00-7:30pm
VFW, 1601 Weld Road, Elgin, IL
815-786-6779

Not a member? Come and join us anyway!
Give your spouse a break and bring your children to the club.

November Program

This month's program will be an auction featuring members' coins. Please make a list of the coins you want to sell along with your minimum bids. As usual, there are no buyers and sellers fees in this auction.

Prizes


October Minutes

ECC Meeting 584
Opened:   7:30     Closed:   9:00
Members:   19     YNs:   0
Guests:   1         
Beginning balance:   $117.26     Income:   $76.00
Expenses:   $100.26     Current balance:   $97.00

Doug called the meeting to order at 7:30. The Secretaries and Treasurers reports were accepted as published. Old and new business was discussed and show and tells were given. We then went into the month's program, which was a slide show about the San Francisco mint. After the program, raffle tickets were sold and winners selected. The meeting adjourned about 9:00 pm.

Secretary's Report

Accepted as printed in the October's newsletter.

Treasurer's Report

Balance:   $117.26.
The report was accepted as published.

Old Business

Fantasy coin contest:

  1. Rick W. 40,160
  2. Steve H. 28,000
  3. Bob L. 26,700
  4. Marty K. 26,000
  5. Jim D. 25,600
  6. Jim C. 25,000

New Business

Raffle tickets are available. See Steve H. to get your tickets. Sign up sheets available for show volunteers. We are looking for a volunteer to plan this years holiday dinner. Marty requested we start promoting each years show earlier and seek inclusion in more publications show guides.

Prizes

We had our customary raffle and membership drawings. The winners were:

The meeting closed around 9:00 P.M.

Submitted by Jim D.


Board Meeting

On October 11 Don and Jim met to discuss club business and select prizes for the November meeting.


Show and Tell

Jim D. brought in a certified example of the women in military silver dollar, which was the October coin of the month. He also showed a pre 1982 Canadian five-cent coin that is made of pure nickel. At current metal prices contains over 15 cents worth of metal.

Tim T. showed a coin he found buried in the ground. Members of the club examined the coin and determined it to be a British penny from the reign of George III struck circa 1806.

Don C. brought in some Susan Anthony dollars received in change as quarters. He also showed some of his recent paper money finds.

Shea brought in some brochures and medals depicting various U. S. mints.


Editorial

Help is needed for our coin show. On Sunday October 29, we will be holding our annual coin show. We still need volunteers to help with the following duties. First, we need people to sit at the front table for an hour or two each to greet visitors and sell raffle tickets. Second, we need someone to help Steve H. as he conducts the young numismatists auction. Any help you can provide the club is greatly appreciated.

2006 Club elections. Once again the call goes out for candidates to run for the following club offices, President and Treasurer. The best way to keep the club vital is to infuse new blood in the club leadership. If you are interested in running let us know. The duties are not that demanding and only require a few hours a month of your time. Nominations will be taken in November and voting will be in December.

Mike's life in Germany. Starting this month and running the next two months is a series of articles written by former club president Mike M. comparing aspects of his life in Germany to the U.S. Click here to contact Mike.

This is the kind of membership participation the club needs. I'm sure most members have a favorite coin or collectable they can write a small piece about. Articles do not have to lengthy, four or five paragraphs is sufficient for most subjects. Any contribution you wish to submit should be sent to either the editor or any club officer.


Currency of the Month

Hey there Georgie boy.

This month's currency of the month is not an actual piece of currency but a web site. Hank Eskin started wheresGeorge.com on December 23, 1998 with the intention of tracking the circulation patterns of U. S. currency. Although the site is free to join the moderators try to raise funds to run the operation by selling souvenirs and collectables related to the site. One of the items it no longer sells are rubber stamps used by members to label the bills entered into the sites database. The federal government contended the sale of these stamps violated the U. S. code stopped the sales declaring the stamping of the bills is constituted advertising for the web site. This has not deterred the sites members who call themselves "georgers" from obtaining their own stamps or simply handwriting the website on dollar bills. As of 10-18-2006 there are well over 93 million bills registered on this site with a face value of over 516 million dollars.

Anyone with a valid email address can register and setting up an account only takes a few minutes. Once registered you can start entering bills by series and serial number. If the bill you enter has already been entered, you will see a listing of when and where each georger has spent that bill. This site can only track bills of series 1963 0r later and can track both regular notes and star notes. Most bills entered receive only two or three hits and some once entered are never heard from again. The record for most hits is 15. Even though the site is called where's George, dollar bills are not the only denominations registered. All denominations up to $100 can be found in the sites database. To this day, I have never seen a where's George $100. Currently I have four bills I am tracking, most have not ventured very far from here, but one has made the trip from Rockford, IL to Cedar Rapids, Ia. back to the Chicago area.

In Canada there is a similar site called "Wheres Willy." This site opened on Feb. 20, 2001 and is named after Wilfrid Laurier who was Prime minister of Canada from 1896 to 1911. His portrait appears on the Canadian $5 bill.


