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Paper cash is king

While working the cash register in the book tent yesterday afternoon I happened to hear a conversation between two friends who had met up there after spending time in the swap meet area.

One fellow was telling the other that he was looking for a tail light. I did not hear for what kind of vehicle.

He had found one at a vendor and was examining it. The vendor wanted $30 for it.

However, when the collector found some hairline cracks in it, the vendor apparently became somewhat exasperated and exclaimed that he could easily sell it on an online auction site.

Every collectible hobby seems to have some version of the story of items that would not pass muster among their own so they can be sold online.

Knowing what you are doing in any hobby is critical. Here is another lesson of that simply fact.

I have to go back out there for another stint on the register today, but before I go, I should make the following observations:

Cash is still king on the car show grounds, though we do take credit cards in the book tent. I received precisely seven quarters, two dimes and one nickel that someone carefully counted out to buy a $2 book.

The $20 bill is the most widely tendered in payment. Last year we had difficulty having enough $10 bills. This year the supply kept up with the need, no problem.

An occasional $50 or $100 was taken in payment, but not very often.

The supply of $1 bills is more than adequate. They were not often offered and the ones received hardly ever went out again, behaving something like the cent does in its one-way trip from Mint, to business, to cookie jars across America.

Also, I ran into two credit cards with magnetic strips that were problems and would not scan.

If cellphone payments catch on, it will be as much to do with defects in credit cards as with any dissatisfaction with cash.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."