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A Quick, Cool Million

In the space of only 10 minutes or so, I won and lost a million dollars.

When Christopher was a baby, Paola came to the house two or three days a week and watched him for a few hours while I worked on my first ghostwriting project.

One day she asked me, “Treacy, you no have one penny?” Paola was born in Rome, emigrated to Argentina before coming to the U.S., and spoke an admixture of Spanish, Italian, and English. We understood each other for the most part.  But that day I was puzzled.  “Yes, I have a penny,” I told her. “Do you need one?”

Then she explained that she had seen something on TV the night before about pennies made during World War II that have a silver hue rather than a copper glint.   

“1943,” Paola said.  “Worth 1 million dollars.”

I promptly went to my jewelry box and fished out a 1943 steel penny, which I had kept there since I was about 13, when my father had given it to me.  Paola, normally very calm, began to scream in excitement.


“Paola,” I said.  “That’s too easy. If this is worth a million, I’ll split it with you.”

I’m glad I didn’t spend my million before I’d collected it. A quick search revealed that when copper penny production was halted during WWII, temporarily replaced by “steelies,” a few bronze pennies slipped through in error.  The very rare 1943 copper penny was worth a million, not my steelie. Paola and I laughed about our quick boom and bust.

I know I’ll never find a 1943 copper penny, but lately I’ve been on a quest for other one-cent treasures. As my mother-in-law sifted through her belongings and pared down possessions accumulated over a lifetime, she came across a “Lincoln Head Cent” folder that she said was David’s when he was a boy. Image


I love the way he earnestly wrote: “15¢” and “10¢” with arrows pointing to these valuable specimens.



The folder needs three pennies to be complete. Maybe they fell out, maybe David reached an age where coin collecting seemed childish and never finished this folder, or perhaps the three missing pennies are rare.  If you come across a 1955-S, a 1959, or a 1960 penny, let me know.  I might be willing to pay as much as 10 or 15 cents each for them.


About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

4 responses »

  1. Great story Treac. You had me going for a few minutes! I’ll keep an eye out for a treasure of a copper ’43. I so rarely even see pennies anymore, it shouldn’t be hard. Pennies may go the way of 8-track tapes and dial phones. Then, they will ALL be collector items!

  2. I hope pennies stay for at least a while longer. I still pick them up when I see one on the ground. “See a penny pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck. See a penny leave it lie, you’ll be sorry by and by.” I don’t want to press my luck!

  3. Hey now. have you checked those pennies values today….? Could be worth a cool 25-50 cents each. Anything over that and you’re going to have to split it with me.


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