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Phone call takes me back to stock market

To say I was a bit distracted the day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by the largest number of points in its history is an understatement.

However, I managed to get work done. I had a telephone conversation with longtime dealer Helen Wallace of R.E. Wallace in Fort Worth, Texas. Helen operates an old-fashioned coin and stamp shop where collectors can go to work on their sets.

Her business is located in an impressive new building that she designed.

Architecture was not what we were talking about. I had made a begging phone call to her. We were looking for some prizes for our www.NumisMaster.com Web site.

I knew she had some old checks signed by B. Max Mehl that we had used years ago in a successful subscription promotion for Bank Note Reporter. Mehl, who died in 1957, made the 1913 Liberty Head nickels famous among noncollectors because during the Depression he advertised in the general media that he would pay $50 for one. To a Depression-afflicted population where so many were out of work, going through change in hopes of finding something worth one to two weeks’ pay was quite an incentive.
Mehl was not alone in promoting the beginnings of the circulation finds era. As you may have read in David Lange’s presentation in the Sept. 23 issue, there were other early coin board promoters doing the same sort of thing.

Suffice it to say that the Mehl checks will make interesting prizes.

Another donation made by Helen was an 1857 Flying Eagle cent in fine condition. That made me wish I was 14 again. I never had Flying Eagle cents in any condition let alone a free one. My thanks go to Helen and her generosity.

Naturally, we had to talk about the elephant in the room: the stock rout and what it was doing or might be doing to the coin  market.

“I’ve been at it 46 years and I’m getting tired of these down ticks,” Helen said at one point in our conversation.

She said a number of other things, but my phone call was not specifically for a news story, so at one point in our conversation I told her that her comments were great and asked if I could take a few down and perhaps share them with readers. She said I could.

Helen’s experience with bullion coins was running counter to what we are seeing elsewhere. Perhaps that is a result of her business being comprised of old-fashioned over-the-counter collectors.

“When gold was rising,” she said, “I did a lot of bullion sales. When gold drops, that’s when they should be buying (to round down their costs), but they’re scared. They don’t want to do it.”

Is this fearful inaction that she is seeing among clients a one-day aberration? Could be, but this bears watching.

She also mentioned that collector coins were on the weak side. She explained, “You need to sell collector coins to pay the bills.” This bears watching, too.

I had a conversation with a paper money dealer the same day and he asked what I was hearing about the state of that market.

Perhaps we are all a little tentative. The Dow gave us 777 reasons to be so.

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