Today, for my first day of the school year, I wore my penny earrings. First thing in the morning, my 3rd graders completed their "Math Jobs," including choosing a rubber coin stamp to use in representing 1: the 1st day of school. Most years, I wear these earrings twice: they work equally well for the 1st and the 2nd day of school. But tomorrow, I'll wear a different pair: 365 pairs of earrings, no repeats.
I bought these earrings many years ago from an artisan who demonstrated his craft at the Delaplane Strawberry Festival. I loved to watch as he demonstrated how he painstakingly cut each pair using a jigsaw. I bought a pair of pennies for $4.95. The next year, I bought buffalo nickels. They cost more, but I don't recall how much. When I returned the following year, he was gone. I'd hoped to buy some dimes and quarters, but he charged more for these silver coins, and I was frugal. I wish now that I'd dared to spend more and to ask more questions. I so admired his craftsmanship and his willingness to share.
Last winter I went on-line and searched for coin jewelry. I found quite a few vendors. I purchased some Canadian leaves and a loon; a pair of Austrian horses; and some Canadian sailing vessels to wear with my Virginia quarter necklace. I hope that they were cut by men like the craftsman I met, rather than by sweatshop workers in some distant land.
I so admire the craftspeople who travel from craft show to craft show, selling goods that they've made with their own creative minds and hands. These entrepreneurs live week to week, depending on the vicissitudes of weather, gas prices, and the willingness of buyers to part with their cash.
Mr. Kell used materials worth 2 cents. He carefully carved Abraham Lincoln's visage from the copper. Twice. For that he charged $4.95 ("The pennies don't cost a thing!" he told me). I treasure my penny earrings. I so admire the craftsmanship that Mr. Kell shared at his booth. I hope he knew.