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WAYNE'S NUMISMATIC DIARY: MAY 13, 2008On Tuesday evening I went to the monthly meeting on my Northern Virginia numismatic social club, Nummis Nova. Our host was Chris Neuzil who made a reservation at the Jasmine Cafe restaurant in Lake Anne Plaza in Reston. My son Tyler's Little League baseball game had been cancelled due to field conditions, so I was able to arrive on time around 6:30.
The first member I saw was Roger Burdette, who was waiting near the fountain. We discussed the architecture of the plaza, which was built as a showcase planned community. In his RSVP for the meeting Tom Kays, a "NoVa native" wrote: "I remember when they built Reston and even visited once back in 1968 to look around. I remember a lake. Do you suppose much has changed since then? Will I recognize the place and appreciate the genius of planned communityhood?"
Well, the community's still there but to Roger and I it didn't look like a work of genius. It looked dated (early 70s was my guess) and felt sluggish. The plaza was as nearly still as the water on the "lake", which was more of a big concrete reflecting pond. Later that evening one of the group said it looked like communist East Berlin.
There was activity though, probably not bad for a Tuesday night. Shops and restaurants were open, some with outdoor seating and at least one with live music. No big crowds, though. One of the lessons learned from these planned communities is that if the shopping areas are hidden from the road as this one was, you can't count on people beating a path to the door. I've been in this area for two years and never knew it was there. But the isolation worked to our advantage - plenty of seats and little noise in the restaurant (The Jasmine Café).
While we were talking I spotted Julian Leidman rounding the corner across the plaza, with his trademark magnifiers still clipped to his glasses. We walked over to the restaurant and Chris and the rest of the gang were already there. Tom Kays was sick and had to cancel, so he'll have to take our word that the lake is still there.
Rounding out the group were Joe Levine, Dave Schenkman, Wayne Herndon and Traci Poole. Traci was Wayne's guest - a former ANACS employee, Traci now lives in Virginia and works for Wayne in his coin business.
Chris' theme for the evening was "Your best or most memorable (not necessarily most remunerative) numismatic 'find.' From circulation, cherrypicked, metal detector, or however." He passed out copies of his article How Lucky Can You Get? from the October 2002 Numismatist. He and fellow collector Lenny Vaccaro purchased two rare and valuable silver U.S. Mint medals commemorating heroes of the War of 1812 on eBay for a fraction of their typical selling price.
Dave Schenkman recalled a deal where a gentleman who'd changed his collecting focus practically insisted on trading high-grade U.S. Colonial coins to Dave in exchange for saloon tokens.
Julian Leidman told the tale of a collector in Mexico who contacted him with a group of British coins to sell. One piece seemed special and the man shipped it to Julian, who took it to a Long Beach show and sold it on the man's behalf for $200,000 - it was a bronze denarium of Maryland.
Roger Burdette remembered his adventure as a young collector when a bank in his area was offering to sell five silver dollars for face value as a promotion, one set to a customer. One of his five was an 1893-S, worth $3,000 today. Dave added that in the 1950s (before the Treasury hoard was released) he bought a 1903-O Morgan dollar through a banker who lived across the street from him.
I told about the time when my wife asked what I'd done that day and I said I'd made $2,000 in the bathroom. I was passing time reading Coin World and noticed a rare U.S. encased postage stamp worth over $2,000 at the time being offered for $250. I raced to the phone and called the dealer who insisted on letting me have it for $225 "because in was in last week's ad at that price and it didn't sell." The piece arrived in fine shape and was sold in 2006 along with the rest of my EPS collection for about $7,000.
Joe Levine recalled his days as a student when he'd get bags of nickels or half dollars from the Treasury and sort through them for better coins to sell, making $20 or more a week - good money in those days. When the Treasury began its silver dollar release in 1962-63, Joe worked as a go-fer for Phil Lampkin of the Washington Coin Exchange helping to haul bags of silver dollars (going up and down flights of stairs to Phil's office, where the bags were opened and examined). Lampkin would buy 10-15 bags at a time, often making $300 on each. Dealer Ben Douglas was the talk of the hobby after finding he'd bought a bag of Liberty Seated dollars for face value.
Joe raised $12,000 from relatives, hired an off-duty cop for security and borrowed a car to buy bags of his own. He found a bag of 1882-Os, and Phil sold them for him. Phil scored a bag of 1883-CCs. Joe remembers the coins stacked in piles of twenty on Phil's desk. After making calls to Harry Forman and several other dealers across the country, Phil sold them all without affecting the price.
Joe remembered how one dealer from Georgia arrived at the Treasury with a long tractor-trailer and loaded it up with 200-300 bags of dollars, only to discover too late that another dealer had already checked and returned the bags, marking them with a small "x".
One of Traci Poole's better finds happened just that afternoon, when her order of ten silver 2008 eagles arrived from the U.S. Mint - all ten had the reverse of 2007.
Wayne Herndon passed around two interesting pieces he picked up at shows recently - an unrecorded original "Bo" Hobo nickel, and a Morgan dollar whose obverse was recarved into an image of Buffalo Bill Cody. Other topics covered in conversation included activities at ANS, Heritage and Stack's. New books held the spotlight for a few minutes: Julian Leidman mentioned George Fuld's revised manuscript on Washington items, and Joe Levine discussed Bill Swoger's book on National Commemorative medals.
It was another pleasant evening of numismatic discussion - great companionship, and great stories. I was already looking forward to next month. I got back to my parked car and managed to wind my way through the maze back to the main road, leaving the secret shopping plaza behind.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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