Being a grandfather is one of life's best assignments. I was blessed with some great grandparents and my favorite one is still around, and still spoiling me. That is my grandmother on my mother's side (Grandma Loebel) who will be 93 this year.
My grandfather on my father's side (Grandpa Holden) was a very poor farmer. My grandfather on my mother's side (Grandpa Loebel) was very successful and quite well-to-do. I loved them both very much and miss both of them to this day.
My well-to-do grandparents spoiled me at birthdays and Christmas with bicycles, wagons and other fancy toys. I remember for my seventh birthday (1958) I got a shiny, new, red bike with a built in headlight, red & white handlebar grips with matching streamers, white mud flaps with red reflectors, a horn and a rear view mirror! I was the envy of all the local kids!
On that same birthday, Grandma and Grandpa Holden gave me two rolls of pennies and a collector's folder. It was like the widow's mite! That present was worth less than two dollars, but it was a bigger sacrifice for them than the bike was. However, this start in coin collecting made a big impact on my life, even to this day. I quickly went through those two rolls of pennies and, before long, I was exchanging the rolls with the local bank. I was searching for the dates that I needed.
On one of our trips to my grandparent's home, I took my penny folder to show Grandpa Holden how I was doing. I still had a lot of empty spots, but I was making progress. Grandpa seemed very impressed. He had a couple hard-to-find pennies to donate to my collection. Then he went into another room and came out with his collection . . . I was blown away! He was only missing one coin, the 1909-S V.D.B.
I asked him, "Grandpa, how come you don't have this penny?"
He chuckled and rubbed the top of my head and said, "Allan, that coin would cost me $30.00!" (Today the average price is around $800.00)
Even at my young age, I knew that paying 3,000 pennies for one penny was not a wise investment! Thirty dollars, wow! That was a lot of money, almost a half a months wages for grandpa! Of all the different denominations of coins, the wheat cent is still my favorite and the 1909-S V.D.B. is the holy grail!
Yesterday one of my customers from the Detroit area, Tom Weaver, stopped in to pick up some accessories. Before he headed back home he took out a plastic coin holder and said, "Al, I want to show you my best finds for 2006." One coin was the size of a U.S. Large Cent, but it was a 1773 English half cent. The other coin he dumped into my hand. I moved to get into some better light to see---- there it was! It clearly read 1909-S! I flipped the coin over and the initials of the designer, Victor David Brenner almost shouted to me!
Over time, things improved for my Grandma and Grandpa Holden. Besides farming, grandpa took on carpenter work. As soon as the children were off on their own, my Grandma Holden went to work in my Grandpa Loebel's factory, Michigan Cottage Cheese.
Grandpa continued with his coin collecting. He managed to put together complete collections of Liberty Walking & Franklin Halves, Barber & Standing Liberty Quarters and many silver dollars.
Grandma's health began to slip away and Grandpa had a full time job of caring for the love of his life. My dad and two uncles could see that Grandpa was in serious need of a break. Besides collecting coins, Grandpa loved to hunt!
A plan was drawn up in which the four men would take a trip to the western mountains in the search of mule deer. While they were gone, Grandma stayed with my aunt. That meant that their house would be empty for a while.
For safety's sake, Grandpa left his coin collection with my aunt, but not all of it. Only the coins that were cataloged and in folders were moved to my aunt's care.
That left at least two or more large coffee cans full of mostly silver dollars. When he returned from a very successful hunt, he brought Grandma home, along with his coins. Wherever the rest of the coins were hidden, Grandpa decided they were safe so he left them in their hiding place.
About two years later, my grandmother was promoted to be with her Lord in heaven. Unfortunately without Grandma to care for, Grandpa no longer felt that there was any reason to prepare nutritious meals so he rarely ate right. My dad and my uncles and aunts took turns looking in on Grandpa to bring him food and to take care of his other needs as much as possible.
My dad's day off was on Wednesday. He would pick up Grandpa in the morning to take him to breakfast and then to grocery shop. Between breakfast and shopping, Dad stopped into the office for about one half hour to make sure everything was running smoothly and to check his mail. During that time, Grandpa would come to sit and wait. If I wasn't busy with a customer, I would visit with Grandpa.
