Today I was digging around in our rather unkept back yard moving some old bricks and I found something that was a bit exciting: the object was small (about an inch in diameter), round, and flat. Both sides were obscured by dirt and tarnish, but I immediately knew it was a coin. I could just barely make out the outline of a face on one side of the coin.

As I took the coin into the kitchen to wash the dirt off, all kinds of excited questions raced through my mind: what was the coin? How old was it? How did it get there? And, of course, the most interesting question, what was the coin worth? The house was built in circa 1894, and as I washed the coin I thought about all the possible people who could have dropped the coin…

Was it a Seated Liberty quarter, dropped by one of the original house builders sometime in the 1890’s, worth anywhere from $50 to $2000?

Or possibly a Morgan dollar, dropped by somebody in the years just before the Great Depression and worth about $11,000?

Or, coolest of all, a Liberty Head $10 gold coin, maybe dropped in the first year the New Year’s Eve ball dropped in Times Square, 1907, worth $4600?

With great anticipation I wiped off the layers of dirt and crud, and the outline became more clear. On one side was the definite outline of a face and head, and I could just make out the word “Liberty.” The other side was less clear, but at the bottom of the coin I could see the last two numbers in a date: “01.” 1901? Maybe even 1801?!

The coin was now clean enough to read another date on the back: 1788! A colonial coin, issued by one of the fledgling states, perhaps Massachusetts?

Finally, the coin was clean enough to read both the front and back.

My hard-earned prize:

A New York quarter, issued in 2001 as part of the “50 State Quarters Program“, probably dropped by the previous owners of the house and not picked up because it just wasn’t worth the effort to bend over. Value: about 25 cents…possibly a little less because it’s so tarnished.

As John Oliver would sarcastically say, “Cool.”