We’ve all had little things we collected, found or stumbled on as we grew up. Usually, they fit in our pockets. Some of us still have these things. I was musing the other day (as I often do) about some of the things I used to have and recalled a few of them. The interesting aspect about most of these things is that to my knowledge, they were never actually purchased.
- A counterfeit 50 cent piece. This coin I had in the mid-50’s was an accurate replica of a real coin. The Franklin half dollar was released in 1948. Apparently, it was a collector’s item initially. Back in the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s, 50 cents was actually worth something. I’m sure the counterfeit “industry” at the time thought it was a good idea to make some. This project couldn’t have lasted very long. I don’t know what happened to my coin but I remember twirling it on a table and hearing a really “dead” sound. It didn’t seem to weigh the same as a real one. I asked my dad about it and he said it was counterfeit. I think he was right.
- Silver certificates. These were issued in $1, $5, and $10 denominations. These bills briefly became redeemable for raw silver bullion in 1964. After that, they could only be redeemed for Federal Reserve Notes. I had a few certificates at the time, but not enough to be meaningful. A friend of mine at North American Aviation saw this change coming and hoarded as many as he could and traded them in for real silver bullion pieces. It was interesting to me but I couldn’t cash in. I don’t know what happened to these either. Hey, it’s been 50 years.
- A presidential campaign button for Teddy Roosevelt. This small button has an image of Theodore and his prospective vice president, Charles Fairbanks.
My dad gave it to me in the 1980’s. As I recall, this button was for the 1904 election. It was in good condition and is worth about $58 today. I don’t have it anymore because I gave it to my son. At least it’s still in the family.
- An autographed photograph of Amelia Earhart. Actually, this photo was a family item that our father obtained way back in the day when he was a flyer. I don’t know the circumstances about how he got it but he was in his 30’s when Amelia and Fred Noonan disappeared on their attempted flight around the world. Again, this photo is still in our family. My brother has it and takes good care of it. It could be worth a couple of thousand dollars.
- An unusual toy with a WWII theme. As incredible as it seems now, this toy, which I played with in the early 50’s, had a small map of Japan encased at the bottom of a little cylinder about three inches across and half an inch high. Made out of cardboard, the top was transparent and two BB’s rolled around inside. There were two little depressions on the map of Japan labeled Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the trick was to roll the two BB’s around and try to get them to land in the depressions. Needless to say, the BB’s represented atomic bombs. The state of the world and our national attitudes were a lot different then. I don’t know what happened to that little gadget either. I think our mother threw it out.
- A short 16mm movie from the 1930’s of our father as he was piloting (from the rear cockpit) what was probably a Kinner biplane. The film was black and white of course but there he was in his leather helmet and goggles as he performed maneuvers, filmed by a friend who sat in the front cockpit. He loved to fly and even hired out as a “delivery” pilot who flew airplanes out of Los Angeles to buyers in California and Oregon. This film, kept in our refrigerator for years to preserve it, was lost in one of our moves as a young family. This one I’m really sad about. We have these photos though. Our father was a dashing young man.
- A baseball signed by Willie Mays. My sportswriter brother gave me this one. Hey, if I try really hard, I’ll find this one. I did see Willie play in San Francisco a few times before he retired. Anybody who knows baseball, even a tiny bit, knows Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid. I think this baseball is in our storage.
- Willie Mosconi’s autograph. Now, most people today have absolutely never heard of Willie Mosconi, who he was, what he did and why his autograph is undoubtedly valuable today. Mosconi was one of the best pocket billiards players that ever lived. He played straight pool, also called 14.1. I saw him in Los Angeles in 1965 at a pocket billiards championship in Burbank. A friend and I drove there to watch the tournament. Willie was already in his 60’s and I got his autograph on a small piece of paper because that’s all I had. I was a fairly good pool player in high school and college and loved to play straight pool, a game most people don’t play anymore. I played straight pool in college with one of my professors. We sneered at 8-ball and rotation but loved straight pool. You can find out about and watch Willie on YouTube. Needless to say, I can’t find Willie’s autograph. I do have a box of stuff in storage and I think it’s in there.
- BONUS: At that Burbank tournament, which I believe was the World Invitational Championship, I was astounded to see a black player shooting on one of the tables. He wore a very nice suit and tie and was one of the few who did. I could see he was very, very good. His name was Cisero Murphy. I googled him before I put this post together and learned a lot more about him. He is in the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame. He even beat Willie Mosconi a number of times. He won that Burbank tournament I witnessed. He is the only player who ever won a national championship on his first attempt, which I saw. He was the player who broke the “color line” for all the others. I wish I had Murphy’s autograph. He’s considered the Jackie Robinson of billiards. Perhaps Willie Mosconi should be considered the Jack Nicklaus of billiards?
- The first issue of Sports Illustrated. Our father subscribed to SI way back then when it was first published, in 1954. None of us ever thought to hold on to this magazine. I have to look for it to see if one of us Draper brothers still has it. It’s worth a lot of money now but probably we don’t have it anymore.
- Buffalo nickel, with buffalo on raised ground. I acquired this coin in change in the 1960’s. I had a small interest in collecting coins and had mostly pennies that, even today, aren’t worth much. Maybe in a few decades. This nickel had a major flaw. It was so worn that the date could not be easily identified. From what I could see, it was either 1934 or 1935 but it could not be confirmed. The coin books at the time had this coin worth a few hundred dollars up to $30,000. Alas, my coin was quite worthless except for its curiosity factor. I hung on to it for a few years, storing it in my grandmother’s garage with a few other things. I called her up one day in 1967 to see how she was doing and she said “Bob, the garage burned down.” Good thing the coin was worthless.
- I presume that many of you used to have interesting things and still have some of them. Little pieces of history that mean something to us.