Rio History: A Phennig for your thoughts

By Steve Hathcock

Front of an 1888 Phennig. Photo courtesy of Steve Hathcock.

Back of an 1888 Phennig. Photo courtesy of Steve Hathcock.









Sorting through the coins that slid across the counter at my Padre Island Trading Company, (see editor’s note) was always one of the highlights of my day. One night, while counting the change in our tip jar, I  was pleasantly surprised to find an 1888 German Pfennig. With

visions of my impending wealth, I texted a photo of the coin to local coin expert Rod Bates.(Rio Bravo Gallery in Port Isabel.) He advised me that nice as the coin looked it is a common date and worth about half a dollar.

As a writer, I found myself intrigued with just how such a coin would find its way into the drawer of our cash register. Of course, I have several theories as to just how it all came about.

Being just north of the Border with Mexico and located in the heart of an International vacation destination, we see tourists from around the world. Perhaps a citizen of Germany, we can call her Maxine, had found the coin in circulation, placed it in her purse and promptly forgot about it. Later, she and her husband, let’s say his name is Otto, take a vacation on South Padre Island, Texas. While here, the two hear about the bookstore coffee-pub and the two Golden Retrievers who greeted customers at the door. When Maxine comes to the counter to pay for her purchases, she digs in her purse for the exact change. Inadvertently, she makes up the difference with the 110 year old pfennig from her home country! Or, as bookstore manager,  Kay Lay, points out, the coin could have been found in an old box that I had bought years ago at an estate sale. It somehow ended up in the coin drawer by mistake. Either way, that pfennig certainly financed a fair share of MY thoughts!

Editor’s Note: Padre Island Trading Company has been “open by appointment” since 2009. Currently, we are both remodeling and inventorying a large collection of rare and out-of-print Texas history and assorted bird and other reference books from my personal library but expect to reopen in late October. Watch for updates.

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