My 1976 Birthday List

from Roger M. Wilcox's biography

I found a photocopy of this gem in a pile of old papers that I was rummaging through in 2016. In 1976, I was turning 11, and as was the tradition each year I made a list of all the presents I wanted to get for my birthday. No desire was too outlandish. This particular year, though, for some reason I decided to type my birthday list on a typewriter.

What you see below is a direct transcription of that typed birthday list.

Those lines that appear crossed out were also crossed out on the original list. My dad (or perhaps it was my mom) had told me to cross out the items that it was impossible for me to get, so as to make their decision-making a wee bit easier.

Roger's 10th Birthday List for July 17, 1976

1. Time Machine
2. Materials for a weather machine
3. Anti gravity machine
4. Regular Aggrivation
5. Bionic transport & repair station
6. Model B-52 Stratofortress
7. Model B-36
8. 1919 Quarter
9. 1796 Quarter
10. 1931-S winged liberty head dime
11. 1911-D barber-type dime
12. $1,000,000
13. Birgit Hupert
14. 1865 3-cent nickel
15. 15th edition of the game of Password
16. 2nd edition of The New price is right
17. 100 Suckers
18. 1795 reeded edge large cent in proof condition
19. 1845 special mint collection Double Eagle
20. 1936 proof set
21. British Guiana 1¢ stamp
22. 100 Matchbox cars
23. Full up my penny collection
24. 1864 2¢ piece
25. rrrRaw Power
26. Model X -24
27. Yellow Cadillac (1976)
28. complete infantry set with tank
29. bomb to destroy Lorrane that sticks to her hands
30. Be the real "Super A"
31. Being a member of S.W.A.T.
32. Going home at 8:46 from school
33. 100 Breadsticks & butter
34. radio antenna that's 1/2 of a radio wave
35. 1866 5¢ nickel
36. Christmas tree in July
37. 65-in-1 kit
38. 1976 coin book
39. 100 % on each test I got
40. Beyond-Bionic* Eye
41. 1976 Guinnes Book of world records
42. the X-111 spy car
43. the triple-X whammy
44. the triple-X double whammy
45. the mark I
46. the mark II
47. 500 lbs. of garlic salt

Author's notes from 2017:

I don't know why I called this my 10th birthday list. In early 1976, I was 10, and I was about to turn 11. Maybe it was because I didn't get to write up a birthday list before I turned 1. (Which would imply that I did write down a birthday list before I turned 2. Sure, I was a prodigy, but I wasn't that much of a prodigy!)

4. Aggravation was a board game very similar to Trouble or Sorry. I owned a Split-Level Aggravation set, but not regular Aggravation.

5. The Bionic Transport and Repair Station was a playset designed to accompany the Six Million Dollar Man doll. I already had the doll, so now I wanted the playset to go with it. Oh, Kenner, you sly marketing geniuses you!

6. Not only did I get a model B-52 for my bithday, it was in a whopping 1/72 scale, which made its wingspan over two-and-a-half feet when assembled. Try not to be jealous.

7. I never did get a model of a B-36 bomber, though. They were huge and ugly. They're also the only production military aircraft I know of that had both propeller engines and jet engines.

8. I got into coin collecting in 1973, when I found a 1939 nickel sitting on the kitchen counter right after we moved in to the apartment in Santa Monica that my dad would later nickname "the cave." I lost interest in the hobby after some ruthless neighborhood kid stole my nickel and dime collections in 1977 or so, only to pick it back up again in 1998 thanks to the dreaded "Y2K" scare. I've amassed many pricey old coins since that time, but no quarter from 1919 has been among them. (In fact, I didn't get any of the coins I asked for on this birthday list for my birthday that year. Hmph!)

9. My desire for a 1796 quarter stemmed from an episode of Tennessee Tuxedo. When I looked this coin up in the R.S. Yeoman "Red Book", it had a 4-digit dollar value in even the poorest condition. This was the first year the U.S. mint made quarters, after all. I have not added such a ridiculously expensive coin to my collection since then.

