Saturday, September 24, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #406

Nancy White Kelly

I never met him personally, but a man named Peter once said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee.” After making this statement, a lame man was healed and walked again.

While this quote is from the Bible and not the mantra of our Ye Old Coin Shop, we can relate. Buying and selling gold and silver as well as numismatic coins and supplies is how Buddy and I supplement our retirement income. What we sell as merchants is simply store stock to us.

In the course of a month, especially in the winter, we meet people in dire circumstances who need kindness in word and deed. Like Peter, we try to be aware of those who are sick or hungry and respond accordingly.

There has been quite frenzy in the precious metals market lately and not much confidence in the paper dollar. The United States can legally print as much money as it likes whenever it wants; if we citizens did that, we’d be serving time in a federal prison.

I believe there is a huge difference between profit and greed. Profit is not a profane word. Greed, however, on my morality scale is worse than profanity. I have met my share of greedy numismatists. The worst ones are those who prey on the desperately poor or widows.

Recently I had occasion to witness a transaction between an elderly lady and a despicable dealer at a coin show. I am not a “goody two-shoes.” I am wearing white sandals today and it is after Labor Day. However, I can be quite good with a verbal boot.

Visiting a coin show in a nearby city, I observed an older lady struggling to carry a heavy bag. She stood at the entrance to the large amphitheater-like center and seemed over-whelmed by the enormous crowd and scores of coin dealers lined up a dozen rows. She was obviously unaccustomed to a bourse area and stood still for several minutes, trying to determine where to start.

Finally the frail lady mounted the courage to engage conversation with a dealer near the front. Within moments she spilled out the contents of her sack onto his table. I quickly recognized some old gold coins and hundreds of silver coins referred to in the trade as junk silver. These are coins minted before 1965 which contain 90% silver.

I edged closer as if the next in line. The calculator in my head easily valued the cache as worth at least $3000. I listened as the man ran his hands through the coins as if they were truly junk. He commented about their circulated condition and low value, not “worthy of serious collecting.”

True, the silver coins weren’t in fine or newly minted condition, but with silver at near $40 an ounce, this wasn’t chunk change. The old gold coins did have numismatic value, but he down-played their significance as well.

“Nobody is collecting Gaudens anymore,” he said. My jaw dropped in disbelief.

The little woman asked what he thought they would be worth. He shrugged his shoulder and said unenthusiastically, “I’ll give you a four hundred for the whole lot.”

She mulled the offer. I was caught in a dilemma. In the coin trading world, it is considered unethical for a dealer to disrupt another dealer while in a transaction with a customer. In fact, it is an infraction of the ethical code of conduct. Yet, my personal world doesn’t stand for robbing the vulnerable.

I interrupted before she responded to the dealer. “That sure is a fine collection of coins you have there, Mam. You must have been collecting for years.”

The dealer frown turned into a scowl. The soft-spoken lady shook her head and said that her recently deceased husband had been the collector.

“I don’t know nothing about coins,” she continued, “but figured they might be worth enough to pay a past-due utility bill.”

The squinty-eyed dealer stood silent.

“Mam,” I said with a wink. “I do know something about coins and think you should check around with several dealers before accepting your first offer.”

“Sure,” the dealer said politely while casting a sinister eye in my direction.
The lady thanked me for the advice and turned back to the dealer.

“I think I will ask some others first,” she said as she gathered her coins from the dealer’s table. She thanked me and I turned away only to hear the dealer offer her an additional fifty dollars.

What the outcome was I can’t say. I breached professional etiquette and could have been booted from the show had I been there as a dealer.

Like Peter, “Silver and gold” had I none that day, but what advice I had, I gave. Hopefully she walked away.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #405

Nancy White Kelly

Never say never. Three years ago Buddy and I had an enormous yard sale. It was a daunting task gathering all of that stuff, pricing it, and dealing with obnoxious customers who weren’t happy unless the item was a quarter. I publically proclaimed that we would never again have a yard sale, garage sale, porch sale, tag sale or anything similar for the rest of our lives. I broke my word. We had a yard sale last Friday and Saturday.

The singing fish was the first item designated for disposal before procrastination set in. Buddy and I consistently postponed the sale for the slightest of reasons. Neither of us was eager to hassle and haggle.

For six months we moved more and more stuff to the porch. When the singing fish suddenly changed his song from “Take me to the River” to “Fish or cut bait,” we decided it was time for the sale.

Buddy and I waited until nearly dark to put out the yard sale signs on Thursday evening. There was a car in our driveway before we made it home. I hadn’t even had my first cup of coffee the next morning before there was a banging on the door. I looked at the clock. Good grief, Charlie Brown. It wasn’t even seven o’clock.

The early bird shopper asked Buddy if we had any cast iron for sale. It was good for her that we didn’t. She might have been crowned with a skillet for starting our day so abruptly.

Somehow this family of two has accumulated more junk in thirty-six months than we did before the last sale. For weeks we shifted unwanted items to our narrow, yet long front porch. Ironically, many of the sale items waiting to be bought had been purchased at somebody else’s yard sale.

For all our effort we collected a total of $150. It took three pick-up truck loads to deliver the remainders to local thrift stores. In his haste, Buddy accidentally took our new $80 dog crate along with the left-overs. It was on the porch, under a table, and clearly labeled “Not for sale.” What happened to the sign, I don’t know. What happened to Buddy? I plead the fifth.

When I returned to the store to reclaim the new dog cage, it was already sold. So, bottom line, we made $70 for the six months and two days if you don’t count the truck gas and the celebration meal we had over our successful yard sale.