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Lucky Quarter

a coin's journey years in the making

By Morgan Rhianna BlandPublished 2 months ago 11 min read
Lucky Quarter
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

My life started as a blank. No, not just a blank memory, a coin blank. My earliest memory is a vague blur of sliding along a conveyor belt with hundreds of other blank metal discs just like me. We were carried into a furnace, a stifling red-hot box with no way out. The temperature climbed higher and higher until - Just when I thought I would melt, I was free!

I was dunked in water by one machine, washed and dried by another, and poked and prodded by yet another until a groove formed along my rim. Then I was struck, as the humans called it. It was a grueling process of being pressed inside a machine until designs appeared on my front and back. On my front, the face of a long-dead president. On my back, a man with a drum and tricorn hat and the dates: 1776-1976.

A quarter, they called me, but I wasn’t just any quarter. I was special, a bicentennial quarter.

I traveled in a bag with other identical quarters from the mint where I was made to a place called a bank. It was a pristine building with shiny polished wood counters, shiny polished marble floors, and a shiny polished crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. How could a place that looked so bright be so dull?

I whiled away the humdrum hours in a room with other money, and not just quarters. There were pennies, nickels, dimes, half dollars, one dollars, fives, tens, twenties, fifties, and hundreds. All from different mints and different years, each with their own story to tell.

One hot July morning, a man walked into the bank asking for bicentennial quarters. He gave the bank teller a rumpled old fifty dollar bill in exchange. The teller tucked me into a paper roll with several other quarters and sealed the ends before handing us off to the man.

That was the last time I saw the light of day until what the humans call the weekend. When the man opened my roll, we were sitting in a box on a table outdoors. Everything was decorated in red, white, and blue… the tablecloths, the bunting adorning the various booths, the streamers hanging from tree branches. Even the man from the bank sported those colors in a red-trimmed blue coat, white shirt, and blue tricorn hat. He looked so much like the figure on my tail, I barely recognized him!

“Celebrate America’s birthday with the new bicentennial quarter!” he called to passers-by. “Get your quarters here!”

People crowded around the table with outstretched hands. I learned form overhearing their conversations that the man from the bank worked at a place called a historical society. Today was July 4th, a national holiday, and the historical society was throwing a party. “Come on now, don’t crowd!” the man said. “Everybody gets one.”

He gave me to a mother with two boys. The mother carelessly tossed me into her purse, a bleak abyss that smelled like mothballs and stale perfume. I was bumped and bounced, jangled and jostled against an assortment of random objects until suddenly one of the boys cried, “Mom, I want a hot dog!”

The mother rifled through her purse and pulled me out, Delicious smells wafted through the air as I saw the cylindrical meat tubes called hot dogs and flat meat discs called burgers sizzling on a grill. She gave me to a man in a chef’s hat and apron. He put me in his pocket, but I didn’t stay there for long. Another man bought a burger and received me as change for his dollar bill. That man held on to me until the next morning when he needed to put gas in his car, and so my journey began.


I changed hands so many times I lost track. Each new human brought new experiences in new places, but it never lasted. They held on to me only until something better came along, something I could buy. I was exchanged, bought, sold, and traded but never held, never kept, never cherished… until I met Lisa.

It was 1996, twenty years after my minting date. Fate led me to an arcade, a wonderful place full of bright lights, wacky sound effects, and laughing children. I lived in a till with hundreds of other quarters, but none that looked like me. Although the till was dark, we were happy. We could hear every beep and buzz of the machines, and we made a game of guessing which machine made the noises.

The best part was when the old man would open the till. For a split second, we could see the arcade in all its colorful flashing glory. Every day we quarters spent waiting, dreaming of the day we’d be chosen and fed into an arcade machine. Which one would it be? The Whack-a-Mole? The claw machine? Pinball? Racing? Skeeball?

My day began just like any other. I sat in the till with the other quarters, listening to the sounds of the bustling arcade. The bell over the door tinkled, and I heard a little girl’s voice. “Come on, Dad! We need quarters!”

When the old man opened the till, I saw her, a little girl of about seven with a pink shirt and a blonde ponytail. The adult accompanying her looked like her taller, older, male doppelganger - obviously her father. The father handed her a crisp ten dollar bill, which she in turn gave to the old man. The old man saw me sitting in the till, tail up, and smiled as he handed me to the girl, along with a few dozen other quarters.

The girl, whose name I soon learned was Lisa, put us in a purple plastic purse with two lion cubs on the front and skipped off to the nearest machine - the skeeball. She reached into her purse and pulled me out.

“Look, Dad! This quarter’s different. There's a guy on the back instead of a bird. He looks like the soldier in the movie we watched last night.”

Dad chuckled softly. “That’s because he is a soldier like in the movie. It’s a bicentennial quarter.”

“Bicyc- bison-” Lisa stumbled over the pronunciation.

“Bicentennial. It means two hundredth. Look at the dates on the back.”

“1776 to 1976,” Lisa said, tilting her head to one side to study the numbers.

“You know what happened in 1776, right?”

Lisa nodded. “The Declaration of Independence.”

