Reminiscences - Part XXXIV
by Michael Rogers
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
This article is edited differently from the magazine version.
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