Sunday, February 15, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #341

Nancy White Kelly

If you see a fly on the wall, please don't reach for the swatter. It just might be me and I don't have that many lives left.

When folks allow me the privilege, I do enjoy taking a back seat and quietly watching and listening. One conclusion I have drawn is that everybody has an opinion. Here is mine.

It seems that the hobby of coin collecting is predominantly a man's world. You won't find many lady numismatists. The majority of the clients of Ye Old Coin Shop are senior-age men. I suppose the reason is because at the height of the coin collecting era, men tightly controlled the household finances while the wives raised the children and secretly stashed left-over grocery money in the sugar bowl.

Female pilots are still a novelty too though that is rapidly changing. Getting a pilot’s license isn’t rocket science. Know your clouds, read a few maps, study the FAA manual and practice for a while with a teacher. Graduating from Boy’s High seems to add points. Have you ever noticed what the front part of an airliner is called? The cockpit.

Collecting old coins for pleasure or profit isn’t football or rugby. Still it is considered a predominantly male hobby. It amuses me when customers assume that Buddy is the coin man and that I just bring his coffee.

My Buddy is a significant representative of the male gender, especially to me. If it were not for his physical labor and manly support, there would not be a coin shop. He, too, is a pilot and a much better one than I am. Just don't ask him the key date for the Walking Liberty half dollar or the closing price of gold today. Don't ask me either to wire your house or fix your dripping pipe. Common cents is more than copper Lincolns.

Just this week a friend whimsically remarked that things might have been different had there been three wise women instead of three wise men. For starters, they would have stopped and asked directions. They would have been on time. The wise women would probably have helped deliver the baby and, most certainly, would have brought more practical gifts.

The Living Lady is not a feminist. Far from it. Yet, I enjoy being a girl in a man’s world. Remember that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards… and in high heels.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #340

Nancy White Kelly

Buddy came close to being in the dog house recently. He lost my new trime. I had it all of about thirty minutes. Admittedly it was tiny, about the size of my little finger nail. But I’ve never had a trime before and was looking forward to putting it in my collection.
Let me explain what a trime is for those of you who aren’t into numismatics, the fancy term for coin collecting. “Tri” implies three, of course. And the “ime,” that is shortened from dime.

A trime is a rare American coin with a distinctive large C and the Roman numeral III displayed on the reverse side. It was minted between 1851 and 1873 and played a major role in determining the kind of money carried in purses today.

In 1851, the cost of postage for a letter was 5 cents if delivered within 500 miles. That seems like a bargain to me, but a nickel wasn’t easy to come by in those days. For economic stimulus reasons, the US lowered the postage stamp to 3 cents. This caused a problem.

The common money in use at this time of steam-driven transportation was gold. Granted, there were copper cents and half cents circulating, but that was primarily in the major eastern cities. Coppers were immensely unpopular.

In the mid-1800’s, the average worker’s daily wage was paid with a $1 gold piece. According to experts, that compares to wages of a tad more than $100 today. Sounds good, but imagine trying to buy a loaf of bread if the smallest coin you had was worth $100 and it was nearly impossible to make change for the difference.

A serious monetary crisis developed during that era of history related to the gold standard. The need for silver coinage was established and laws enacted. Then came the introduction of the silver trime, the smallest American legal tender ever made. When 1853 ended, there were plenty of these shiny trimes to satisfy demand for change. That satisfaction didn’t last long. A diversity of coinage was on the horizon.

While the trime’s monetary value today isn’t as great as its abbreviated history, I was delighted to have one as a conversation piece.

The trime may have ended the one of many monetary crises of the
1800’s, but for a moment in 2009, it started a silent flame of angry thoughts. How could Buddy be so irresponsible as to lose a coin between the shop and the house? After all, it is less than fifty feet from the coin shop’s door to our den.

This incident began last week when a young customer came into the coin shop with the trime in hand. He also had three other small coins of foreign origin. As with most customers, the man wanted to know if he had anything of great value.

It wasn’t too difficult to identify what he had. All four of the coins could have fit inside a single, large thimble. Considering that the coins were not in good condition, I offered him a fair price which he eagerly accepted.

After he left, Buddy came into the shop to see the new acquisitions as he had been viewing the transaction on the security camera. Because of the accumulation of grime, he could not read much of the writing and kindly offered to clean them up some.

I agreed though this is generally a numismatic “no-no.” Cleaning collectible, old coins devalues them greatly and can be easily discerned by a knowledgeable collector or dealer. In this case, however, a gentle washing would do no harm. They had obviously traveled many miles and were dirty from the journey.

It was near closing time for the Ye Old Coin Shop. I quickly placed the four tiny coins in a small folder and handed them to Buddy. Off he went to start the cleaning project. A few minutes later I could smell the familiar vinegary fumes.

“How many coins did you give me?” he asked.

“Four,” I replied, wondering why he asked.

Buddy moaned at my answer. All he had in the pan was three. Sure enough, the one coin that was missing was the trime. Apparently he had dropped it somewhere amidst grass and rocks. He combed the drive-way and the grass until it was too dark to continue. The next morning he was up at day-break with the metal detector. Alas, the trime could not be found.

My angry thoughts never became hurtful words, but I half-teasingly threatened to banish Buddy to the dog house. Rocky, our German shepherd, is not into sharing his food and probably would not cotton to having his master share his sleeping quarters.

Maybe the trime will show up again. Maybe not. But I quickly concluded that it wasn’t worth hassling my main, best man.

Back in the 1970’s, I lost my gold, solitaire engagement ring while washing dishes. Buddy took the drain apart, but we never recovered it.

That loss registers much higher on the Richter scale of marriage than the lost trime. Though disappointed, Buddy never chastised me for my carelessness. I have always appreciated his forgiveness because he worked long and hard for the money to buy that ring. I only had that trime for a few minutes.

A silver trime is only a trime. A husband who puts up with me for nearly forty-four years is a diamond.