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January, 2007
Elgin Coin Club 50th Anniversary - 1957-2007
Year 14, Issue 1

Award Winning Newsletter

Meeting 7:30pm, Wednesday, January 3
Talk and trading 7:00-7:30pm
VFW, 1601 Weld Road, Elgin, IL

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

January Program

This month's program will be a presentation by Shea F. of some of his favorite foreign notes.


December Minutes

ECC Meeting 586
Opened:   7:30     Closed:   9:00
Members:   22     YNs:   0
Guests:   2         
Beginning balance:   $97.00     Income:   N/A
Expenses:   N/A     Current balance:   N/A

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 our annual holiday dinner. 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 December's newsletter.

Treasurer's Report

Balance:   $97.00
The report was accepted as published.

Old Business

Fantasy coin contest final standings:

  1. Rick W. 40,160
  2. Bob L. 28,200
  3. Steve H. 27,250
  4. Marty K. 26,000
  5. Jim D. 25,800
  6. Jim C. 25,000

For winning this years contest, Rick was awarded a 2004 Proof silver Eagle.

New Business

Club election results, Vice President Steve H. and Treasurer Shea F. The club extends its thanks to Don C. for his many years of service as Treasurer.


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

There was no board meeting this month.

Show and Tell

Jim D. brought in a partial set of Jefferson 5c. As featured in the December newsletter, a printout from coin world on the Elgin Half dollar, a New Mexico tax token, A Colorado tax token and a medal from sears that may have been struck from copper salvaged from the statue of liberty.

Tim T. showed an ad from coin world of a certified proof 1895 Morgan dollar offered as Ms-60 but appears to be well circulated.

Don C. brought in some fancy serial number one and five dollar bills, including some radar and star notes. In addition, a 1971-S unc Ike dollar that is still in its original packaging that has a large fingerprint on the obverse.

Eagle brought in some waffle-canceled coins including a Kennedy half, a Missouri 25c., and a Maine 25c.

Rick W. showed a letter printed in Numismatic News saying that in 1960 to buy all coins the mint offered a person would spend $5.60. Today to buy all mint products the cost is over $15,000.


Government bans melting of cents and nickels. Recently the government on the urging of the mint banned the melting of one and five cent coins for their metal value, as previously stated in this newsletter, based on spot metal prices the pre 1982 cent has over 2 cents in metal and the five cent coin has over 7 cents in metal. The mint wants the ban for two main reasons; first, the mass melting of minor coinage would create a shortage similar to the one in the early 1960's. The second reason the mint would spend more to replace the coins than they are worth. Perhaps this is why the mint is trying to cut their losses by selling so many high price sets to collectors.

The results of the annual state quarter Poll. At the December meeting, I conducted my eight annual poll of the club member's favorite state quarter design. The winner was North Dakota with 8 votes. Nevada came in second with 5, Colorado received 2 and Nebraska and South Dakota received zero. Three members did not cast a vote.

Book Review: Walking Life: Meditations on the Pilgrimage of Life by Mike Metras. This is his latest book, a collection of thoughts and meditations gathered during his pilgrimages in Europe. Each chapter consists of a philosophical thought accompanied by a photo illustrating that thought. According to the author the book is meant to be read slowly giving the reader time to explore the ideas given and how they apply to the reader's life. I found the book to be very interesting in a spiritual but not overly religious way. The book is available in two formats, a PDF version for the computer and a hard printed copy.

[From Mike, the author and your webperson: You can learn more about the book at your sponsor's site at the Walking Life page. There you can review the entire text and even purchase the book. Or when you would like to do so, you can go directly to purchase it at]

Coin of the month

Twenty-cent pieces

In the 1870's the U.S. Mint conducted a failed experiment by issuing a twenty-cent coin. President Grant signed the bill authorizing the coin on March 31, 1874. The main reason for issuing the coin was to provide an equivalent coin to the French and Swiss Franc and Spanish Peseta. Another reason was to use some of the abundant silver from the Comstock Lode and provide minor coinage to the western states. The obverse of the coin shows the same seated liberty design as featured on the half-dime, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar. The reverse has an eagle in the same style as the trade dollar. After the coin was released, the public soon complained the coin was too close in size to the quarter, making this the 19th century equivalent of the Susan Anthony dollar. The concept of issuing a 20-cent coin is not new; in fact, many countries today issue that denomination. Some of those countries are all Euro issuing countries, England, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and Hong Kong.

The coin is 20 mm in diameter and weighs 5 grams of 90% silver and 10% copper.

Assembling a complete set of these coins is a task for collectors with very deep pockets. The complete set consists of 10 coins, 5 mint state and 5 Proof. The business strikes start at about $100 in good and rise to about $5,000 to $6,000 in MS-65. Proof coins will bring from $8,000 to $20,000 in Prf-65. Included in this set are two major rarities, first is the 1875-S Proof of which there are 6-12 known and the 1876-CC of which 18-25 is known. Both these coins easily bring $100,000 to $200,000 when they appear at an auction, which is very seldom.

