Dealer never tires of trading cash for coins | Wally's World

Well, with interest rates at an all-time low, a few Christmas expenses still coming due and an unexpected $1000 fee for a tooth crown, last week my finances had become so strained they were about to interfere with my social life, which can’t, under any circumstances, be tolerated. The last thing I needed was another bill. Nevertheless, I got one anyway: my pickup needed four new tires.

What to do? Of course, I could have put them on plastic with everything else I own. But I hated to do that because, by the time I have them paid off, I’d probably need a new set.

There was another option. For the past 30 or 40 years I’d been lugging around a collection of silver dollars as I moved from one place to another. (In fact, carrying them around all those years had become a classic case of the proverbial pain in the butt.) Perhaps it was time to cash them in. After all, silver was nearly at an all-time high, though it had dropped a few nickels in the past couple of months. So, I turned on the Internet to find out what silver dollars were worth. Reinforced with this info, I loaded them in the pockets of my jacket and road the Wave into Seattle to see a dealer in the farmers’ market.

I sat down in his little subterranean alcove and we faced off across his desk. I arranged the coins in neat, little stacks.

“Most of these are in pretty good shape,” I said.

“To the contrary,” he disagreed. “Most of these are in fair shape and a few are in really poor condition.”

I selected one of the best and offered it for his inspection.

“I might call this good,” he admitted. “But it certainly isn’t excellent. It’s worth about 24 bucks.”

I was disappointed.

“Some of these were minted in Carson City in 1906. The Internet indicated they might be worth a few hundred.”

“In uncirculated condition, maybe,” he said. “But when it’s this worn, I’d give you 30 bucks on a good day.”

I found one from the San Francisco mint dated 1896, the oldest coin I had.

“Actually, these aren’t that rare and I have several in much better shape.” He smiled playfully. “Now, if the eagle had eight tail feathers instead of six, then you’d have something worth several thousand. Or if Lady Liberty had a long neck and the bird was open. As it stands, it’s worth about 24 bucks.”

Now, of course, I realized the year, condition and mint location were important variables, but the length of the Lady’s neck and the number of tail feathers?  Whoever heard of such things?

He sensed my depressed mood. “What did you think they were worth?” he asked.

“I hoped the whole collection was worth a set of truck tires.”

“I see.” He scattered my neat stacks, closely studied the entire collection and finally examined one or two in particular. Then he extended his open hand across the desk and I clasped it. “Deal!” he declared.

So, he has the silver and I have a pickup that’s set for another 60,000 miles. Of more importance, my social life is still on course.

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