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Make a lesson out of your mistakes

Recently a man came in and handed me a ring. It was most impressive. It was a very heavy ring with a large, deep red stone. I felt certain it would be gold so I looked and sure enough it was marked most clearly “14K.”

I now operate a small coin business in a small town in Appalachia, Ohio. I am in my office from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The area around is more economically depressed than most and there is a small population base. As a result, my business has never been great, but it gives me something to do that I thoroughly enjoy and it helps to keep my mental functions sharp, which is very important at my age.


The business did reasonably well for a number of years and then evidently I got the coins pretty well bought out. Now my coin business is quite slow, but as is true with many coin dealers now, I am doing a thriving business in gold and silver.

Recently a man came in and handed me a ring. It was most impressive. It was a very heavy ring with a large, deep red stone. I felt certain it would be gold so I looked and sure enough it was marked most clearly “14K.” I weighed it, made an offer that was accepted, paid the man and he left. I picked the ring up to take the setting out and for some reason I looked again. There was the bold “14K” but in much lighter form were the letters, “GE.” My heart fell. It was gold plate. There was no help for it. I already owned it so I went to my books and marked it off as a loss.

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I tried it on. It fit perfectly. Then I thought I could just as well have some fun with it. At each monthly meeting I make a little presentation to a coin club of which I am a member. The presentation is either of educational nature or just something of interest.

I wore the ring to the next club meeting. I flashed it around. When I went to make my presentation I said, “Did you see my beautiful ring? Isn’t it a knockout?” I went on to say that a 14K ring that heavy would surely be worth about $1,000 and that a ruby that size was more valuable than a diamond that size. It should be worth at least $4,000.

Please note, I did not even tell a little white fib. I did not say that ring was 14K. I never said that the setting was a ruby. I only said that a 14K ring like that and a ruby like that would be worth that much, which was absolutely true.

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I then said, “Tell you what. I enjoy this club and I like you people. I will give you a real bargain. If any of you are interested, I will sell it to anyone wanting it for $4,000.” There was subdued snickering, but no one offered to buy it. I said, “So no one is willing to pay $4,000 for a $5,000 ring?” “OK,” I said. “Tell you what I will do. Who will pay $25?” The room was full of laughter.

I went on to explain that this was one of my mistakes. You cannot be in my business very long without making a mistake, and this one was a beaut’.

That is not the end of the story. I wore the ring for a while. I am a heavily built man, so a large ring was not out of place. Even though I am older than some of the Appalachian hills, I still work very hard maintaining 18 acres that include two very large gardens. From 15 minutes after I leave the house until I get cleaned up I am dripping with sweat. The ring had a rather wide band and my finger was always wet inside that ring. I decided to quit wearing it.

In my office I have a supply table where I keep my 2x2s, scales, reference works, etc. If I buy items I do not know what to do with or of little value, I sometimes just lay those items on that table. Medals, tokens, damaged coins, etc., end up there. As people come in, it is quite common for someone to pick up one of those items and make a comment or ask a question about it. Those items create some interest and I consider that good.
Each morning around 9 a.m., I lock my safe but leave the office door open and walk to the post office to get the mail. When I return I open the safe, take out the cash box and put it in an unseen but handy place and I am ready to do business.

One morning I just returned from the post office and had no time to get the cash box out before a man came in offering a gold chain for sale. I offered and he accepted. I told him it would take a moment, that I had not opened the safe after coming from the post office. I am always most uneasy when this happens. I must nearly turn my back on the customer to open the safe. This leaves me most vulnerable. I try to watch out of the corner of my eye, but yet I must look down to see the numbers. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man reach to my supply table. I thought little of that. A lot of people do that. It was my own safety I was concerned about and not the nearly worthless items on that table.

I got the cash box out and paid the man, and he left. I looked to my supply table and, lo and behold, that scoundrel had light-fingered my $5,000 ring. I hope he gets a fungus under the band.

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