Coin of the Realm ► Unpacking the Writer

It’s been a whirlwind few months at Not Now Silly, and not all of it was spent writing.

As longtime readers know: Pops died late last year. Since then the Newsroom has expanded from a single small room into several spacious rooms.

Consolidating items, rearranging furniture, and jettisoning what doesn’t work, it’s now pretty close to what I envisioned. There are still a few broad strokes to go, but after that it’s just minor cleanup.

The biggest change is the new Media Room I built just off (and visible from) the Newsroom. It contains a couch; tee vee; sound system; VHS, DVD,  and CD players; along with 62 linear feet of CDs lining 2 of the walls. I love music. Music is important to me. Subsequently, I have a lot of it. If I’m not watching the Fox “News” Channel, I’m listening to music. Music makes the world go-round. Music is the best.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The Frank Zappa collection takes up 51 inches of that (and I am still missing almost 50 Zappa CDs and box sets). The next largest section is The Beatles at 43 inches, but that includes solo work and tribute CDs.

NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: I didn’t write about this previously for security’s sake, but I’ve been dying to because it’s been an interesting process . . . in both a journalistic sense and a nostalgic one:

Pops left behind a coin collection.

As a kid I remember him spending his spare time in front of his roll top desk examining coins and looking them up in the many books he had on the subject. He owned his own stores in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Back then one could still find rare coins in circulation. I’m sure Pops looked at every coin that came through his till. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got rolls of coins from banks just to look through them.

Pops still had hundreds of Mexican coins left

He tried to get me interested, but I wasn’t having it. Now I wished I had paid attention because my oldest sister (who is Pops’ Executor) and I spent the last several months liquidating Pops’ coin collection, which he spent a lifetime acquiring.

Over the years he sold a some of his collection here and there. For instance, I recall when he and my Mom traveled through Mexico, he collected gold coins at a time when owning gold wasn’t possible in ‘Merka. A few years back I asked him whatever happened to those and he told be they paid for the down payment on the condo.

As many as he may have sold over the years, there were still tens of thousands of coins left. My sister and I treated liquidation like it was a job. And, it was.

Luckily, just before we started this process, I happened to hear that the biggest coin show in the country was happening in Fort Lauderdale. My sister and I went. Because we didn’t know what we had yet, all we really did was collect business cards, ask the out-of-town dealers who they’d recommend that was local, and/or what to look for in a honest coin dealer. We also got a sense of what was happening in Coin World. It was worth spending an afternoon there.

We knew that before we could ask a numismatist to give us a valuation, had to know what we had. Sounds simple, right? Did I mention there were tens of thousands of coins? Maybe hundreds of thousands. Blue books with coins slotted into the holes, 3-ring binders with coins in plastic sleeves, individual coins in plastic sleeves, rolls of coins, cigar boxes full of coins, and loose, unsorted, coins of every description and denomination. I wish I had thought to weigh it because it was serious tonnage.

B & I met once a week for 6 or 7 hours a go. The first several weeks we did nothing but sort the coins by category: ‘Merkin and foreign first. Then we took all the U.S. coinage and separated that into denominations: nickles, dimes, quarters, half dollars, pennies, wheat pennies, steel pennies, Indian head pennies. Who knew there were so many different kids of pennies?

Once it was sorted, we started creating spreadsheets. Each workday we’d open a new spreadsheet (or several over the course of a day) and log the coins by denomination and year. If Pops had noted a condition, we put that on the spreadsheet as well. However, about 95% of the coins were not graded. Coin grading being such a specialized field, we didn’t even bother to guess.

Filling the spreadsheets — logging every coin — took another 5 or 6 weeks. Two more weeks were spent sorting all the foreign coinage by country. One thing I have to say is there are (were?) some beautiful coins from around the world. Contemporary coins are not nearly as pretty.

Pops didn’t discriminate. He had many Nazi-era coins. I took other pictures, but this one had the least number of swastikas.

We continued until we had every coin sorted, logged, boxed, and sealed into various lots, as we named each spreadsheet.

We were both rookies when this process began, but my sister and I learned a fair bit about coin valuations as we researched what we were discovering.

