Reminiscences - Part XXXIV

by Michael Rogers
The following appeared in Michael Rogers' regular column in
The American Stamp Dealer & Collector Magazine - November 2013 Issue


From Coins to Stamps

I’d left John McDaniel’s employ in June 1976 with just $600 to figure out my future. Entering graduate school to become a medical social worker was tempting. But, I believed I was cut out to be a stamp dealer. Testing my faith came when I was so broke that I was reduced to selling penny stamps to neighborhood kids out of my apartment.

Fortunately I had great friends. One was disposing of a family hoard - an unbelievably huge accumulation of both valuable and mundane US and France. Its disposal came at a time when I surely needed the income. Other friends encouraged me to continue the quest: you can do it, Mike!

I approached a coin shop situated a couple of miles from my home about working there on a commission basis. Its building was so ramshackle that you could see gaps between the walls to the outside. I didn't know how their security system had any sense of integrity.

Winter came and I was so cold. In those days, I was a gangling six footer at just 155 pounds. No insulation. We tried newspaper to plug the gaps in the walls. Something had to be done.

One of the owners was a charismatic man named Sam. He'd made his money in another field and was doing this as a lark. Wiry thin and standing perhaps 5’7”, Sam was full of life. He always had a cigarette in hand accompanied by a coffee cup.

After a few months, Sam came up with the idea of relocating to posh Park Avenue in downtown Winter Park. Although the rent was $400 a month, my stamps yielded the store $600 monthly as they were on consignment with the coin shop netting 10% commission. I benefitted from the Park Avenue location. A win-win.

Business was great on the Avenue as its the perfect showcase for buying and selling collectibles. Sam was a natural salesman and it was fascinating watching him do his stuff. Once in a while, he'd meet his match.

One day a dignified guy came in to buy ten $20 gold pieces. He introduced himself as Malcolm Forbes. Picking up the gold, he said he had to retrieve his checkbook from his car. As Sam waited for “Malcolm” to return, and waited, he informed us of his buyer's identity. As he slowly realized the guy wasn't returning, I whispered that I subscribed to Forbes Magazine and this guy didn't resemble Mr. Forbes at all. Con men are so good!

Coins would be offered to purchase all the time. One day when the shop had a bunch of customers, a guy came in with several coins he had for sell. Sam looked at them, made an offer, and purchased them. After the guy left, Sam looked at one Morgan silver dollar more carefully and yelled out “I got him!” Right in front of all those collectors! I thought to myself "Oh, no!" But I couldn't say anything because that would only compound the problem. I hate confrontations.

As an afterthought, Sam took a sharp pointed instrument to the mint mark on the coin he’d been yelling about, and you know what? The mint mark fell off! Then Sam exclaimed “HE took me!” Standing in the background amongst the customers, my facial expression changed from dismay to a buck-toothed grin. Unfortunately, as I was grinning, Sam self consciously realized he had an audience to this fiasco, and zeroing in on me, he exclaimed "You're laughing at me."

I was signed to a contract of eighteen months duration. With just my desk and three shelves of display, I assumed the coin shop would be real pleased to continue the same arrangement of 10% commission on my sales. A few months before the end of my contract, they proposed 15% of my sales and they wanted me to kick in 15% on top of whatever I paid someone else. I had no problem with the sales part but choked on the purchases. That meant I would no longer be competitive.

Negotiations proved futile so I was back in my apartment, again. My attorney and friend David Cunningham presented me with the lease for Winter Park Stamp Shop on Park Avenue a few weeks later in the Spring of 1978. I was on my way!



This article is edited differently from the magazine version.


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