“So 1976 is…”

“America’s two hundredth birthday!” Lisa exclaimed.

“Now you’ve got it!”

Lisa started to put me in the skeeball machine, hesitating at the last minute. Dad looked at her, concerned. “What’s wrong?”

She turned me over in her hand, looking at the design on my tail. “This quarter’s so cool, I sorta don’t want to spend it.”

She put me back in her plastic purse and fed another quarter to the machine. A few minutes later, I heard horns honking and sirens blaring. That sound could only mean one thing: a high score. Lights flashed as a waterfall of tickets poured out of the machine. Lisa grinned form ear to ear. “Whoa, I’ve never seen so many tickets at once!”

Dad smiled. “I think that bicentennial quarter’s lucky,”

“I think so too,” Lisa agreed.

Every game Lisa played that day, she hit the ticket jackpot. She emerged from the arcade hours later, carrying a white teddy bear almost as big as her. “Looks like that lucky quarter worked,” Dad said on the car ride home.

That evening, he helped Lisa etch a small letter L on my tail. “L for lucky, and L for Lisa,” he said.


From then on, Lisa and I went everywhere together. I was there when she aced that difficult math test in school, when she met her best friend, when she went to sleep away camp for the first time, when she won the schoolwide spelling bee. Over the years, her taste in purses changed. In fourth grade, she decided she was too old for Disney characters, and she traded her purple plastic Lion King purse for a rainbow tie-dyed one. In middle school, she went through something the humans call puberty. That meant she needed a bigger purse, a pink faux fur one this time.

In high school, Lisa decided she no longer liked bright colors and traded her pink purse for a black one with a skull graphic. With each purse change, the contents changed too. Where she once carried coins and candy, now she carried dollars, makeup, a house key, gum, and a loud blinking brick the humans called a cell phone. But one thing remained constant, me, her lucky quarter… until one fateful day at the end of sophomore year.

It was the lunch hour, and Lisa sat at a round table at the back of the cafeteria with her friends. It was Friday, fish stick day. “Eww, fish stick Friday again?” one girl complained. “Fish gives me killer breath!”

The girl next to Lisa nodded, chiming in. “Tell me about it! I have geometry with Brandon next class. He’ll smell me coming from a mile away!”

The other girls giggled until Lisa said, “I think I have some gum in my purse. If I find it, you can have it.”

Lisa rifled through her purse, not noticing the hole in the bottom. While she searched for her gum, she accidentally knocked me the wrong way. I fell through the hole, landing on the filthy floor with the spilled soda, open ice cream wrappers, and half-eaten french fries under the table.

Yuck! It was disgusting under there, but I wasn’t worried. Any minute now, Lisa will notice I’m missing and come back for her lucky quarter, I thought.

But she never did. As the bell rang, she left with her friends. Noooo! Lisa, I’m down here! I screamed… at least I would’ve if I had a voice.

“Cool, a quarter! Now I can get a soda. Must be my lucky day!” A boy found me first. He didn’t notice my unique tail design; he barely even looked at me before feeding me to the machine.


So the journey began again. I saw millions of vending machines, laundromats, banks, gas stations, restaurants, shops, but I never saw Lisa again. Fifteen years later, I landed in a till in a dingy supermarket. Gone were the days of bright lights and funny video game sound effects. The sound of children’s tantrums replaced laughter, and the only lights I saw were the flickering fluorescent lights overhead.

One afternoon, a disgruntled employee opened the till to allow me a brief glimpse into the world outside. A blond boy of about seven stood in line quietly. Two things about him struck me. One was how well-behaved he was compared to the little heathens who usually frequented the checkout line. The other was that he looked just like Lisa, if she was a boy!

His accompanying adult was like a taller, older, female doppelganger - obviously his mother. The boy’s eyes lit up at the sight of the candy displays, and he turned to her. “Can I have some candy please, Mom?”

She nodded. “You can pick one candy bar.”

She handed the boy a couple of crisp dollar bills as he picked out a chocolate bar. He gave the money to the cashier; with an annoyed grunt, she gave him the first quarter she saw in the till - me.

The years had changed my appearance. The grooves around my rim wore down, A thin layer of rust covered me, but the drummer was still visible on my tail, along with a faint letter L. The boy smiled. “Hey Mom, check out this quarter! There’s a guy on the back!”

The mother gasped when she saw me. “I don’t believe it - my lucky quarter!”


The boy stared at her, looking just as bewildered as I felt.

“When I was about your age, I found this exact quarter in an arcade,” Lisa explained. “That quarter was lucky, I won enough tickets for a giant teddy bear that day, and I carried it everywhere with me after that… until I lost it. Look closer.”

The boy squinted, scrutinizing every detail of my surface. “There’s an L…”

Lisa nodded. “Grandpa etched it for me. L for lucky, L for Lisa, and now L for Liam.”

The boy, Liam, grinned from ear to ear. “You mean I can keep it?”

“It’s your lucky quarter now.”

Short Story

About the Creator

Morgan Rhianna Bland

I'm an aroace brain AVM survivor from Tennessee. My illness left me unable to live a normal life with a normal job, so I write stories to earn money.

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