We learned enough that, when it came time to start selling the coins, we could take one of the smaller lots to several local dealers. We knew the value of this set of quarters, so we could judge what they told us. Then we discussed the spreadsheets.

Without knowing the actual condition of the coins (on the spreadsheets), we could only get several ballpark figures from several dealers. They were all within the same range, but the difference of a penny a coin adds up when you have so many. In the end we went with our gut and chose the dealer who made us feel the most comfortable. He was the same price as another guy, but the other guy felt off, if yannow what I mean.

This gent was up in Boca Raton, so for the next 3 Mondays running, instead of my Boca sister driving here, I’d load the car up with coins and drive up there. Each time it was most of the morning (into the early afternoon), a process that was greatly streamlined because we had prepared all the spreadsheets. He said that he’s rarely seen a collection organized as well as we had done.

The first week he double-checked our tallies, but that got old after a while, especially after they all turned out to be correct. Despite how much the spreadsheets helped speed things up, it still took 3 weeks. We’d haggle a bit here and there over price — because we had been learning valuations on our own and consulting other dealers — but we also knew we were being treated fairly.  It went both ways, in fact. It was a good relationship and I was kind of sorry when it ended.

One of the things I learned from him is that coin collecting is a dying hobby. Just as I wasn’t interested in learning Pops’ hobby, later generations didn’t care either. Now coin collectors are literally dying off and the market has suffered because no one is collecting. These days there’s more profit in the melt value than you’d get by finding a coin collector looking to fill out their collection, if you could even find one.

IRONY ALERT: Obviously, melting coins makes the ones that are left rarer. However, that’s still not increasing the collecting value of those that are left. Eventually, at this rate, none of these coins will exist.

BOTTOM LINE: All the time we sorted the coins my sister and were hoping to find that BURIED TREASURE. I guess we watched too much Antiques Roadshow. While, there are coins worth tens of thousands of dollars, we didn’t have any of those.

Although there were a few coins that did alright — well above face value — there was no great score. Wheat pennies and steel pennies, which we had tons of (and that might not be an exaggeration) did okay — depending on condition. Because there was so much of it, it added up quickly.

However, most of what we cashed in went for melt value, or even face value. Not everything Pops collected increased in value.

KA-CHING! One Indian head penny we sold him brought in over $40. Later he admitted to us that it was a counterfeit coin, which he took the blame for because he had given it the once-over.

All in all it was an interesting experience.

ME’N’MARLEY: Marley has settled into the Not Now Silly Newsroom nicely and has become the perfect writing partner. She’s helped me put together the latest stories on the Coconut Grove Playhouse, which is heating up again. Meanwhile, we’re still following West Grove, and the new plan to bring much-needed money to alleviate the ghetto conditions along Grand Avenue. We’ll see how that all shakes out over time.

Meanwhile, Marley has taken down the details of several intriguing stories that sources have called in. I’m still chasing these down to see if they pan out, but she takes good notes.

While Today’s Top Ten is always in flux, the All Time Top Ten has settled into a nice groove, and one I’m proud of. [All numbers were reset at the beginning of the year, when we opened up this new joint.]

I never thought there would be another chapter in the Johnny Dollar Wars, but there it is nestled in at number 3, as Johnny Dollar Outed As Roger Ailes Operative?

Speaking of Fox: I continue to craft a Friday Fox Follies for PolitucusUSA and boy have things become interesting lately. Trying to keep the columns to a reasonable length has been a chore.

Getting back to the Top Ten at right: Just below J$, is my demand that Tom Falco issue a retraction and apology. If it’s that high on the All Time Top Ten, imagine how many people have read about his cowardice and scumbaggery.

Holding down the #6 position is the day I shaved my head. You need to see it to believe it.

However, the rest of my All Time Top Ten are stories I’m particularly proud of. Check them out. Collect them all. Trade ’em with your friends.

COIN OF THE REALM: Speaking of which, we’ve sold the Lexus and purchased a new mobile Not Now Silly Newsroom, a 2012 Ford Fusion nicknamed The Grey Ghost. When it’s not being used by Marley and the rest of the News staff, I am driving for Lyft. I’m sure I’ll have stories as time goes on, but I’ve only been doing it for a week and have just 20

See you next time, dear reader. We do it all for you, to coin a phrase.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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