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35th President's Letter by Chris Pilliod

This is my 35th President's and gosh it seems like just a few years ago when I first read about an Indian Cent Club forming, but we the Fly-In Club is now 20 years old! If you are a charter member or even a long-time member, please send your reminiscences of your early club days to our editor, Rick Snow at

These are some of my early recollections. I was just putting an end to my first job out of college in a small steel mill in Keokuk, Iowa. My office was right above on top of a levee overlooking the Mississippi River. From my window I had a great view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers. In the winter when those cold Alberta clippers would hang around and the river would freeze hard, American Bald Eagles would make the area their winter home . They'd take off from the trees and swoop down and grab fish from the openings in the ice floes. I remember one especially cold winter staring out the window and counting nearly 50 eagles perched on ice floes tearing into their meals. It was such a cool office, I absolutely loved it.

The old-timers working there often told me of the Great Flood of 1973, when early spring rains and melting caused the Big Muddy One to overflow the banks and workers were taken off the premises on boats. The offices were situated on the river-side of the plant and on the walls you could still see dull faint brown of the mudlines from the flood.

Years after I left the company, I called back to chat with some old co-workers; another flood had hit the Mississippi and I was concerned if the plant was affected. This time the river was especially pernicious, "worse than '73" they told me. This time there was no salvaging the old building built in the 1930's to service the agricultural business with major customers being Caterpillar, John Deere, and JI Case. The water line that summer in 1993 was to the roofline and when the brown water finally receded a week later all the furnaces and equipment lay in ruin. I didn't realize it at the time but not since or probably ever will I have a better office. Some dead carp and catfish laid next to the welding equipment I spent hours working up procedures.

By 1990 I had been there ten years and was ready for a change-- ready to move on in my career (who wouldn't after ten years in Keokuk!). I probably would have done so earlier but the economy was tough in steel industry through the 80's. Anyways, during this transitional time I started seeing reports of collectors who wished to start a specialty club focused on Flying Eagle and Indian Cents in Numismatic News or Coin World. This pre-dated the Internet so for coin collectors this was the only source of news-the old fashioned way. In fact I recall on the day I knew these papers would hit the mailbox even going home over lunch hour to pick them up, I mean who knew what great numismatic morsel might be in that week's free Classified in Nummy News!!! I can't recall if it was Larry Steve in Maryland or Rick Snow in Seattle who ran the announcement but it caught my eye.

I remember thinking there are so many other specialty clubs why wouldn't this one work? I mean Indian cents are wildly popular, there's got to be a number of collectors who would want to join. So I cut out the announcement with a mental note to join. But in the middle of a move to a new job in Indiana, it just sat for some time before I finally got around to sending in my application, maybe a couple months. By the time I became a charter member I was #150 on the nose... wow, I thought that's more than I thought there'd be. And by the time the first year came to an end we were close to 400 as I recall, perhaps over.

Like a lot of kids growing up in the 60's we didn't have Playstations or X-boxes or the internet and the like. We had Little League baseball, gum cards, and for some of us coins. My brother and I would run to the bank with penny rolls and exchange them for fresh ones to go through again. Every once in a while dad would drive us over to Toledo and we would go to Swayne Field where there was a Coin Shop and we could spend the little bit of change we had in the bottom of our pockets.

But it wouldn't be long before High School came around, and then college and the collecting interest was replaced by everything else a college kid does. But literally as I pulled out of the driveway to head to my first job out of college in Iowa when my Ma came running out of the house struggling with a box in her arms, "get this out of your bedroom!"

"What is it, Ma?" I queried.

"It's your coin collection. I don't want it left in the house. Now find some room in your car."

"But, Ma, I don't collect anymore and won't be starting again." Then a long silent stare. Begrudgingly I turned the engine off, slowly got out of the driver's seat and shuffled some bags around to open up a spot.

And how wrong I turned out to be. The first rainy Friday night with nothing to do, I walked over to my apartment's closet, opened up that box, trying to figure out exactly what I had accumulated when I was a dumb kid. The first coin I saw was an 1873 Indian Cent XF porous but scrubbed up real good to a pumpkin orange color which I loved; one that "Aunt Gert" had given my brother and I-one of a group that she had accumulated in an old coffee can back in Delta, Ohio. I was a small child and growing up I thought she really was my true Aunt Gert. Only years later did I realize she was just a very close family friend of my Ma's in Delta; she was married but with no children of her own so she liked us kids calling her "Aunt Gert". She was born in the 1890's and was the town's Postmaster for over 40 years before she retired. She wasn't a collector herself but went through the transactions of the day at the Post Office and exchanged her loose change for anything that caught her eye. I must have only been five years old when she handed the can over to my Ma, so that would have made it 1962 or 1963.

