The Value of a Dime

In both The Eye-Dancers and The Singularity Wheel, Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski can’t help but notice how inexpensive things are in the variant town of Colbyville.  In The Singularity Wheel, in fact, Ryan manages to secure a room in an inn for just $5 a night.  Prices like that make the boys think of period-piece movies, Beaver Cleaver, black-and-white still lifes from a bygone era, speckled with cobwebs.

 

Indeed, I once worked with a woman who, every year, upon receiving her annual “cost-of’-living” raise, would grouse, “Well, three percent of nothing is still nothing!”  Many of the other employees would nod their heads in agreement.  We all notice the increase in prices ($4.49 for that box of cereal?  $10 for a standard book of twenty stamps?) and are caught in the current of escalation as it continues along on its slow, steady, and inexorable march.

 

It has gotten to the point where there are plenty of people, reasonable people at that, who argue that coins should go the way of the dodo.  “Who needs ’em anymore?” a friend of mine said just the other day.  “All they do is clutter up my jacket pocket.”  And I had to admit, he had a point.  But I’m also glad we still have our coins, our one-cent, and five-cent pieces.

 

Our dimes.

In the economic milieu of the 21st century, a single dime cannot purchase much of anything.  But it wasn’t always that way.  Take comic books . . .

Nowadays, to buy a single issue, you need to plunk down $4.  But jump in an imaginary time machine, become ten years old again, and pretend it’s 1950.  At that time, a ten-year-old (let’s call him Kyle as a point of reference) might ask his dad for a dime, just one dime (“I’ll mow the lawn later, Dad, promise!”), and then head over to the corner store, where dozens of comics would be tantalizingly arrayed on a spinning rack.  He’d browse over the issues, the rack squeaking as he turned it, hunting for just the right one, and, maybe, just maybe, he’d pick out a gem like Strange Adventures number 2.

 

This particular issue hit the newsstands in the fall of 1950, and for just ten cents, Kyle was rewarded with a glorious, end-of-the-world-style cover, four feature stories, fifty-two action-packed pages, not to mention tempting advertisements, a short picture-less sci-fi tale, and various illustrated informational blurbs scattered about the issue, one of which was called “A World of Thinking Machines.”  This prescient piece laid out the groundwork for AI and advanced robots.  In fact, thinking machines were not just figments of imaginative sci-fi enthusiasts.  At the time of the issue’s publication, sixty-eight years ago, the article proclaimed the existence of a “metal monster with sinews of electrical wire that can solve the most intricate mathematical equation in minutes . . . [and which can] ‘think’ more perfectly than a dozen human mathematicians!”  The next step, according to the piece, “will be the robot–a tireless, mechanical servant that will perform man’s duties in factory or office or on farm with the utmost efficiency.  The metal workers will usher in the dawn of leisure”–which, the article concludes, will ultimately spread to the home itself, allowing for the “bliss of domestic luxury.”

 

That was a lot of material for a humble dime’s investment.  It brings to mind, in the cold, hard light of 2018, how far we have come, how much inflation has affected our world.  This isn’t a diatribe against inflation–I’m no economist.  Just a statement of fact.  It elicits a certain nostalgia.  I was born long after the phenomenon of ten-cent comic books.  But there is a part of me, perhaps a substantial part, that hungers for a simpler time, a simpler age, when coins were cause for a child’s excitement and enthusiasm.

 

What is the value of a dime today?  What does a single, solitary ten-cent piece, in and of itself, have to offer?  Anything except the ability to break change? In a purely practical, utilitarian sense, perhaps not.  But consider the dime from a different angle.  Look at it with a new perspective.

For starters, the physical characteristics.  I have before me a dime with the year 1993 imprinted on its copper and nickel surface.  The left-facing profile of FDR stares at something we cannot see, his stoic expression etched for the ages.  On the flip side, there is a lit torch flanked by an olive branch on one side and an oak branch on the other, symbolizing liberty, peace, and strength.  The dime in my possession still maintains some of its original luster, even twenty-five years on, though smudges also exist, the result of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fingerprints coming into contact with the surface–some rubbing, some squeezing, some flitting across it for the briefest of moments, but leaving their mark just the same.

 

And those prints, those hands that touched this lightweight alloy of metals, have a story to tell.  This dime could write a novel or a memoir if someone might just give voice to it.  Was it stashed at the back of a dresser drawer, out of sight, for months or years on end?  How many times did it get rolled and deposited into a bank?  How many cashiers handed it out when making change, and when they did, were they focused on this dime, the customer, the next person in line . . . or were their minds drifting, wondering what they might do when their shift ended, if Jeff or Suzie would agree to hang out later, what they would eat for supper, or where they’d go on their next day off?

