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My Blog

The fifty cent piece is alive and well!

Greetings and salutations from down-under – lots going on here as we settle into our second month in Australia. 
The boys are all doing well in school and between soccer matches, birthday parties and trips to the beach to collect currency (sea-glass is now officially traded in our house), our days and weekends are filling with exciting local activities.  It feels like we’ve been here for much longer than we have, in both the good and bad ways.  We’re finding our way and making friends – but also missing our stateside friends and family.
It all makes me a bit nostalgic, and especially when I see the boys around the house making-up sea-glass price lists for all the things they’re willing to sell I start to think about the good old days before credit cards took over when coins meant something more than they do today.  When I was a kid (back in the day when school was uphill both ways… and we walked through snow-drifts… you remember those times), coins held a special place in our lives.  In our house growing up we were often given collectable coins as gifts.  Each year brought a new proof set which contained that year’s “never-touched by human hands” set of a shiny new penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar.  I remember looking at the plastic encased coins with a sort of awe and thinking about how they would someday make me rich (they never did).
In my mind the king of the coins was always the half-dollar – the fifty cent piece.    
The half-dollar (in the US at least) always stood out as a sort of socialite or royalty among the coins.  The fifty cent piece is rarely engaged in any real work; the quarter does all the heavy lifting in area of change making.  The half-dollar is usually engaged as a prized piece in a collection or as a special gift from grandpa to little boys.  In fact whenever I think of this special coin I remember my great-grandpa, Clarence "Pop" Schutter.  I don’t remember why I make that connection (perhaps it is because I have a vivid memory of Pop being the first to introduce us to the Susan B. Anthony silver dollar… perhaps it's because I think of Pop as one of the more successful role models in my early life… and I associate that success with money, even though his was a richness of love, family, music and laughter… anyway, paging doctor Freud much… I have a thing for coins).
So now that I find myself in Australia, I’m pleased to see that the coin plays a very important part in the modern Australian culture.  They even have a two dollar coin, which is the smallest in size of the Australian coins, go figure.  What this superfluity of coins means is that the smallest paper denomination is a five, so at the end of the day I find myself with a pocket full of change that weighs somewhere between 1 and 2 kilos (that’s Australian for really heavy). 
Which brings me to the Australian fifty cent piece – the thing is gargantuan.  In the photo below you can see a stack of ten dollars worth of the things and how they relate to a US one-dollar bill.  They are about the size of a small hubcap or man-hole cover and weigh about as much.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have a half-dollar than two twenty cent coins and a ten cent coin, but they are just plain huge.  I’m also not about to complain about the one singularly exceptional thing Australian’s have adopted that the US is just too silly to accept.  Australia has removed the penny from circulation!  The use a concept called rounding… anyone heard of it… any of this ringin’ a bell.  If you’re interested in how it works with currency you can read more here, but the net result is that while my pocket change weighs about a kilo, at least there aren’t any pennies in it. 
Now you’re wondering about how all this comes back to sea-glass and the new currency being developed by the First National Bank of Max & Jake.  The standard element in sea-glass currency is the blue – all other sea-glass colours are measured in units of blue.  A piece of brown is one tenth of a blue, while a piece of red sea-glass is worth two blue and a piece of yellow is the highest sea-glass denomination being worth three blue.  I’ve been watching the sea-glass trading for several days now to see if I can create an international market and perhaps establish an exchange rate for the Aussie dollar – but then I’d have to give up all my fifty cent pieces, and my fond memories of a bygone era.  Decisions, decisions, decisions. 
One thing is for sure though, the currency value of sea-glass is rising by the day as the boys realize it’s hard to find the stuff, good thing we’re close to the beach.
Hugs and kisses.

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