29 October 2006
9:00 to 3:00
Elgin Coin Club Annual Coin Show
VFW post 1307
1601 Weld Road
Elgin, Illinois

If you have not done so, please turn your raffle tickets in at the show.


[Mike is a former ECC President and founding editor of this newsletter. He now lives in Germany. This is the first in a series of articles telling how life is different there.]

A Different Life - Part 1

Copyright 2006 by Mike Metras

"You can't go to the drug store now, it is 12:30." That was one of my earliest introductions to the differences between life in a small town in Germany and that in America. We have lived here in southern Germany for over a year now. Though so much is very much like life in the U. S., many things are different. Sometimes the difference is for the good while other times it is most frustrating. In the end it is much more similar than different even when you look at this seemly long list of differences.

Store hours

The above 12:30-closing still frustrates me. I am in town in the middle of the day doing something and remember that I want to get something else, a few stamps, some band-aids, a light bulb, of some other small thing. But the clock is past 12:15, the magic time for all retail stores and the post office. They close from 12:15 and stay so through 1:30 or 2:00 for lunch. But if it happens to be Wednesday or Saturday, they will not open again until the next morning. And they are never open after six pm. It's shades of the '50s in the U. S. In larger cities, stores are open more often during the lunch hour but even there, six or seven pm is closing time. As for Sunday, I have long since forgotten about buying anything beyond ice cream, coffee, or beer in small towns. I cannot. Again larger stores in larger towns are open sometimes on Sunday. But even then I need to know which ones are open before I drive 15 miles only to find them closed. This gives new meaning to Saturday morning shopping-you must get what you need for the rest of the weekend. I vaguely remember that from my childhood days in the late forties and early fifties. This still bugs me off and on. I wouldn't miss it if the changed to something more akin to the practice of my native Illinois. But of late the stores themselves have been complaining that they have little business here because the workers shop on the way home in the larger towns where they can shop in more convenient hours after they are done with work. Maybe they will come to understand and change for their own good if not for that of the customer.

The Euro

In 2001, 12 of the European Union (EU) countries began using the same paper money and coins, the Euro. The bills are the same in all countries. One side of the coins is the same for all countries and the other is different for each country. The Euro circulates freely among all member countries. It is amazing to be able to go from country to country and continue using the same money. In the past, I had to stop at the border or in the airport and change money over and over as I went from country to country. Today even in Switzerland, where they still use the Swiss Franc, they readily accept the Euro and give Euro change. The value of the Euro has been fluctuating between $1.20 and $1.28 to the Euro for the past year.

There is no quarter here. Instead there is a 20-cent piece. They don't use it as much as we use the quarter because they use the 50-cent here while we haven't had a use for it for fifty years. The other coins are 1 and 2 Euro and 1, 2, 5, and 10 cents. They use all equally. The two-cent coin makes little sense but it is used. They also use their one- and two-Euro coins all the time. America would do well to get rid of the dollar bill and use the Sac dollar and even invent a two-dollar coin. I don't end up with excess change as people in the US often worry about. I actually end up with less change in my pocket because I go to my pocket more often for the small purchases instead of taking out a dollar bill. Their smallest paper money is five Euros.

I can easily see that money here in southern Germany where we live moves throughout Europe. Though the predominant coins are German, we get a many Austrian, Italian, and French coins. And those of Belgium and Netherlands find their way to our region more often than one would expect. The coins of other countries show up now and then but much less often.

Sales Tax

Taxes on retail purchases are quoted with the price of things as opposed to taxes being added as you check out like in the US. The 1.25 price on a package of potato chips includes an outrageous 16.5% tax (which is going up to 19% at the beginning of 2007!). I pay 1.25 Euro for it. While a similar package in the U. S. marked 1.25 will have 6.5% or more sales tax added to it before I walk out with it. Everything from bread to cars is marked this way. You get used to it. And it becomes convenient to know the final price as you pick up an item from the shelf.

Gas

Gas is so much more expensive here, even with the huge increases in the U. S. in the recent past. That has been true for a long time. When the prices were very high in the US, my brother quoted the price of $3.03 a gallon in Illinois. When converted to liters and the Euro, that comes out to 0.63 Euros a liter, less than half the 1.33 Euros a liter we were paying here in Germany at the time. That's $6.45 a gallon. But even here in Europe there are some significant differences. In Austria gas at the same time was only the equivalent $5.42 a gallon. So you can see why we drive down the less than 20 miles to Austria now and then to do some shopping, sight seeing, or coffee drinking AND to by gas. Since I first wrote this article, prices have dropped back down to $5.68 a gallon here with a corresponding drop in Austria so we can continue to go there for coffee now and then.

Roads and traffic

As for getting around in our car, the main roads are wide and well made here, generally better kept than similar ones in America. But there are many small country roads connecting so many small villages and many more people use them than similar ones in America. These small roads are quite narrow, often less than the width of two cars (also smaller here), so when meeting another car one has to drive with one wheel on a shoulder that often barely exists. The roads also follow the contour of the land so they wind like a snake and roll up and down with the hills.