 

Did the dime ever lie in the belly of a child’s piggy bank, the ten-cent portion of a financial dream?  Did someone perhaps drop it on a sidewalk or a parking lot unknowingly, or, if knowingly, without care?  And did someone else later pick it up, pocket it, and add it to their jar of coins under the kitchen sink?  How many cities has this dime journeyed through?  Has it been to the West Coast and back?  Was it in someone’s pocket as they toured Manhattan?  Has it tasted the sting of dust on a country road in late summer, the sun shining, hot, the hands that fiddled with it salty and moist with sweat?

 

It’s true.  A dime can no longer purchase fifty-two-page comic books that can mesmerize a child–or an adult–over the course of a lazy, leisurely afternoon.  But the other things it can do, the narratives it can weave, and the lessons it can teach if we’re willing to look and listen and wonder and imagine are worth far more than a mere ten cents.

 

And all this time later, I’d like to think that Kyle, our fictional friend from yesteryear and now on the doorstep of becoming an octogenarian, would see it that way, too.

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

52 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. laurelwolfelives
    Apr 23, 2018 @ 19:21:27

    I really enjoyed reading this. Such nostalgic memories. 🙂

    Reply

  2. joannerambling
    Apr 23, 2018 @ 22:30:32

    You thank me for reading, I thank you for writing, I have no idea how much a dime is but in my opinion every little bit helps in front of me I have 4 money boxes 3 are mine 1 is Leo’s I also have money boxes for my other grandchildren and I add money to them every week.

    Reply

  3. evelyneholingue
    Apr 24, 2018 @ 00:25:59

    Since I collect loose change this post resonates with me. I was told that money is dirty and has no odor. But when I slip these pennies, nickels and dimes in jars and ashtrays (I love them, although I don’t smoke) I also think of the stories behind these coins and of the value they once had. I keep quarters in my wallet since I use them when I buy an occasional coffee at the gas station, for example.
    One of my daughters knows where I keep my loose change and she loves to take the coins to one of these machines that trade them for “real” money. Although there is a trading fee it is still amazing to see how much you can get when you collect coins. So, although we cannot buy anything with a single dime in 2018 if we keep them we can still buy something.
    As a kid I could buy a lot of candies with one French franc. It was a fortune in the 70s. Now, a Euro doesn’t take you that far.
    As always I enjoy reading your posts that always mix nostalgia from the old days and our current times.

    Reply

  4. ritaroberts
    Apr 24, 2018 @ 13:32:34

    Hi Mike, Ah ! those were what we called the good old days where as kids we could buy lots more with those coins than we can today. Two pennies worth of sweets which entailed a huge bag. and only sixpence to get into the cinema to see the good old cowboy films. I do save coins in a jar as do many others but only because they weigh down my purse and unfortunately the banks in Crete do not take them in .So we have to pass them onto the shops again, I suppose you could call that saving as such. It would be nice if they did away with coins and just stuck to notes don’t you think ? Thanks for a very interesting post

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Apr 25, 2018 @ 00:35:27

      Thanks so much, Rita! It’s interesting because they have something called The Vermont Country Store here–and while, overall, it’s a pricey place, they do have a little section with old-fashioned candy bars and the kinds of items that would have been prevalent 50 and 60 years ago. That section always makes it feel as though I am being transported into the past.:)

      Reply

  5. foodinbooks
    Apr 24, 2018 @ 14:25:08

    I remember when I was young, about 10, and we’d get $1 for our weekly allowance, and that seemed like a lot. I still save my coins, too, and recently emptied out the enormous tequila bottle I use for change. Came to nearly 80 bucks. This brought back some funny memories of my youth. Thanks!

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Apr 25, 2018 @ 00:36:47

      Glad you enjoyed this, Vanessa! And yes, I also save coins in a jar, and when I last emptied the jar, I also had about 80 dollars in there.:) It does add up! Always great hearing from you.:)

      Reply

  6. Steph McCoy
    Apr 24, 2018 @ 15:38:32

    Reading this I couldn’t help but think about penny candy and how when I was young and after school would pop into our ‘paper store’ (a quaint little newsstand) and buy a little bag of assorted candy. A dime would almost fill up the bag. I never thought I’d see the day where I would look back yearning for the good old days but there are days I do miss the simplicity of the times.Thank you for sharing a piece that helps us to expand our imaginations.

    Reply

  7. Karina Pinella
    Apr 25, 2018 @ 02:51:05

    Yes, how about those days when gas was less than a dollar? Those are the real “good ole days,” when things were more affordable.

