I don’t know what prompted me to do it. What motivates a ten-year-old boy to invest time and energy into something which, in hindsight, was such a ludicrously bad return on investment? I suppose it’s the same motivation that provides the impetus to climb the highest peak in the Himalayas. Just to test one’s mettle; because it’s there.
My recollection is not crystal clear, but I do recall specific elements of my endeavor.
I rubbed the front face of the penny against the rough concrete, changing the tarnished obverse face of the coin from Lincoln’s smooth profile to a rough, abstract version of the sixteenth President of the United States. The coin got too hot for me to continue erasing his image entirely without a pause to allow the metal to cool.
Occasionally, my fingers slipped off the coin as I was rubbing it back and forth on the sidewalk, doing to the skin of my fingers what it had been doing to the copper. That was just the price one pays for adventure.
When the shell of a cent cooled enough, I continued until the face of the coin portrayed only a shiny copper shadow of a man.
After allowing it to cool enough to touch, I turned the coin over and followed the same process to remove almost all traces of the Lincoln Memorial.
Next, I took the coin between my thumb and forefinger and rubbed its edge on the same coarse concrete, creating a flat surface on the circle. Slowly, I made my way around the coin, taking a bit of copper off the edge along it entire circumference, smoothing the resulting imperfect circle as I went.
Eventually, the coin looked to be about right. I compared it to a dime. No, not quite. I needed to remove a bit more from the face of the coin; the circumference was a tad too large. So, back at it. It had to be perfect; it had to be the size of a copper dime. It had to be precise.
Finally, after considerable time (but I don’t remember just how much) and energy (quite a lot), I was ready to try it.
I took the receiver off the pay-phone hook and slipped the copper dime into the slot, hoping I’d hear a dial tone. Yes, pay phones cost only a dime back then. Success! It worked! I heard the dial tone!
I do not recall who I called with my “dime,” but I suspect it might have been one of my best friends, Steve or Rod.
Perseverance paid handsomely. I had increased the value of that little coin ten-fold.