But I definitely remember it clearly. Aunt Gert handed over the coffee can to my Ma. She was a nice lady whose husband had already passed away and my dad and Ma would haul her around, to church and to Wauseon to go shopping and the like. We were standing on a driveway on a sunny day and I couldn't wait for Ma to pass that can over to me! I quickly stared at a heap of copper issues in the Folger's can and sitting right there on the top of the pile was a shiny 1873 Indian Cent. The same coin I saw that rainy Friday night as a new employee in the steel mill. That coin now resides in my Safety Deposit Box with Aunt Gert's name on the holder. I have no idea what happened to the rest of those Indian cents, but I still have that one.

So right away I fell in love with Indian Cents as a kid and the same held true when I re-entered the hobby out of college in 1979.

For me it is the combination of the series being predominantly a 19th Century issue intertwined with the Civil War and a lot of history, and maybe most importantly, unlike other contemporary series, for an engineer on a salary of $19,000 per year I could afford high-grade pieces at what seemed like a bargain price. I hadn't become a knowledgeable student of the series quite then but I sure found a lot of interesting varieties.

But mainly it would be Indian Cents. And after I became Member #150 I desperately wanted to write an article for the inaugural issue. So that's when I sat down and handwrote "The Romance of the Indian Cent". We didn't have PC's or laptops back then, so after the fourth or fifth handwritten version, I sent it off. Now I read that piece and think, gosh I wish I would have stated that this way or that way. It's amazing, but writing is like anything else… the more you practice the better you get. Kinda reminds me of something Sam Snead, the legendary golfer use to say when he kept winning and people accused him of being "lucky". "The more I practice, the luckier I get," he'd reply.

I was so excited when that first issue arrived, I tore open the copy and read it page-by-page. We had an awfully good start to the Club with that first issue. My article, all 19 sentences and six paragraphs, was on page 28. It was no Nobel feat, but I know I was proud to have made the first issue. And quite a group of legendary numismatists in that first issue, probably the most knowledgeable person on both series and friend Rick Snow's who authored the "Midnight Minter" that first issue, then there was the luminary and good friend Bill Weikel and Larry Steve also writing, the pioneering and legendary numismatist Dave Bowers himself, and to wrap up the issue my old variety enthusiast and friend who I still miss Joe Haney.

I was anxious to write again so I followed that up quickly with my next effort-- "Cherrypickin' in Iowa". That was based on my love for finding anything new and interesting. I loved searching for repunched dates, doubled dies, cuds, misplaced digits and so on. At first there was no coin shop in Keokuk, at some point in time McKee Coins opened up a place, but man nothing real good ever turned up, mostly metal detector finds.

So here we had an energetic young guy just out of college with no student loan, a 1971 VW Beetle paid for, and who couldn't figure out how to ask a girl out, and to top it off a love for a coin series ripe with all of what I enjoyed plus some. Seems like a prime recipe for every weekend going to a coin show… and it was, at least in the cold months when I couldn't go golfing.

So every Saturday morning I would load up that bug and head to a show I had researched in Coin World… it might be Springfield, Illinois; maybe St. Louis, maybe just Iowa City. Who knew? And I wouldn't be too discriminating. Anything that caught my eye was fair game, toned silver coins, and buried coins and so on. I always took a large sandwich bag with me. I think my goal was to fill the sandwich bag at every show. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I didn't know how to grade so I ended up with a lot of dipped coins I thought looked great-oh well, it happens to the best of them.

My finds over the years have provided a wonderful foundation for a lot of the research I have done. Over the years making a great find or cherrypick, while it is still fun, has become less important to me. I have found what makes me happiest in this hobby is the knowledge I have gained and have learned from others, and especially if I can share some of this with other collectors. Equally important is time spent with the friends I have made through this hobby, even though my boys call it "geeky stuff" I don't care. I very much enjoy putting on club talks, slide presentations, and seminars, and I'd like to think some of them are halfway decent.

So again, if you are a charter member or even a long-time member, please send your reminiscences of your early club days to our editor, Rick Snow at We will run them through the coming year.

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