10. I found an actual 1931-S winged liberty head dime lying on the ground in the YMCA daycare campground my parents sent me to the previous summer. From a distance it just looked like a penny, but my perusal of the coin book had prepared me for what it truly was. I was ecstatic. This was, as far as I was concerned, the find of a lifetime. ... Then I sold it to a coin dealer for two bucks. I regretted that decision ever since. Note: Since I resumed coin collecting in 1998, I now have a 1931-S winged liberty head dime again.

11. I've also acquired a 1911-D dime since then. ("Barber" was the last name of the coin's designer; the coin has nothing to do with cutting hair.)

13. Birgit — whose last name I misspelled here — was a girl at YMCA camp that I had a huge crush on. In fact, she was the first real-life girl I had such desires for (my previous crush had been Darla from The Little Rascals, who would have been in her 40s at the time). When Birgit finally found out how I felt about her, her reaction was something along the lines of "Ew." (Fun fact: Her friend, who liked going by the nickname "Beaner," suggested that I give my newly-found 1931-S winged liberty head dime to Birgit as a present. I refused. My desire for such a coin apparently exceeded even my desire for Birgit.)

14. Yes, that's right, dear readers — the U.S. mint made nickels worth three cents each back in the 19th century. And I now have one such specimen from 1865 in my collection.

15. I want you to understand something that probably seems absurd today. There used to be board game versions of TV game shows. Some of which were popular enough to have multiple editions made. Password was one such entity. By the time this birthday list came out, it was probably in its 14th edition. Knowing me, I asked for the 15th edition precisely because it hadn't come out yet.

16. I already had the first edition of The New Price is Right board game when I wrote this list. There eventually was a 2nd edition produced, which I also eventually got — but it was just called The Price is Right. They dropped the "New" from the name, just like they had done for the actual show.

17. And, yes, I have had at least 100 lollipops since this list was written.

18. There are only 9 specimens of the 1795 reeded-edge cent known to exist. One was sold at auction in 2009 for over a million U.S. dollars. And the best of these specimens is merely in "Fine" condition. To give you some perspective on what that means, coin conditions are rated on a scale from 1 (barely legible) to 70 (flawless). "Fine" is considered condition 12. "Proof" condition starts at 63.

19. I musta been smokin' something when I requested an 1845 double eagle. The double eagle wasn't even authorized by Congress until 1849.

20. 1936 was the first year proof sets were issued, and only 3837 of them were made that year. The current market value for such sets is over $6000 apiece.

21. Briefly, thanks to a book my dad got me in a previous year, I tried stamp collecting. I never got into it the way I got into coin collecting. According to this book, the most valuable postage stamp of all time was issued by the British government in 1856, even though it was in a one-cent (rather than one-penny) denomination. It was issued by British-held Guiana in very small numbers, while the postmaster waited on a shipment of stamps from England. The only surviving stamp was last sold in 2014 for $9.48 million. (I did say no item was too outlandish to put on my birthday list!)

24. Yes, the Federal government really did mint two-cent coins at one point. I now have an 1864 two-cent piece in my collection, though I didn't actually get one for my birthday in 1976. This was also the first coin ever to bear the motto "In God we trust." You can thank the increased religious ferver spurred by the Civil War for that.

25. I actualy did get a "r-r-r-Raw Power" toy for my birthday that year! You attached it to your bicycle's handlebars in place of one of the hand grips. When you twisted the handle, it made a sound like you were revving a motorcycle engine. I might even still have this toy in my garage someplace.

26. I had built several 1/72 scale model fighter planes by the time I wrote this birthday list, but I didn't have models of any of the X-planes yet. Thing was, at the time, the highest-numbered X-plane was the X-23 (a lifting body for testing re-entry maneuvering, made by Martin Marietta). Turns out there never was an X-24 of any kind.

