Dick Johnson also forwarded an article about modern-day "penny carvers" in Australia. While in the U.S. coin carvers typically take an Indian Head (or "Buffalo" nickel and carve new art from them, these carvers turn an old Australian Penny into jewellery resembling the iconic Australian "slouch hat".
The humble penny may have been usurped by the one-cent piece when Australia adopted decimal currency on February 14, 1966 but the copper coin has proved a boon for a group of Sunshine Coast ex-servicemen.
"Without wanting to be too dramatic, many Vietnam vets have been through some rough times," Barry confided.
"But the penny has brought about 50 of us on the Coast together, working for a common good. And the camaraderie born from this project is just wonderful."
Operating under the company name Digger Hat Jewellery, the Vietnam vets produce key rings, lapel badges, earrings and pendants in the shape of the iconic slouch hat. They also produce the iconic items of jewellery from halfpennies and sixpences – other pre-decimal currency coins.
Barry, a musician and career soldier, has no idea how many slouch hats have been fashioned by the group since they took over production five years ago but he suspects it is near 120,000.
But he does know that just on $200,000 raised from the sale of the slouch hats has been distributed to needy ex-servicemen or their dependants.
"In the early days I think this was viewed more as an activity than a business, but when we see the good it is doing for our mates, the tedium of the work is worth all the effort," he said. "It has helped me with some issues I had and I'm sure others feel the same way."
When Barry uses the word tedious, he is not kidding.
Getting a penny to the slouch hat key ring stage involves a minimum of 10 production points and that does not include accessing the pennies which are sourced from coin dealers.
Three groups of veterans – Monday Marvels, Caloundra Push and Breakfast Club – meet at Barry's Buderim home one day each month, kicking off the production line by drafting pennies into their respective year of production. The various steps that follow include cleaning and polishing the coin and pressing the crown and turning up the slouch. Most is done manually.
An estimated 700 slouch hats are produced in each three-hour session by the mostly conscripted veterans who range in rank from private to squadron leader.
To read the complete article, see:
Pennies from heaven boost Diggers
Wayne Homren, Editor
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