The unremarkable image above was actually quite remarkable, given the context. It was Monday, the last day of September, and the weather was hot and humid. Wonderfully so. The last thunderstorm of summer - if you can call it that, and it certainly made a bid for the honor - arrived slowly with great drama, the sky lighting up with flashes of the celestial neurons. It has been cold and rainy ever since. The mood of the world up here has shifted, for good, and we know this is the start of the long dark time.
But hey, pumpkins and candy! And a whole damned month of leering ghouls and orange-and-black packaging. I tell you, without a child around, without the structures and rhythms of school, it’s different. It has no narrative drive. There’s no feeling as if you should make this special, because you’re creating memories, or building on old ones. In those old days there was a rope strung between the years, reaching forward and backwards, and you used it as a handrail. Some days you used it to pull yourself along; some days you just brushed your fingers against it as you strode forward. Then one day the rope played out. But you still have to keep walking.
(Below is crossposted from Ricochet; sorry for the repeat but it's been a busy week)
I inherited the contents of my Father’s safe deposit box. It’s a testament to a previous generation’s concept of Value. There were many Morgan silver dollars, which must have had a particular appeal to his generation, since they were, well, silver dollars. Big, heavy coins. Their weight is a comfort: you can imagine someone feeling the contours of a Morgan in his pocket and knowing he had enough for a meal, a drink, a cot in a flop. If you were down to your last Morgan, you still had something.
I know a guy who runs a coin shop. He tells of people who inherit a roll of these things and figure they’ve hit the the jackpot. It’s a silver dollar from 1898 - it has to be worth a lot!
First he tells them: “Yes, but they made 25 million of them. Each year. The silver’s worth something, and if you have a Brilliant Uncirculated 8-feathers-over-7 Denver Mint coin, we can talk, but otherwise, these? Fourteen, fifteen dollars a throw.”
“What? Someone was selling one on eBay for ten thousand dollars!”
“And good for them if they get it. But here’s what these are worth.”
I went through all the coins in the safe deposit box and checked them against various internet sites to get a rough estimate of the value. Even if they’re worth $15, that’s nice. It’s a combination of real value - the melt value, i.e., what you’d get for the silver - and the value added by collectors who want a complete set. The collector’s market has, by now, hoovered up a lot of the uncirculated pieces, so people who want a complete set pay a little more for coins in slightly worse condition. If there are no perfect examples available at an entry-level price, less-desirable coins become slightly more valuable. It’s subjective, with a sturdy objective floor of the metal’s value below.
When I brought them home and showed them to my wife, she was reminded that her grandmother had given her some uncirculated Eisenhower silver dollars. Not a successful coin, like all of the post Peace Dollar coins. No one liked Susan B. No one liked Sacagawea. The Ike had its aesthetic merits, but it was too big. The uncirculated commemorative Ikes were 40% silver. The ones they released into the general population were base metal.
Same coin, with the same public value, but different objective values. The government banked on people setting aside the ones that had intrinsic value, and never spending them. The market for the uncirculated Ikes is soft, because they minted so many. A generation of kids that inherited the coins is trying to sell them. It must be worth something! They don’t make them anymore!
Sorry, Charlie. Which brings me to these:
The safe-deposit box had about 50 one-dollar silver certificates. They’re worth about $1.50, unless you have some star-added serial number bills, which I don’t.
The front of the bill is different than your standard one-dollar bill. It says:
“This certifies that there is on deposit in the treasury of the United States of America One Dollar in silver payable to the bearer on demand.”
Except that there isn’t. Congress, in 1968, retracted that promise.
The coins with actual silver have value - greater value, because they are made of something that cannot be invalidated by a legislative body. The paper money’s promise was a social contract that could be revised or revoked by the government as it pleased, at the exact moment it became possible and expedient, and benefited the government.
Might be a lesson in there somewhere, IDK.