[This is Mike's last installment in a series of articles telling how living is different in Germany.]

Second part of A Different Life

A Different Life - Part 3

Copyright 2006 by Mike Metras

This edition's look into life in Germany today brings you some minor and not so minor differences in prices, breakfast, smoking, royalty, weather, farming, old buildings, house hunting, open borders, time, fresh air, and music and TV.

Drink prices

A half kilo (1.1 pound) of coffee costs upwards of $9.00. A cup of coffee in a restaurant goes for $2.00 to $2.50 and that is just one cup, no forever refills like in America. You can get a kanschien, a little kettle with two cups, for about twice the cost of the single cup but still no refills.

Beer comes in many flavors and versions, most of them very good. The common pils, similar to but stronger and tastier than American beer, costs between $2.50 and $3.00 for a 0.5 liter (16.9 oz) glass here in the south.

Breakfast bread

Many Germans would not think of eating old bread for breakfast if they did not have to. So it is a morning ritual to go to the bakery before breakfast to buy your bread or rolls. It is a custom that took me a while to adjust to. Of course you have to eat day-old bread on Sunday. The bakery is closed.

Public smoking

Germans smokers, like American smokers, like their cigarettes before, during, and after their meals in restaurants. And they can do just that to the uncomfort of all non-smokers-little different than in America. But at least in America there are usually No Smoking areas in restaurants. There are very few in Germany. Just one smoker can pollute the entire eating room. I remember one particularly obnoxious time when two women were setting in a pizzeria each smoking a cigar. We left. It was too much.

As a sidelight, Spanish smokers are even worse than German smokers. But in Italy, of all places where everyone likes their cigarettes, they have banned smoking in all bars and restaurants. What a delight! But they can smoke outside. So in that land of sun where there are a lot of tables outside, you have to make sure you are on the upwind side of any smokers.


It is close to 150 years since Germany was unified but there are still a lot of the trappings of royalty. Castles dot the mountain- and hill-tops and strategic mountain passes. Palaces, the home of local royalty, are still to be found in the smallest of towns. Most are huge buildings with tens of rooms (ours has 86). As an example, our town has two palaces (Schloss). We live in the garden house of the older of the two. The owner's title is Graf and his wife is Gräfin, the English Earl or Count and Countess. The people seem to be in some way drawn to these places and people or they wouldn't dot the countryside. It is so anachronistic to my American mind.

"What do you do?"

A certain section of the population would never think of asking, "What do you do?" While that is the first question out of the mouth of others, especially when they learn that I have been walking for a long time or that I am not working in the community where I live. But when they learn I am retired, their question turn into wishes that they could be in the same situation, just like in America.


NATO warplanes now and then fly low over the land in their outrageously loud jets. Their periodic sorties last for two or three weeks at a time and then they are gone for another three or four months. Such occasions sometimes remind me to look around at the faces of the people I pass in the street and I remember that a short 61 years ago we were in mortal combat. These people who look so much like any American walking down the street in Chicago or Peoria or Woodstock were our "enemy." We would have killed each other on sight. It has brought tears to my eyes more than once. The incongruity of war. Why do we do it? Will it be the same in Iraq 50 years from now? Why can't we abandon it as a means of settling disputes?


I would like to report that the weather is better here than my native Illinois. But, alas, I cannot do it. Last winter my Kisslegg in southern Germany was as cold and snowier than any Chicago winter I have experienced. I walked kneecap deep into my house in March after three feet of snow fell. July was in the 90s and dry. That was followed by an August when it rained the entire month and was never above 70. And we will not even talk about the snow that fell in August low down the mountains. Last fall was almost as beautiful as any fall in Illinois while the spring was as wet and cold as many in Illinois. It is little different from my hometown. I was looking for a milder place to live.


Unlike in Illinois, tractors have licenses to drive on the road and they are everywhere in this farming community. Little round signs on their rear end say 25 kph (15 mph) is their maximum but most drive down the road at twice that. But they are still slow enough to cause long traffic backups on the hilly winding roads here.

Cattle, dairy products, and grass to feed the cattle are the major products in this immediate area. Farmers grow and bail grass, not hay, here, three or four times a year from the same field.


In Illinois an "old" house is 100 years old. That is young, very young here. You don't really think in terms of "old" until you pass the 500-year mark. And if you want to get realistic, that is young as some structures go. A lot of churches and castles here go back more than 700 and 800 years.

In Wangen, the next town south, we eat in a 500-year-old, modern restaurant. It was founded in 500 and has a wonderful bakery and seating around picnic tables. Come in and find a seat with fellow customers and have a beer and lieberkase, or whatever else you want.

And the weekly market has been on Wednesday in Wangen since 1390. I know that because they are trying to get a second market day on Saturday and a long discussion has brought out the history. Before that it was for 200 years on Friday. Many are loath to change a good thing by adding another day.

House hunting

When you go out looking for a new apartment or house and want to turn on the light to see what the place looks like, nothing happens. They don't work here because there are no light fixtures in an empty apartment or house. You bring your lights with you when you move from apartment to apartment or house to house. No one wants to use someone else's choice for lights. It just isn't done. So you have to spend the better part of your first week in a new apartment or house installing light fixtures or hire an electrician to do so. I must say it was frustrating for me to do so.

