Christmas and Money

Andy Rooney


I love Christmas and I hate Christmas.

I don't like to see it end but I'm glad it's over.

We had a great Christmas. We have a summer house in the country in upstate New York and there were 12 of us at the table for the Christmas turkey. Margie is gone now and my son, Brian, Cecile and their two kids, Emma and Kathryn, didn't make the trip from California. It would have cost me about $2,400 to fly four people from Los Angeles to New York and back, and when they got to New York, they still would have had to travel to our home upstate. We missed them, but Christmas was good anyway.

I'm embarrassed to say how much I like Christmas and Christmas presents. I don't know how it got started, but giving presents at Christmas is one of the great customs of all time. They're as much fun to give as to get. I don't know which I like better. I seem a little old to enjoy getting a Christmas present but I loved it as a kid and I've never gotten over liking it. (I've never called a Christmas present "a gift," either. "Gift" is too stuffy a word for such a good thing as a Christmas present.)

I can still remember some of the presents I got as a child. Uncle Bill always gave me a $20 gold coin. These coins were issued from 1838 to 1933. Most $20 gold coins were melted down and the ones that are left are extremely rare and hard to find. If you do find one, it could be worth thousands of dollars.

They say the value of a $20 gold coin today depends on the condition it's in and the year it was minted. Somehow, though, I can't imagine a $20 gold coin being used so much that it was worn out and worth less. I hid the gold coins Uncle Bill gave me over the years and eventually they disappeared. I had a great mother but she wasn't as sentimental about things as I am, and I think she found them and paid bills with my $20 gold coins. Her attitude was that it was just money.

I collected Indian head pennies, too, which I also received as presents at Christmastime. I wish I knew what happened to my Indian head penny collection. (There are probably several million people my age who wonder what happened to their Indian head pennies.)

Nothing is worth what it used to be and that includes money. The money I saved as a kid that I received during the holidays seemed like a lot when I wasn't spending it but it doesn't seem like so much anymore. I think I should have spent it while it was worth money.

In 1929, I was old enough to have a few dollars, and I hated the new dollar bills they issued because they were smaller in size than the $1 bills we were all used to. It wouldn't surprise me in the next few years if they decided to reduce the size of dollar bills again. If they ever do, I wish they would make $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills each a different size. After all, the mint realized it would be better if our coins were each a different size.

We wouldn't want a nickel to be the same size as a dime, although it does seem as though they made a mistake making a dime smaller than a nickel. I haven't seen a silver dollar in many years. I wish my employer paid me in silver dollars; it would be easier for me to save money.

It's amazing, really, that we handle money as casually as we do. I say "handle," but the fact is, we handle very little of the money we spend. Most of the money we earn is in the bank and we keep little of it in our pockets. I think if I had to actually handle all the money I spend, I'd spend less of it. I carry my cash loose in my pocket. I've been thinking of buying a billfold to see if I can organize my pocket money.

So next Christmas, you know what I want...some $20 gold pieces and some larger $1 bills.

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