MY QUARTER DOLLARS
I was poring over the statements on my table when I heard a gentle tap on my door. I looked up to see the beaming face of my friend from the US.
‘Hi Ganny! You needn’t have to knock,” I said as I stood up to welcome him. I walked round the table and gave him a warm hug, as I ushered him to a chair.
“Your flight was on time?”
“Yes, of course. But as usual, the baggage clearance at the airport took some time.”
“Has Annie come along too?”
“Look buddy. That’s the style in US. Not with you. To you, we are Ganpathy and Anandhi,” he said with a smile and continued, “There's a wedding in the family this week. So Anandhi and I have come down. Our children couldn’t make it since it is in the middle of their term. For me too, it’s work from home,” he sighed.
Ganapathy then pulled out a cover and handed it over to me. “I have got you the quarter dollar coins you had asked me,” he said.
“You mean for all the States of the Union!?” I exclaimed in disbelief.
Without answering, he posed me a question. “Why this sudden interest in quarter dollars?”
“While chatting with a friend of mine, he casually remarked that the US mint had released commemorative statehood series of quarter dollar coins. Each state had selected a design that signifies their commemorating history, people and traditions. I found this to be unique and it kindled my interest. You know of my interest in coin collection. I wanted to have this as an embellishment among my other collections.”
“When I met some friends and relatives from US who had come down to India, I relieved them of any quarter dollars they had on hand and I was able to collect coins of 25 of the States. As a routine, I sounded you out too, when I spoke to you a few days back.”
I eagerly removed the gift wrapper and a big surprise was in store for me.
A folded hardbound album greeted me. On the top were the words “United States Commemorative Statehood Quarters Collector’s Album”.
Excitedly, I opened the album to the left and right. There were three compartments inside with circular cavities in a sequence of five in each line with the name of each state printed in
the sequence in which each commemorative state quarter was released by the US Mint, starting with Delaware and totalling in all to 50.
I looked up at the beaming face in front of me, amazed. “Thanks a lot, buddy.”
Curious, I quickly opened the other album. I found that it was partially filled up. I looked up at Ganapathy, quizzically.
Ganapathy soon reeled out the sequence of events in the US before his departure.
'Let’s not have any last minute shopping, Ganny. Let’s take it cool,” Annie was saying when your call came through.
After answering your call, I turned to Annie. “Have something interesting my friend Vikas is looking out for from India. I do not want to disappoint him. Anyway, I have to go to the garage at Downers Grove to bring the car. I will finish off this shopping too.”
I boarded a bus from my house at Bolingbrook to Downers Grove, collected my car and started to scout round for a coins shop.
I dropped into a nearby bank and enquired at the counter. “Do you have a bundle of quarter dollar coins of all the States in the Union, please?”
“Nope. I doubt it, sir”, replied the girl at the counter, with a smile. “In general, we can give you the quarter of Illinois with may be the coins of a few other states.”
A bit disappointed, as I turned to leave the bank, the girl at the counter called out cheerfully, “You can try at any coins shop. Good luck to you, sir. Have a nice day.”
I searched the Internet and located a popular store “Distinctive Coins Company of America” in Darien. I drove down to Darien, a small village from Downers Grove and easily located the shop.
“Good morning, can I help you?” asked a very spirited owner of the shop.
“I am looking for the 50 State commemorative quarters.”
“Yes. It comes as a Collector’s Album,” he paused, took out a bound album and opened it for me. It had a brief note on how the commemorative quarters were introduced and also the relevant release dates of the coins. This costs $25, sir. Along with this, you can also take an empty Collector’s Album for $15.”
“Since I have this album with the coins of all the States, why do I need to buy this empty album,” I asked.
“You can start filling up the relevant pouches of the various states from the coins you have on hand. You will start looking out for the coins of the remaining states to make the album complete. This will be a very interesting exercise."
His suave talk made me buy the empty album too.
I brought this home and showed it to Annie and my two cousins. They got really excited and said, “Let’s start filling it up with the coins we have on hand.”
All of us gathered together at the dining table and emptied our purses. We started segregating the quarter dollar coins and kept them separately on the table. Each one of us took it in turns to pick out a coin from their collection and call it out. The others would check if they had the coin in their collection and hand it over to the caller. The caller checked if the details in the coin matched with the commemorative date.
If the date matched, we exchanged high fives and a loud cheer went up.
It the date did not match the release date, a uniform groan came out.
There was excitement around the table, our eyes were totally glued to the coins on the table and the album.
“All coins are now exhausted and we have covered 23 states only,” I called out.
Annie suddenly left the table and went into the kitchen. She soon returned with a box, and a big grin on her face.
“When I return from shopping, I put the small change away in this box in my kitchen. I had completely forgotten about it till now.”
She rummaged through the coins and finally said, “I have located coins for two more states. That makes it 25 states in all.”
“We are at least at the half way mark,” spoke everyone in chorus.
We exchanged high fives for the absorbing entertainment which took us back to our childhood days.
Ganapathy’s face lit up as he finished his narrative.
“That’s really awesome, buddy,” I said. "In today’s fast world, with everyone glued to TVs, videos, mobiles and other gadgets with no time to spare for any conversation, you have spent quality time together, like we used to when we were young. You have learnt to enjoy the little things in life that makes you happy. It generates a bonding that is infectious."