Numo-Blog-A-Rootie #6

“I’ve got one more silver dollar…” Allman Brothers, 1970

This is a tale of the rarest of all Morgan dollars, indeed, the rarest of all world silver crowns, and it begins back in 1961 when 11-year old yours truly bought a couple of random type coins on a school playground in Florida – swapped my lunch money in fact, all 35-cents – and was immediately propelled into the world of nerd-ism, though back then we were probably known as ‘square’ or just plain different. I had never before seen a large cent or a two-cent piece, the two coins I’d just purchased, and so I was hooked!

1956, age 6, before the "collecting bug" caught. With dad Jack, brother John, sister Sue, and Aunt Aggie

1956, age 6, before the "collecting bug" caught. With dad Jack, brother John, sister Sue, and Aunt Aggie

(Being a coin collector never kept me from having friends, mind you, nor did it turn me into a dreaded ‘bookworm’ type, a ‘bad’ label to have as a kid in the ‘50s and ‘60s, plus coin collecting never got me in trouble – I always managed to do that without the aid of numismatics.)

My father was a great fan of coin collecting and aided and abetted my hobby desires whenever he could. Mom, on the other hand, would never fail to make remarks like “you paid a dollar for a dime?” all the while shaking her head in disbelief.

October 18, 1955, 25th wedding anniversary, Jack and Jeannette, dad and mom

October 18, 1955, 25th wedding anniversary, Jack and Jeannette, dad and mom

From 1961 until 1981 or so, my dad never missed an opportunity to attend a coin show with me. One of our favorites was a show that was held regularly downstairs at the Paramus Mall in Paramus, New Jersey. For years we dutifully attended and went about our business. Dad liked to roam the floor by himself, purchasing a large cent here for $5, a Seated dime there for $8, and so on; he looked in every case carefully, and now in retrospect I remember some wistful looks along the way.

Florida, 1971, with dad Jack, mom Jeannette, sister Sue, and nephews

Florida, 1971, with dad Jack, mom Jeannette, sister Sue, and nephews

After each show we’d go home and compare notes – everything dad bought eventually ended up with me, so it was always fun to see what he had been up to on the bourse floor. He liked worn large cents in the $5-$10 range, and he loved Seated material too, for some reason; I guess he thought they were affordable and old at the same time.

50th Wedding Anniversary, 1980

50th Wedding Anniversary, 1980

The last time I ever attended a coin show with my dad was in the early ‘80s. Mom and Dad were up from Fort Myers, Florida to visit us in New York state, and dad jumped at the chance to get out and about. We did our usual routine, with dad off to find his treasures of the day while I snooped around and bought a treasure or two of my own. After the show we stopped at a diner – no Van Valen alive can resist a genuine real-life diner – and talked about our purchases. While noshing, dad told me he was very disappointed. I asked him why and he replied along these lines: “I’ve spent my whole life looking for a silver dollar from the year I was born and I’ve yet to see one.” It took me a second to realize why he attended all those coin shows with me, but then I had to tell him: “Dad, I wish you’d told me this 20 years ago -- they didn’t make silver dollars in 1912!”

Dedicated to the memory of John William “Jack” Van Valen, Sr., May 1912-September 1984.