© January 13, 2012
I never received an allowance as a child. I always had to earn it myself. So, I was motivated.
At age five, I dragged a red wagon behind me, walking about half a mile to a vacant lot across from a high school where I discovered there were seemingly endless empty pop bottles thrown there by the students which I could collect and deliver to my nearby drugstore for instant cash, at two to five cents per bottle. Many of the bottles were broken and it was risky to go after the good ones, but I felt the reward was worth the risk. Evidently, no other kid did. I had the bottle harvesting market to myself, in 1955. Learned, at five years old, that there is money to be made almost everywhere if you are astute and can evaluate the risk, reasonably.
I also taught myself carpentry at age five, being the grandson of an immigrant carpenter, and built a tree house in my backyard. Later, an actual boat. I had a large collection of tools and was well versed in using them. Two years ago, at age fifty-nine, when I reopened my collectible periodical business with no funding whatsoever, I built all 700 running feet of shelving by myself. It took me seven weeks, always working alone. You never know what skill you learned long ago that will save the day some future time when you have no other options open to you.
At age twelve, in the winter of 1962, I went from door to door asking homeowners to pay me to shovel their snow-covered walks. It took me three houses to establish the going rate, which I didn’t know when I started out, and that older women were far more likely willing to pay for my services than older men. I learned that gender really matters when I wanted to sell something.
At age thirteen to fourteen, I was dating a cute girl from down the block whose father, I discovered, worked for Whitman Publishing Company in Wisconsin. They produced the well known “Red” and “Blue” books which were widely respected by coin collectors to establish the wholesale and retail price of coins. They also made the blue folding coin collecting boards that actually held the particular coins found in chronological order, with the missing dates printed below each spot to tell the collector what to look for.
I bought all three items wholesale from my girlfriend’s dad, who was very amused that I thought I could actually run a business while still in seventh grade. I felt I could sell the books to my classmates when coin collecting was becoming a mania in America because of the newly minted Kennedy half-dollar, after he was assassinated the year before. Then, gradually, I became a coin dealer myself, to supply my customers with a reason to buy my coin folders and books. I subscribed to two adult coin newspapers and educated myself about the history of coinage, and what was worth how much, and why. Also I learned about grading.
As I began supplying more and more students with coins and supplies, my own collection began growing. When the boys lost interest in collecting, I bought their collections at wholesale prices, sometimes less than that because it was a buyer’s market in grammar school.
(Read on …)