Mike's Reminiscences

by Michael Rogers

The following appeared in Michael Rogers' regular column in
The American Stamp Dealer & Collector Magazine - July/August 2010 Issue



When I was a youngster, my dad likened me to Baron Munchhausen, as I evaded punishment with elaborate tales, one foot in reality, one on the other side. I was so excited: “I’m descended from royalty,” until later on I realized the Munchhausen coat of arms that he propped up in the basement was me getting snookered. By the time I figured it out, I thought it was pretty cool.

     You wouldn’t know it today, but I was a really quiet kid. Squeaked into college. Senior year was a revelation, here I was in Atlanta Georgia, and just didn’t have the money to go home for vacation so I walked into the coin shop downtown and asked if I could have a job just for the two weeks. I was hired to do inventory of their stamp department. Their stamp man was well glad to hand off this tedious job to me.

      First day on the job I went next door for a nice lunch, fish and fries. First gulp, a big old fish bone got stuck way back in my throat!

      I couldn’t talk. I could only whisper. And I didn’t have insurance so I couldn’t go to a doctor right away. I didn’t have the sense to complain to the restaurant. So I went back to work and kept my mouth shut. Boy, were they impressed with me! The campus doctor returned a day before my job ended and removed the fish bone. I took the bus to the hobby shop so animated that my boss said “First you don’t talk and now you won’t shut up!” I accepted an afternoon job which fit in well with my senior year at college

     My generation is shaped by the Vietnam War. I had a college deferment, expecting to serve upon graduation. I took the physical and let’s say they were under-impressed. But here I was, having graduated college, preparing myself for Army call-up, and then it didn’t happen. My plans were four-year college, Vietnam, graduate school. Now an unexpected void.

      So I called my family and said I was returning to Atlanta to take this position as a stamp dealer for a year. A year would tell the tale. If not, I could enroll in graduate school and become a medical social worker as I’d planned.


   A stamp dealer? My dad yelled, my mom, well, you know mothers. Let’s say they worried for my good sense.

      Months later, the coin company got burglarized and there went their entire stamp stock. Fortunately, I’d made a friendship with a coin dealer in Jacksonville, Florida. His name is Barry Williams.

      I don’t drive. I know how to, but I’m the worst driver you’ve ever seen. No kidding. I took the driving test in Atlanta and they told me “Boy, we’d give a pig a driver’s license, but you’d better stay off the road”. I was offered a license, but declined. I just wanted to know I could do it. Representing the company at stamp shows was really important. I hooked up with Barry, sharing a booth or each of us taking our own booths. We’d go on buying trips, him for coins, me for stamps. Remarkably, we’re very good friends today—38 years late

      One time we did a show in the Palmer House in Chicago. Here we were on an upper floor on the last day of the show and the elevator broke down. The dealers were in the midst of moving out. Didn’t faze Barry. He’s a big strong muscular man. So he shoved both our stocks into our footlocker and hoisted onto his shoulders, saying “Clear A Path!” walking our stock down six or seven flights of stairs!

    When the hobby company lost their stamp stock, my job disappeared so I reckoned that I ought to call Barry and wing it down to Jacksonville. Problem was, the only housing I could afford was free, so Barry’s family put me up on the porch. Three kids so I was grateful they could squeeze me in. Accomodating as his family was, I just felt kind of restricted working in a coin shop as stamps was my passion.
       Three months later, I heard Lt. Col. John W. McDaniel Jr. of Winter Park was looking for a right hand man so with Barry’s okay, I contacted John. Working for John was very interesting. When I started in mid 1973, he had a mammoth inventory but merchandised it in a way that prevented him from most easily selling. He’d carefully note price increases, but not lower prices when warranted. When I started, John was real pleased doing $4,000 at one show per month. When I quit in June 1976, we were doing up to four shows monthly grossing $20,000 each. I learned a lot there.

      I had a bit of savings when I left John’s employ but most went to family needs almost immediately. I was so broke that in July of 1976 I had something like $600. I remember selling 3-cent stamps to neighborhood kids out of my apartment. Really scratching!

       I made a deal with John that I wouldn’t contact any of his customers. In the stamp business, a dealer’s word is as important as a signature on a contract. Sometime during 1975, a guy approached us with some really great stamps, and after checking him out, we knew it really was an inheritance. I was the guy in McDaniel’s office that Tom dealt with but he “belonged” to John. So once in a while, Tom would come in with a stockbook of cool U.S. and I’d buy it. 

      After I left John’s employ, Tom came in to him with a very nice book full of stamps, but this time John handled him and it wasn’t pretty.

      When Tom asked where I was, John clasped his hands below his stomach, saying “Mike’s no longer with us.” The implication was, of course that I’d passed away. Problem was, Winter Park was still a pretty small place, and Tom hadn’t noticed a bit in the paper about me.

      So Tom pulled in a favor and got my unlisted phone number, calling me. When I said that I couldn’t deal with him because I’d promised John that I wouldn’t contact his customers, Tom pointed out that it was on his initiative that he was able to find me. So we met and he showed me a wonderful book of U.S.

    Later on he would let me sell for him things like 10,000 sets of U.S. Famous Americans used and the same of  U.S. Overrun Countries used.

       I’d sort each value into glassines of 100 stamps each. These would be sold to the old H. E. Harris Company.

       Tons of work!

       If not for Tom, I may have returned to graduate school. We are friends today.

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