Since Grandma's passing, we could see Grandpa's health slipping fast. He was losing weight which he couldn't afford to lose, and it was getting to the point that he was about to graduate from a cane to a walker. Because of these facts, it really surprised me when he started showing interest in buying a metal detector.
The first time he started questioning me about the metal detectors, I answered all of his questions and, when he and my dad went on their way, I figured that was the last I would hear of Grandpa's interest in a metal detector.
Well, that wasn't the end! The next three Wednesdays, Grandpa pressed on with his desire to get a detector. When I finally realized that this was not going to go away from Grandpa's thinking, I figured it was time to talk to my dad. I told Dad what was going on and I told him that I couldn't possibly sell Grandpa a metal detector, I could only give him one. As hard as it was for him to get around, neither Dad or I had any idea how he would use it.
Dad sat down beside Grandpa and asked him, point blank and in public, what he needed a metal detector for? Grandpa's body was failing, but mentally he was sharp as a tack and quick as a mongoose.
My dad and my grandpa were both named Curtis and sometimes Grandpa called him 'Junior' which my dad wasn't fond of hearing.
"Junior, there is a pipe that runs from the windmill to the barn and since the windmill stopped working years ago, I've wanted to find that pipe."
Grandpa went home that day with a simple-to-use metal detector. It didn't occur to Dad until several days later that Grandpa's story did not make any sense at all. After all, the windmill was still standing and that end of the pipe was easy to locate by lifting up a trap door and looking down. The other end of that pipe filled the water trough in the barn and it was in plain sight.
Life went on and the subject of the metal detector never came up again. Grandpa got worse and worse and everyone knew that he was a danger to himself. There was a kitchen fire that was contained by Grandpa but not without some damage. This was the wake up call that everyone needed. Grandpa needed full time supervision and care. As hard as it was, Grandpa was put in a nursing home in the area.
I really think Grandpa liked the place, but not because he was with many people his own age. It was the young nurses that he liked. Dad and I visited him as often as we could and he really looked forward to that. On the nice days, we rolled Grandpa out on the patio and visited for an hour or two. If Grandpa fell asleep, then Dad and I would talk. It was during this time that I learned so much about my Dad, his mom and dad, brothers and sisters. Dad and I did so many things together, but I feel this time moved us from the status of friends to best friends.
Grandpa grew worse. Some days he seemed sharp as a tack and the next day he was living his life fifty years earlier. On one of these days he was thinking about my dad's younger brother, Uncle Leonard. "Darn it, Leonard! I told you to mend the west fence! Now! You are the one who is going to round up those cows!"
During her employment at the cottage cheese company, my Grandma Holden worked in the area in which they made potato salad. One day she lost most of the fingers from one hand on a potato dicer. That was clearly a tragic event that really burned itself into Grandpa's mind and we relived that with him as well.
On one of his good days, with only Dad and I present, he told us about hiding the coffee cans full of silver dollars. He wasn't sure, but there may have been other items to. He explained that this was what the metal detector was all about. He couldn't even remember if he buried the coins or not. We didn't look for the treasure right away because we simply didn't have the time.
A few months later my grandpa joined my grandma for the rest of eternity. After the estate was divided between the children, the house and out buildings were emptied. Then the farm was put on the real estate market. Dad and I searched the area around the house and barns with the finest treasure hunting equipment available. I even used my bottle probe near the buildings. We used two-box detectors in the side yards and along the fence rows, but we came up empty handed.
What we were doing was working because we came up with a mountain of junk, but where was the treasure? The new owner is farming the land and most of the out buildings have been torn down. He expanded the house in the rear and I just wonder if he found Grandpa's treasure.
To sum up: for me, it was just cool to hold this very rare 1909-S V.D.B. coin and I could not help but think of Grandpa! Had it not been for two rolls of pennies and a 39¢ coin folder, there likely would not be a Pro/Stock Detectors and maybe even no Southwest Michigan Seek & Search Club.
If I am ever rich, I want to own one of those 1909-S V.D.B. wheat cents! What an awesome coin!If you have young folks to buy a present for, a couple rolls of coins and a collector folder can start them on a lifelong rewarding hobby!