Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Well Lived, Happy and Eventful Life

Yesterday, I finally gathered together a small sum of cash I'd been wanting to use for the purpose of buying some common silver coins, for use in the event of disaster to make purchases on the black market. I'm convinced that this will become an issue, maybe soon. I've been making these small purchases, as I can, for many years. If such a disaster never happens, I'll have a coin collection to sell to augment my retirement, should I ever decide to do so.

The gentleman 'bout whom I write will not. He'll die on the job, having lived a happy, healthy life.

I walked into his store in the early afternoon. It's a little hole-in-the-wall just off a major boulevard, almost unnoticeable among the sidewalk cafes and trendy shops. COINS & STAMPS, it says on the window. I stepped inside; there was no one there--just glass cases full of silver dollars, half dollars etc, and a wall covered with envelopes full of stamps.

An elderly man stepped out from the back room with a smile and a "Can I help you?" I told him I was looking for circulated, common date silver--probably half dollars. He directed me toward a case filled with various styles of halves--Franklin, Liberty Walking and Barber. I presume he had some Liberty Seated halves in the safe, but they're out of my price range and too valuable to use as cash.

After a few minutes looking at various coins and package deals, we settled on a package and a price.

I offered him my debit card, but he says he doesn't accept cards or checks; just cash. Well, fortunately I had enough cash to make the transaction. "I like to keep things simple," he said. I told him, "That's fine, I'll make sure I have cash with me in the future, as well."

By way of explaining his preference for cash, he started talking about his youth in Boston. In high school, he got a job in a coin and stamp store and began saving a little money. This was in the middle years of the Great Depression. He started putting a little money away just in case.

His parents were secure in their careers and he continued living at home even after he graduated high school . They wanted him to go to college, but he kept putting it off.

He rented a little storefront downtown for $20 a month and set up a coin and stamp store, not long after graduation.

He told me he would close the shop and go down the street to a deli for lunch each day, then go across the street to a Cadillac dealer and look at a particular black LaSalle coupe he liked. It was priced at $997. A 60 Series Cadillac's prices started at $1200. The salesman started referring to him as the "Lookie Lou." He studied that car every day for a long time. One day the salesman addressed him as "Lookie Lou" and asked him why he kept looking at the car.

"I'm going to buy it." "When?" "Now." "How are you going to pay for it?" the salesman chuckled.

"I'll write a check. You can call the ****** Bank and talk to Mr. ******."

Fact was, the young man-had, by that time, well over a thousand dollars saved up. He bought the car.

He was drafted into the Army in the early part of WWII. Because of his high scores in the tests, and his performance during basic training, he was kept on as a drill instructor. He attained the rating of Staff Sergeant. He was sent over to Europe in time to participate in the D-Day attack, where 17 of the 40 men in his platoon were killed or wounded.

After the war, he reopened his coin and stamp shop, married a lady who had been an Army nurse over there. They moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950's, where he opened another coin & stamp shop in downtown LA, then to where he is now. He worked alone in his shop every day except Sunday and Monday, though now he only opens for afternoons.

He'll be 90 this spring, and says he'll keep the shop open as long as he's able. He loves his work, and says it's what helps keep him healthy.

One of the neat things about my two-plus hour visit with him: No paperwork. I handed him the cash, he handed me the coins, and we shook hands. The way it's supposed to be.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

12 comments:

smartass sob said...

Nice story, Colonel - and really beautiful old coins in the photo. I've always thought the US had some of the prettiest money - back when it was real money.

sasob

Ol' BC said...

You don't have any IRS agents reading your posts, do you?

Col. Hogan said...

Sasob,

Yup, though I prefer the coins minted before they started putting Presidents on 'em. Look at the eagle on the back of the Liberty Walking half. Great eagle!

Col. Hogan said...

BC,

One thing this fellow was careful to point out was that when he bought that LaSalle, the price was $997. Just $997. No sales tax. The way it should be.

I didn't mention the gentleman's name or the location of his shop. I'm sure he, like any good businessman, keeps on the good side of the Nazis.

smartass sob said...

I prefer the coins minted before they started putting Presidents on 'em.

I'm partial to Morgan silver dollars myself - those and Saint Gaudens double eagles. I bought a nice Morgan last year; I paid $22 for it, which was probably too much, but I wanted one just to have. Had one for awhile as a boy.

sasob

Col. Hogan said...

Sasob,

I like the St Gaudens $20 a lot, too. I can't afford one, and it doesn't suit my plans. I'll buy silver dimes, quarters. halves and dollars. I also like the one-oz silver coins like the American Eagle. Silver coins from other countries are fine too, if I can get them at a bargain price, and if the coin is of known silver content.

I like gold too, but it's be hard to buy a box of cartridges or a package of beef steaks with a coin worth over $1000.

T. F. Stern said...

A couple of observations, first was the encounter you had with a piece of history. The two hour visit might be as valuable as any coin you went home with; what a great person to get to know.

Next would be the comment that it would be hard to buy stuff with a coin valued at over $1000. While that is true, there are smaller sized gold coins as well as silver units that can be obtained.

We purchases one ounce "rounds" as they are called in silver. These will be quite usable as trade items, being valued at about 10-15 dollars last I checked.

Lastly, the old coins did have an art form which was top notch, much better than anything produced today.

MK said...

Keep things simple, i feel the same way, the less complicated and complex the better.

Col. Hogan said...

TF,

Agreed. His story was very interesting, and I listened with every ear on my face. He is of my dad's generation (Dad passed away about five years ago), and had the same kind of a sense of life.

And, as to the coins, I've thought of buying smaller gold coins, and I'll probably do it....I first want a good supply of silver.

I agree fully about the aesthetic beauty of the older coins.

Col. Hogan said...

MK,

Yes, and the idea of not having to come up with the extra 10% protection money is appealing too.

Buy something here in Stalag California for $997, and you pay nearly $1100 for it. I can use the C-note.

smartass sob said...

I presume that you are buying junk silver for the purpose of having small amounts of real money for purchases in the event of a bout of hyperinflation or economic collapse. I've been thinking about that and it occured to me that you might be alot better off to have silver bars or rounds with their weight and purity stamped on them. I'm thinking that people would only want to give you face value for junk silver instead of the actual value of the silver content. As ignorant as much of the younger generation is about money, most probably wouldn't see any difference between the old coins and today's newer stuff. Of course, junk silver is much easier to find at a decent price these days.

You know, in the event of a real economic emergency even today's base metal coins would be worth more than paper money. Most anything would be worth more than paper.

sasob

The Wine Commonsewer (TWC) said...

Fookin' Great Story Wayne. Had me riveted from the beautiful old coins that SA mentioned.

I am partial to silver and I had a nice collection of old silver coins that got melted in a fire. Still have the melted coins though.

I also have quite a few Morgans and other silver dollars from the period spanning roughly 1880 to 1925.

In addition, I've got a bit of junk silver quarters, halves, & dimes. Plus a few quarter rands left over from the last gold rush back in the seventies.

The two hour visit might be as valuable as any coin you went home with; what a great person to get to know.

Well said, TF.