    Reply

  8. imambertan
    Apr 25, 2018 @ 13:12:27

    that cereal box tho. makes me want to eat lol

    Reply

  9. ellie894
    Apr 26, 2018 @ 22:57:47

    Lovely and inspiring Mike 😊 I have never seen nutter butter cereal where I live! I would totally spend $4 to try a box at least once. 😎

    Reply

  10. Ste J
    Apr 30, 2018 @ 02:19:47

    Great post and as you display your love for classic TV and film I need to mention a film which I think you will enjoy called The Similars, which I went into with no knowledge and think it would be right up your alley. It will be better if you don’t read up too much on it. Also as I am rubbish and so far off writing the review for The Singularity Wheel trading manly off pre written reviews and travel, I shall reblog you shortly.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Apr 30, 2018 @ 18:38:40

      Thanks so much for the recommendation! I will absolutely check this movie out.:) And–no rush at all on the review! Though of course I will look forward to it when you do write it.:) And thank you for the reblog!

      Reply

  11. Ste J
    Apr 30, 2018 @ 02:21:49

    Reblogged this on Book to the Future and commented:
    A reblog for Mike, partly because I am still finishing the review of his novel The Singularity Wheel, and partly because his posts are a really good read.

    Reply

  12. Lyn
    Apr 30, 2018 @ 06:44:29

    The sooner they get rid of the 5 cent piece the better. They actually cost the Royal Australian Mint 7 cents to make. Just senseless. When I was a kid, you could buy a heap for 10 cents. Dark chocolate coated liquorice bullets were 8 for a penny, an ice cream cone cost 3 cents, a small bottle of coke was 9 cents and you could buy a big bag of thick cut chips (french fries) wrapped in newspaper for 10 cents. Oh my! Tearing a hole in the top of the chip parcel and eating them one by one was bliss!
    These days an ice cream cone costs about $4.50, a bottle of coke is around $4 and a small serve of hot chips is a minimum of $4. Thank goodness you can still get a soft serve ice cream from McDonald’s for 50 cents. 😀

    Reply

  13. shadowoperator
    Apr 30, 2018 @ 13:31:51

    Dear MIke, I think what I miss most (and as I was born in the 50’s, I AM familiar with some of the dime anthropology, as I’ll call it for short) is the use of the dime in language. For example, though “it’ll turn on a dime” is still remotely in the language, if I looked at someone even just half my age and said “drop a dime sometime and we’ll talk,” they wouldn’t know without explanation that I meant “call me from a payphone,” or etc. The language is our last preserve of our reality, in some ways.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Apr 30, 2018 @ 18:42:17

      That is a great point! I agree–some of the expressions from years ago are sorely missed. In fact, this has given me an idea that I will use for a future blog post.:) Thanks for mentioning this!

      Reply

  14. jjspina
    May 01, 2018 @ 01:47:12

    Interesting post, Mike! I was born in 48 and know the value of a nickel back then and even more the precious dime. We could get a large pickle from a wooden keg for a nickel or a bunch of candies. A dime would buy twice as much. Those were the days! Thanks for bring back the good ole days! 😆

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 01, 2018 @ 17:01:36

      Thank you, Janice! Sadly, today, we seem to almost be at the point where even a full dollar bill doesn’t have much function.:( But I will always have a soft spot for coins.:)

      Reply

  15. Resa
    May 01, 2018 @ 19:22:42

    Excellent post!
    Also, you’ve reminded me that the vintage Comic Book and Comic Book paraphernalia store on the corner is having an event with free (that’s less than a dime!) vintage comic books next week. I’ve got to go!

    Reply

  16. Robert Matthew Goldstein
    May 01, 2018 @ 22:01:06

    The cover of ‘Unknown Worlds’ brought a smile to my face.

    Reply

  17. Robert Matthew Goldstein
    May 01, 2018 @ 22:01:55

    Reblogged this on Art by Rob Goldstein and commented:
    from The Eye-Dancers

    Reply

  18. eurobrat
    May 02, 2018 @ 01:57:21

    I love your story of where that single dime could have gone 🙂 Heck, I miss the days from just a few years ago when I could still buy a bag of chips from a vending machine for 50 cents!

    Reply

  19. Inese Poga artist, writer and life sciences specialist
    May 03, 2018 @ 03:32:33

    We do not have one and two cent coins. I have a lot of five cents also around the house. The smallest might be quarter that makes some sense. Yes, money has less and less value. However, things that we buy also have less value because they are just bad quality.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 03, 2018 @ 16:34:05

      That is a good point. There is definitely a pattern of products being made worse the past few years . . . or another technique—less product but the same, or a higher, price . . . Lots of junk out there, unfortunately.:( Great hearing from you!

      Reply

  20. Nicholas Conley
    May 10, 2018 @ 13:56:33

    Great post. Gave me a new appreciation for those dimes in my pocket!

    Reply

  21. kutukamus
    May 16, 2018 @ 07:34:25

    The spirit inside does matter, I guess 🍸

    Reply

  22. natuurfreak
    May 24, 2018 @ 16:17:49

    Artikel heel graag gelezen

    Reply

  23. Dragthepen
    May 24, 2018 @ 20:33:53

    This post was great. Take me back to my childhood.

    Reply

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