By: Curt Wood
On that day, after nine months of seemingly interminable darkness and hunger, I found myself entering a strange, inexplicable state – California. To be more specific, it was San Pedro, Calif., a city hugging the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles.
On that day, in that place, I was born. A decade later I developed an interest in numismatics, and a decade after that I found myself drawn to my first numismatic convention, those big gatherings where dealers sell collectible coins, tokens, medals and paper money. They also sell numismatic books, exonumia and even gold and silver bullion. Some dealers even offer electronic metal detectors to enable hobbyists to find all these aforementioned collectibles at a local beach or in one’s own backyard, where such numismatic treasures, of course, are commonly located.
My first visit to a convention was an experience that provides an object lesson to anyone who is involved in numismatics. I showed up at a large convention center in Los Angeles, eagerly expecting to add some nice pieces to my growing collection. I entered and beheld what appeared to be hundreds of sales booths and walked up to the first booth I saw.
“Hello,” I said with a smile, “do you have three-legged Buffaloes?”
“Three-legged Buffaloes?” the dealer answered. “Sir, what do you think this is? A meat market? No, I don’t have three-legged buffaloes.”
Undiscouraged, I tried a different item. “Do you have any half eagles?” I asked.
“Sir,” the dealer responded, “again, this is not a meat market. I have no half eagles.”
Undeterred, I pressed on. “Do you have any Franklin rolls?” I asked.
“No, sir,” he answered, “I have no Franklin rolls. I don’t have any kind of rolls, or biscuits, or bread, or doughnuts or cookies. This isn’t a bakery sir.”
I tried again. “Do you have any $50 California gold slugs?” I inquired.
The dealer gave me an odd look. “Sir, I have no slugs. What is it with you? Three-legged buffaloes, half eagles and now slugs. You have rather odd taste in food,” he said.
I looked directly at the dealer. “Do you have exonumia?” I asked him.
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“No, sir, I don’t have exonumia. I received a vaccination to prevent that when I was a kid.”
I persevered with yet another attempt. “Do you have any New Jersey coppers?” I asked him.
“No, sir,” the dealer answered brusquely, “I have no New Jersey coppers or California coppers or any kind of coppers. This isn’t a police station.”
I’d always wanted a 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent, so I spoke up for that. “Do you have an ‘S’ VDB?” I asked.
“No, sir,” he answered, “I have a BMW but it’s not for sale.”
“Do you have a 1914 cent, Denver Mint?” I asked.
“Let me guess, sir,” the dealer responded. “1914 scent is a perfume and Denver Mint is an ice cream. No, I don’t have those or anything of the sort.”
“Do you have certifieds?” I asked.
“Sir,” he answered, “I think you may be certified.”
I decided to ask him about large cents. “Silly Head? Booby Head?” I asked.
“Sir, don’t call me names or I’ll call security,” was his answer.
“I don’t suppose you could furnish me with a $4 Stella?” I asked hopefully.
The dealer looked shocked, answering, “Sir, I resent that. I run a respectable business.”
“What about Draped Bust quarters?” I asked him.
The dealer looked shocked. “Again, sir, I run a respectable business,” he pleaded.
I was becoming impatient with the dealer. “What’s going on here?” I asked him. “Are you sure you’re a coin dealer?”
The dealer smiled. “I’m not a coin dealer, sir,” he explained, amused. “I’m a psychologist. You’re at the wrong convention. The coin fair is next weekend. You’re a week early. This is the Psychological Convention.”
As I turned to leave, he stopped me and handed me his business card. “Sir,” he said pleasantly, “I know you came in for something other than things psychological. But take my card anyway. It may come in handy, in case you want to give up eagles and slugs. Not to mention $4 Stellas.”
This Viewpoint was written by Curt Wood, a hobbyist who is from Van Nuys, Calif.
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