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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Ever since I began David Lawrence Rare Coins, I have had the policy of accepting trade-ins. Especially if customers are upgrading their collection. We always advise them to include a list of coins in the package. Then, when the coins arrive, we make sure to check each one against the list. It is surprising how often the two don’t agree, and sometimes this can be stressful for both parties.
Paul Reuter has been a long-time friend and officer in the Barber Society. In the process of improving his collection, he routinely sends us his circulated coins, which he replaces with higher grades. When packages arrive, they are generally opened by Mary, our administrative assistant, and placed on my desk with the enclosed letter. In the case of Paul’s shipments, however, we tend to be more relaxed and don’t always check each piece when the package is opened. In fact, if I am at a show or otherwise tied up, it may be days before I get a chance to carefully examine his trade-ins.
One day, in the mid-’90′s, I found myself looking at his latest arrival, a group of about 10 coins that included the scarcest of the Barber dime series. The most valuable one on the list was an 1895-O in AU condition — and it was missing! That set us all on a frenzied search. The coin was nowhere to be found and the box it came in, with its packing material, had been thrown out the week before.
“What about the trash?” I asked. “Has it been taken out to the dumpster yet?”
It hadn’t. All of the waste from the past two weeks sat in a couple of large green plastic garbage bags. Fortunately, very little of it was from food. Still, a dime is very small and we had to be particularly careful in our search. I cleared a space on the floor and began emptying the bags, piece by piece. I was careful to examine every scrap of paper, shake every box and tear apart the stuffing from each padded mailer.
“I don’t see it,” I said, after I had gone through all the bags. “I guess it’s gone.”
Paul had paid about $2,000 for the coin, according to his note. “Let me look,” Mary said. “Maybe I’ll have better luck,”
But she didn’t. I dreaded the phone call that I would have to make to Paul. I tried calling him several times that week, leaving messages on his answering machine. But it turned out he had been on vacation. This only increased our anxiety.
About 10 days later, he returned my call. “Hi, Dave. What’s up? I guess by now you’ve gotten my package.”
“Yes, Paul, that’s what I’ve been calling about. We got the package, but there’s one coin we can’t find. By any chance, is it possible … um … that you never sent the 1895-O?”
“Was it on the list?”
“Yes, it was,” I said quietly, “but we can’t find it. I’m hoping we didn’t lose it.”
“Well, let me check,” he replied, “I’ll call you back.”
The next afternoon, Paul called. “Dave, I sent you that coin six months ago! Don’t you remember? I don’t know how it got put on the list. I’m sorry if I caused you guys any trouble.”
On the other end of the phone, I exhaled very slowly.
I didn’t have to say anything to the troops. We all silently vowed to check every package much more carefully from then on.