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Thursday, November 1,2007

  • Where It All Began
    Because of the age of the “house” in which we lived on Seacliff Road many modern touches were either non-existent or of a much later adaptation.  The row of flats was actually constructed near the end of the reign of King George II.  During those days, the mid-18th century, the “T,” as they called it, was outside.  Fortunately during the Victorian era plumbing moved inside and a space under the bottom floor stairs and in one of the third floor landing corners became “WC’s,” if you catch my drift here.

    One of the more difficult modernizations was the gas for use in the kitchen.  The stove was actually wood or coal burning and many of our neighbors ignored the gas and stayed with the older products.

    Anyway, the gas line came in through the front wall, ran along the outside wall in the approximate direction of the kitchen which was situated in the very back of the house.  In order to use the gas one had to place a few coins in the meter, enough pence to keep the flow of gas on long enough for dinner preparation.  I remember a couple of occasions when we had to acquire coins from guests in order to dinner to be prepared.  It was an antiquated system but it worked, many such “modern” adaptations in those old houses didn’t.

    It was on one of those gas seeking expeditions that I held in my hand a coin I’d received in change earlier in the day.  It was a well used almost slick, six pence from 1836.  This piece, which I still have somewhere, drew my attention to the small change of my day.  The old pence were at that moment in history being replaced by the “new P(ence)”  Older coins, which had circulated freely for decades, even for centuries before, were disappearing quickly.  I did snag a few others such as an 1897 shilling and an 1894 pence.  I still have a relatively large box full of old large pence I picked out of change.

    Even though I have long since moved on to other areas of collecting, I am still entertained by the memories and enjoy an occasional viewing of the old U.K. pieces I acquired way back then.  I even have a few I purchased after our return home that are still in their original holder.  A handful are from the John’s bid board (Chris used to say “bid, bid, bid!” – I miss those days.)  We didn’t need Ebay back then. Do we really need it now?  There was something great back then about standing in a crowd waiting for the chance to put one last bid on a desired coin.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; “Fellow collectors, despite what some say about the market today, we do need each other.”
     
    We have some great opportunities for community involvement in the very near future.  See elsewhere in this publication words about the upcoming shows include the TNA Winter Show in Waco, the Pasadena Show and the Greater Houston Show.
     
                            See you all soon.  I’ll leave the gas on for you.
                            Regards and God Bless . . . Richard
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Monday, October 1,2007

  • Budget History in My Hand
    It is always gratifying to know when something comes your way which is a real bargain.  I have one such experience I will speak of briefly.  It must be something of worth because one of our more astute and truly knowledgeable collector members offered me “hundreds” of times what I paid for my piece.  Now before you get excited for me (or envious) let me explain.

    Back a couple or three weeks ago my wife was doing the shopping thing.  We were together at a local shopping area within walking distance of a coin shop.  Instead of sitting around waiting for Susan to be ready to move on I chose to go to the shop, with instructions to Susan than I would head back to whichever store she was at the time she was ready to go.  A simple plan this was.

    Unfortunately the numismatic areas I usually consider took little time to run through.  I found nothing to speak of.  It was my dilemma, either I found something to look at in the shop, or I find a comfortable chair by the lady’s department.  Fortunately there were a few other boxes of material to dig trough.  I spent some time in the limited notebook of world coins, but found nothing.  I replayed the store’s supply of paper money.  Just about the time I decided to head back to find my wife I glanced at a huge box of foreign (sorry p.c. folks – should be “Non-U.S.”) coins.  The coins were only a dime each; I couldn’t go wrong investing a few minutes in this assortment..
                           
    My finds were fairly significant at first.  I picked out a couple of current Canadian Quarter Dollars.   Now that these are just about par with U.S. Dollars seemed like a dime was a good investment.  I also picked out a whole variety of pieces to use as handouts during our Children’s sermon time.  There are more usages for coins than simply in the “classroom.”  I have a couple of things I do with the kids at church which help them acquire an appreciation of the diversity of God’s peace, as well as introduce them to the world of coin collecting.
    I found one really worn item (remember we’re talking ten cents each) which I knew to be a half penny. (Yes we can use “penny” here because it was British)   The coin carried a faint but distinctive bust of George I.  The other item, which was somewhat like it, was a little clearer, but not much.  It had a few distinct marks and a full date of 1787.  After toying with it a while I figured it wasn’t a British half penny, even though there was quite a resemblance between the two.  So what was it?  It was at least a dime’s worth of curiosity.

