Tales from the Bourse is a unique collection of short stories and anecdotes written by David Lawrence about some of more interesting events that took place in his journey to becoming a coin dealer on a national scale. It was originally published in 2001 and has been reprinted numerous times due to popular demand. The book is published online here in its entirely.
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These stories are true, as best I can remember them. I have recreated dialogue to give the reader more of a feeling of being there.
I was born in 1941 and grew up in Brooklyn. At the time, New Yorkers needed and carried a lot of change as the city ran by a system of trolleys, buses and subways. Though my father had a car after the war, he didn’t use it to go to his pharmacy – he took the trolley. His pockets were always full of change and over the years they yielded several interesting coins for my collection.
In the early ’50′s you could potentially find almost any coin in circulation. The average person never looked through his change, and the relatively few collectors could sometimes pick up a 1916-D dime or rare 1916 Standing Liberty quarter. V nickels and Barbers would appear from time to time, though well worn, and silver dollars could be obtained from any bank for face value.
I had lots of friends who collected, but few stuck with it. For some reason, I did, at least until I went off to college. My collection lay dormant at home as other things occupied my time. During my last year, I met Lynn and love conquered my coin collection. I sold it (for twice face value) to buy her an engagement ring. All except my Barbers. These coins fascinated me and I wouldn’t part with them.
I guess coin collecting was in my blood, because 12 or 13 years later, when I was in graduate school with two kids and little money, the urge to collect hit me again. My route to school took me past a small coin shop with a big sign. I tried to resist, averting my eyes as I passed. I knew if I went in even once I would be hooked.
If I had finished up in a couple of years, I could have escaped, but it took me six years to become a marine biologist, by which time I was deep into my collection of EF/AU Barbers. From there it was inevitable that I would become a dealer, because I didn’t have enough money to keep adding to my collection.
In 1979, a friend from the Hialeah (Fla.) Coin Club let me have a case on his table at the Hollywood Fashion Center mall and I was in business for the first time. Of course, I didn’t have any inventory, per se, so I filled the trays with my Barbers. It wasn’t exactly an auspicious beginning. I didn’t sell a single coin!
But he did. There was a good size crowd at the show and I watched as he sold Mercury dimes, Washington quarters and, of course, silver dollars. People would look in my case and compliment me on my high-grade Barbers and then buy from him.
This taught me two lessons: If I wanted to be successful at local coin shows, I would have to deal in more diverse, and more common, coins. And if I wanted to deal in the coins I loved, I would have to go nationwide. I soon did both, using my middle name (Lawrence) for security reasons.
In 1980 we moved to Virginia, where I joined the faculty at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. I continued to do shows and ran David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC) as a mail-order business from my home. Eight years later, I left the university and opened a full-time office in Virginia Beach, where we remain today.
John and I became partners a few years after he graduated from Virginia Tech and he took over completely when I became disabled from Lou Gehrig’s disease two years ago. I continue to write at home using an eye-gaze computer.
This book contains 19 stories from my life in the coin business. I hope you enjoy them.