Intersections on smaller roads are marked with yield signs, not stop signs. German drivers are very aggressive and often take advantage of a much narrower space than an American would. So when you see someone coming up to a side road intersection where you are supposed to have the right of way, expect him or her to go in front of you if there is any possibility for him or her doing so. When I first drove here it was hard for me to not stop at intersections where the other had the right of way. Now I am so used to rolling through at 25 or 30 mph that I might run the risk of getting a ticket when I return to the US.

One must also be careful for the other traffic sharing the road. More than cars share the road. Many tractors are on the road and a lot more people ride bicycles and walk here. I walk a lot so I must beware of the cars. With the narrower roads, cars pass a lot closer to you than they do in the States. At first that scared me more than I was ready to admit. Now it is so common that even when someone taps me with his side-view mirror, as they have, it bothers me little. But those same winding, narrow roads are fun to drive on. Our little Fiat 600 often gets a chance to show his Italian character and spirit as we swing back and forth up and down through the fields and woods of the Algau. Autobahns

When you want to go long distances or get there fast, you drive the autobahns, the expressways. With four lanes and limited access they crisscross the country. Germany is one of the few countries in the world with no speed limit on many sections of their expressways. And where there are speed limits, many drivers ignore them. Even in Switzerland where there is a 130 kph (80 mph) speed limit, German cars regularly pass me at very high speeds. So how fast does the traffic move on the autobahn? Trucks and semis are limited to 100 kph (62 mph) and most of them move close to that speed. I drive around 120 kph (74 mph), as do about half the other cars that are moving faster than the trucks. But that other cars really rush down the road. I feel like I am standing still as they whiz past me like Formula I racers. 180 to 200 kph (112 to 125 mph) is probably slow for some of them. This would be little problem if they were out there alone. But those slow semis and us 120-kph-ers are sharing the road with them. We stay in the right lane. But we do have to pass once in a while. For an American it is hard to get used to just how fast one of these careening cars can change from being a faint spot in your rear view mirror to that whoosh that screams past you, that box of steel that could change you and your car into a mass of crumpled steel and blood and guts in an instant if you do not recognize and correctly calculate its speed. I have seen far too many cars flying past me with bright break lights and their noses to the ground in a panic slow-down to avoid someone slower who has pulled into the outer lane to pass in front of them. Sometimes I wonder whether driving through Baghdad, the Gaza Strip, or southern Lebanon would be safer than driving the German autobahns. That said, when you have to get from one end to the other of this 830-kilometer (515-mile)-long country, you can do it in one day, easily.

Like their American sisters, these autobahns have oases and gas stops along the way. Here they are more frequent here and they offer a lot more food and merchandise options. But they are just as overpriced and mediocre as those in the States.

Bicycles and walking

Everyone rides bicycles here. When they have to go short distances in town, they do it on a bicycle or on foot. There just aren't enough places to park even with Europe's cars. And with the cost of gas, the walk or bicycle ride has two advantages, it saves a Euro or two and helps your health. The center of many towns and cities is often a car- and truck-free zone. During my early bicycle rides in the middle of such a space busy with walkers and bicycles in a town of a hundred thousand, I found it very hard to keep moving. I was afraid of hitting someone. But as I cycled through the people more and more, I learned to look much farther ahead than I was looking at the beginning. After a while watched 50 and more feet ahead and studied peoples movements estimating where they were going and where they would be when I got near them. Then I adjusted my movements and speed accordingly. Now it is almost automatic and works quite well.

People of all ages walk for recreation here. Youngsters, families with young children, and many individuals and couples over sixty. Walkers spending many days on the long-distance trails are often in their forties and above and many are well beyond sixty. Some of the former seem to be on mini-pilgrimages to decide where to go and what to do next. The latter walk for the joy of walking and are retired so they can do more of it.

With all the bicycle riding and walking here there are many more walking and cycling paths in Europe than there are in the U. S. You can easily walk or cycle across the Germany (or all of Europe for that matter) in almost any direction or combination of directions you want. Many roads have a paved bicycle path along side them; some have separate pathways. With them you don't have to compete with the cars for space. And then, when the opportunity presents itself, those still-paved paths branch off into woods and countryside. The paths, paved and not, go through private property everywhere. It is no problem to walk down someone's tractor track across his field. That took me a long time to get accustomed to-I kept looking for someone to come out and question me as to why I was walking on his land. It has never happened here. It surly would happen in the U.S.

Public transportation

Busses and trains are so much more available and convenient than in the U. S. I can go almost anywhere in the country, even the smallest towns, very easily on public transportation. It is not cheap, but it is not so expensive either when you think of the cost of a car and gas here. And both the bus and train systems have many special fares like one in our area that gives you 20% off when you ride in a particular area. Or another that, for $31.75 (25 Euro), lets up to 5 people travel anywhere in this province. Other provinces have similar packages.

Second part of A Different Life


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