    My return home gave me cause to look in more detail at the new acquisition.  I pulled out the good ole’ Guide Book of United States Coins (2007) and found my coin on page 60.  To save you some time we are talking a very well worn, but still original, Post-Colonial, Connecticut piece with a full 1787 date.  My unexpected opportunity bore more fruit than I at first realized.

    Obviously our good friend who offered me “hundreds of times” over what I paid for the coin (remember I paid a dime for it) was making a genuine and honest offer on a worn item whose value isn’t great, as far as money is concerned.  His offer was tempting.  In reality, the coin is worth maybe half a tank of gas, monetarily speaking.  At is at the moment worth more to me as an item of history and even more as a sign of what others have said for years; if “one looks long enough there are treasurers to be found.  I’m bringing mine to the club meeting as a show and tell.  I hope you’ll do the same with your unexpected treasurers..
     
    Regards and God Bless,
     
    Richard
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Saturday, September 1,2007

  • My Ambassadorial Experience
    I cannot say why but it feels like an unusually long time since we were last together.    I cannot say personally that the last month has been a slow one, actually quite the opposite.  These last few weeks have been so full that I haven’t had much time to be flexible.   Maybe that is part of my problem at the moment.  I haven’t had time to do anything other than what I have had to do.  With one glaring minor exception I haven’t had the time to play with my collection nor add anything to it.  Such rest and relaxation opportunities haven’t been on my plate of late.  (I enjoyed writing that last sentence)

    This last week it was my privilege to host a seven member delegation from the Ivory Coast.  We spent most of a week together in meetings further developing a partnership which began last March when a group from the United States went to Ivory Coast.  The primary emphasis of this partnership deals with Nothing but Nets a malaria fighting campaign emphasized by the United Nations Foundation and several other such agencies.  Any of you with a few extra charitable dollars and a heart to share can do some wonderful work by purchasing a treated mosquito net to be used in Africa.  For more information and a place to donate please see nothingbutnets.net.    This is a fantastic program which addresses the biggest killer in Africa today.  The cost is within the range of anybody.  I hope you’ll be willing to help.

    Making things more interesting in the time since we were last together was a brief trip to I made to New York City.  I’m on a committee which is busy transforming a long standing mission program of the United Methodist Church.  We met for just a couple of days.  It was at the end of this meeting that I was able to do a little personal collector shopping.  I took a half a day in Manhattan and hit a couple of the usual spots.  I ventured for the first time into Champion Stamps and took at look at their inventory of world bank notes.  There were some interesting items and I purchased a couple of nice pieces of paper money from the early Castro era.

    My final stop before heading to the airport was at Stack’s.  When I walked in I noted several familiar faces at the counter, dealers in Ancient coins who were glancing through the merchandise.  After taking my seat, a “Mr. Franklin” came to greet me.  I asked to see their stock of Obsolete, Confederate and Fractional Banknotes.  After several minutes of looking “Mr. Franklin” came out with, are you ready for this, four notes.  In the whole of Stack’s, America’s oldest continuously operated coin company there were only four notes in my collecting area.  Sort of put it all into perspective.  Even when I have time there isn’t much to look at these days and prices are rising on just about every type of numismatic material.

    I had some time to reflect as I made my taxi ride to La Guardia Airport.  I asked myself; what is the cause of the interest in numismatic material?  Is it historical?  Is it artistic?  Is it the ability to acquire something different and rare?  Is it the desire, albeit risky, to own something that has a growth potential?  All of these questions and more are possibilities.  I hope the answer is at least a little simpler.  Perhaps people are interested because collecting is a great opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and to see the events of human history, to help touch and feel the past, to travel the world without traveling so far, and for a moment to get a glimpse of the vast nature of our world and beyond.

    This current interest means that we who are involved in the sharing of the numismatic world need to be focused on helping those who come to us not only learn but also come to an appreciate of the uniqueness of the numismatic creation.  A great time to do this is just ahead.  On September 20th we’ll meet once again.  Yes, to me it does seem like a very long time since we have last been together.  As we gather we’ll do what we usually do; we’ll greet like minded friends, we’ll exchange stories of recent conquests, we’ll listen intently to the material shared at show and tell and at program time, and we’ll do something for the future, we’ll encourage each other and we’ll be particularly open to those who come seeking a place to learn.

    Please remember also that one of the best gifts we can give to the Houston area community is just a head as well.  The Money Show isn’t so far off.  We’ll have many unique chances to tell the numismatic story at this event.  I hope you are already signed up and are planning to offer yourself as a volunteer.