Open borders

European open borders are a huge change from the past. Old movies show the immigration agent clicking his heals at the door of the train compartment as the train crossed the border into a new country. Not so any more. The first time I crossed a border, it was on an evening train from Spain to Portugal. I waited for the agent with my passport in hand for several minutes. He never showed. Then a week later, I took an overnight bus back into Spain. No agent that time either. Likewise on road border crossings between countries there are seldom immigrations agents. In the last year I have only seen them between Austria and Switzerland. They wave most by. Only once, on the way into Liechtenstein, has any guard ever asked me anything. "Whose car are you driving and what are you coming into the country for." He didn't even look in my passport when he saw it was American.

After I wrote this last paragraph, a train we were on was boarded twice by customs agents, first on the way into Switzerland from Italy and then later on the same day when we entered Austria. But this was only the first time in the three years I have been in Europe.

On a recent trip from southern to northern Germany, I drove across three quarters of the country. Along the way I identified license plates of 19 different countries, many odd ones (like Lithuania) on semi trucks. People are moving throughout Germany.


Like other first-world industrial and post-industrial nations, Germany seems obsessed with time and its proper use. For example, multi-tasking is important so you get as much done with the time as you can. But the Germans are really in your face with this time thing. Every small town in this area, and in most of the country for that matter, has its clock on the church tower or on the city hall or on both. And every clock rings every quarter hour: ding-dong at a quarter after; ding-dong ding-dong at half past; three times at a quarter to and four at the hour. And at the hour another bell counts off the hour. But here in southern Germany they make sure you hear the hour and count it off a second time with a different bell. This goes on all day and ALL night. You wake up to the four ding-dongs in the middle of the night and lay awake as you count off the hour bells to see what time it is and then count it off a second time to make sure you didn't miss-hear it the first time. And the church adds the daily prayer bells after 6, 8, noon or 1, 4, and 8--loud and long pealing of several bells.

At first these bells are an enjoyable addition to my day, pleasant enough. But with time, now well over a year, I have began to realize what they are doing and it gets a little annoying. The church is saying, "Another 15 minutes have passed. What have you been doing with your life? Are you being a good Christian and working hard with your life? You have 15 minutes less to live. And be sure you say your prayers now. Get busy or...." And the city bell is saying much the same with a secular bent, "What have you done the past 15 minutes? Have you used the time to do your job well? Are you being a good citizen? Get busy...." Do I really need all these reminders that time is ticking? I think not. Let me live NOW well and leave the past in the past and the future in the future.

Fresh air

The Germans like fresh air. At night in the middle of the coldest part of winter, a window must be open to let in fresh air. Yes, the heater is on. But we must shut off the radiator in the bedroom and open the window. The feather bed is thick enough to keep you warm. And then in the morning, you go to the breakfast room and open the door wide to let fresh air in to replace the stale night air. Of course in the process you also let all the heat out and freeze through the first half of breakfast. I have to admit I have become somewhat accustomed to both practices and kind of like them now. But they took a lot of getting used to.

The German passion for fresh air made for some interesting interchanges while walking on the Camino de Santiago in Spain a couple years ago. Most walkers stay in refugios, youth-hostel-like sleeping quarters where several people sleep in a single room with bunk beds. A German would come in the room and immediately open one or more windows. A French man or Spaniard would come in and close any open windows. The German would soon open them again and the other close them. Eventually they would come to some compromise but usually not until some words were exchanged. I knew Germans who would come into a room, find a bed next to a window that opened and promptly prop the window open with their bed to end any potential argument before it started.

In these refugios windows were always a point of irritation, even more than someone's smelly shoes. One would usually put their shoes our in the hall willingly when someone else reminded him or her they were a bit ripe. But windows were special. I remember one night on the Via de la Plata walk; we stopped in a clean but quite warm and stuffy refugio. One of us opened a window to let in some air. The hospitalero (person running the place) came up a bit later and asked who opened it. Whoever did answered up to it. The hospitalero said, "You do not open the window. I control the heat and have it on so you do not open the window. When you want to window open you talk to me and I will decide." That didn't set well at all with me and I called him "Gestapo." He shot back, "What did you say, if you do not like it you can leave." We left and found a delightful inexpensive hotel and had a wonderful evening on our own terms-and had the window open all night.

Music and TV

Like Americans, Germans like their music. But while Americans have a very small percentage of German language music, German radio and live bands play a lot of English music, as much as 50 percent. Many Germans who speak no English know some English from the words of songs.

America has public TV and radio and we are encouraged to support them with donations. Germany also has public TV and radio but they require you to pay for it. A special department of the government collects fees for each radio and TV you have. When you do not pay, they fine you. We have no TV and they don't seem to believe it. Every few months we get a letter that asks if we have bought a TV in the last few months. And if we have then we should start paying for using it. We pay around $6.70 a month for the radios we have in the car and on a radio-CD combo.

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