27. I've asked for a Yellow Cadillac for every birthday since I had that dream about a yellow car in 1973. I had to wait until 1993 before I had the wherewithall to buy an old-at-the-time (1977 model) Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, and get it painted yellow. (I got it painted at Earl Scheib. He'll paint any car for $129.95! Except this cost more, since the original car was brown and to paint it a light color like yellow required two coats.) Note that this car was frought with problems and cured me of the desire for a yellow Cadillac.

28. Remember those green toy soldiers? Some of the sets came with a plastic tank. My brother had such a plastic tank. So, of course, I wanted one too.

29. Lorraine was my least-favorite babysitter at the time. I'd get sick and throw up in the sink, and she'd complain that I didn't find a better place to throw up. I'd need a note to say why I was late for school, and she'd refuse. So, naturally, as a 10 year old boy, I wanted to blow her up. I must have been afraid that she'd throw away a bomb before it went off, which was why I came up with the idea of having it stick to her hands. (Note: I have not actually blown anybody up.)

30. To this day, I have no idea who or what "Super A" was.

31. S.W.A.T. was on TV at the time, and glorified being a member of an elite, hostage-crisis-handling police force. It wasn't quite as good as being the Six Million Dollar Man, but it was up there.

32. That's 8:46 A.M., not 8:46 P.M., you nimbus. :-P (Yes, I just called you a rain cloud. If Nimbus the Great can be a superhero character on The Jetsons, I can call you a rain cloud!)

34. All radio antennas are half the wavelength of the radio waves they're most capable of picking up, though at the time, my dad had informed me that the prongs on rooftop TV antennas were actually a quarter of the intended wavelength since they relied on some kind of internal reflection or a second metal stick sticking out the other side or something. I didn't understand things like standing waves and nodes and harmonics and resonant frequencies at the time.

35. And yes, I have an 1866 five-cent nickel in my collection nowadays too. (Why did the Federal government start making 3-cent nickels a year before it started making 5-cent nickels? Because there was already a standard 5-cent coin at the time. It was called the half dime. The problem was it was silver, and had to be made so thin that it easily got bent.)

37. Radio Shack, using the brand name "Science Fair," issued several of these N-in-one electronic project kits over the years. They had electronic components (220 ohm resistor, 100 picofarad capacitor, etc.) displayed prominently on brightly-colored cardboard backgrounds, with little metal springs next to them to which you could attach the wires. At the time, I had a 10-in-1, a 20-in-1, a 40-in-1, and a 100-in-1, but I was missing the 65-in-1 from my collection. I didn't get it for my birthday that year. By the time the next year rolled around, both the 65-in-1 and the 100-in-1 had been discontinued, and replaced with the 75-in-1 and the 150-in-1, which had those newfangled light-emitting diodes in them.

38. "Coin book" here refers to A Guide Book of United States Coins by R.S. Yeoman. Known colloquially as "the Red Book," a new edition is issued every year. As with cars, the N+1 year edition appears in the middle of year N, so on my 1976 birthday list I really should have been asking for a 1977 coin book.

40. I have no idea what the Beyond-Bionic* Eye was. Perhaps it was a whimsical desire for an artificial eye that was even better that Steve Austin's.

41. I did get the 1976 Guinness Book of World Records for my birthday that year! In fact, I got it in hardback. One particular entry in that book was for the most digits of pi memorized. The photograph showed the record-holder-at-the-time in front of a chalkboard on which he'd written out the first 100 digits. It was this entry in the Guinness Book of World Records that led me to eventually memorize the first 100 digits of pi. (I had to find another source of digits in high school to memorize the next 100. This was before the Internet we know today, you see.)

42. No idea what the X-111 spy car was.

43. Or the triple-X whammy.

44. Or the triple-X double whammy.

45. Or the mark I.

46. Or the mark II.

47. I did love eating garlic salt straight out of the shaker bottle. But I don't think I would ever have been able to consume 500 pounds of it.

Send comments regarding this Web page to: Roger M. Wilcox.
Click here to go back to my main old stories page