    I don’t know if I’ll see you next Thursday or not.  Life is certainly interesting.  I’ll be hosting, at least earlier in the day the Honorable Ambassador from the Ivory Coast to the United States.  It’s a great honor.  GHCC will be more fun.  I just might see you then and for all I know the Ambassador may be a numismatist.
     
    Regards and God Bless,
     
    Richard Laster
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Wednesday, August 1,2007

  • REMEMBERING RON SJOBERG
    If you haven’t heard by now it was announced through the Bellaire Coin Club and from Sebastian that Ron Sjoberg recently and suddenly passed away.  For so many years we remember Ron because of his presence as a mainstay at the various coin clubs in the Houston area.  At the Greater Houston Coin Club meetings Ron always sat in the same place holding forth with friends in the club.  Ron was present as a dealer at just about every coin show in east and north Texas .
     
    One thing we all know for sure is that Ron loved numismatics, not just collecting, but researching, evaluating, discussing and trading in collectible United States coins.  Another for sure is the fact that when Ron made a statement about coins or when he shared a grade on a coin or made an evaluation of an item, he was right.  Ron had an incredible mind and an eye for exact detail.  His joy was the thrill of the hunt.  In my memory’s eye I see him working the floor of a show intently fixed upon his target.  Ron particularly enjoyed investing in collections and sets and then “cherry picking” them for interesting items.
     
    Some months back Ron chose to relocate from Houston to the Dallas area.  For him this move was a sort of home coming.  He had planned the move for some years and was delighted to finally make the transition.  My last visit with Ron was a brief one at the Texas Numismatic Association Show in Fort Worth last May.  I told Ron that we certainly missed him in Houston .  He was genuinely pleased to be remembered.

    I, as well as Ron ’s many other friends, can honestly say we will miss visiting with him and receiving from him the numismatic insights he had to offer.  In his own way Ron Sjoberg was a force in the community of Texas coin collectors.
     
     
    Ron , rest well and at peace.
     
    Regards and God Bless,
     
    Richard
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Sunday, July 1,2007

  • Money Show New Dates
    I had a conversation with someone the other day who asked a “how come” question about the sudden calendar relocation of the Money Show of the Southwest from the end of January to the first of December.  Unfortunately the first thing out of my mouth was an old cliché that sort of baffled my hearer.  I said, “Well, the ox was in the ditch.”

    For those of you who are not familiar with the saying, it is very simply interpreted.  The root of it is actually found in Luke 14 in the New Testament.  For more concerning the specifics and history of the saying you’ll have to check Luke 14 and appropriate commentaries.  Basically what the saying means is that in some cases extreme urgency is required.  If an oxen, for example, remains in a “ditch” it will become distracted and if not rescued soon, will do much damage to itself and to the area around it as it is trying to escape.

    Now I’m not saying that the show is like an “ox,” however we are in a place where a date change will help the Greater Houston Coin Club maintain the growing and vibrant show we have become use to.  The simple truth is that the “ox is in the ditch.”  Let me explain why...  This is the case because the weekend which was our only choice for January of 2008, (owing to the coming of Mary Kay Cosmetics international convention to the George R. Brown), was too close to FUN and the Long Beach shows.  We were losing dealers.  The “big draw” folks such as PCGS, and an auction, etc. were not going to be present.  If we didn’t move to a more secure date we were at the least going to lose money and at the greatest lose the show for at least one year. Perhaps this would damage the club to such as extent that the show might be gone forever.  Add to this the fact that for the last several years the Money Show dates have been moved by the Brown Convention Center in order to accommodate larger conventions which are traditionally in January and bring into the city coffers far more funds than we would.  Also remember that we were kicked out at the last minute by our previous venue.  All of this is to say that for our needs the end of January wasn’t workable for either the short term or over the long haul.  The first of December is.  We can even book the Brown Convention facility in advance, guaranteed, for several years to come.  Into the mix place the availability of a Heritage Numismatic auction in early December and you’ll understand the issue much better.  The ox was in the ditch.  We had to get it out.

    I hope in some way this diatribe will add some understanding and help you as a fellow GHCC member and friend understand the “why” that was placed before us.  We’ll need to hustle.  But it’ll all work out and it’ll be great.
     
    Regards and God Bless,
     
    Richard
     
    P.S.  The opportunity to do a “show and tell” at Club meetings is open to all.  I do need to remind you as I remind myself that the “show and tell” we have at every meeting is only to be a brief presentation, limited to about three minutes at the most.  If you have something to share which may be of a longer duration, please see Sebastian and we can make a program out of your collector passion.  Thanks.

     
    Regards and God Bless . . Richard
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