NumoBlog-Arootie #1

“And still somehow, it’s life’s illusions I recall” Joni Mitchell, 1968

The recent ANA convention in Denver, Colorado, taught me, once again, that nothing lasts forever, and that life is but a fleeting visit beneath the wondrous canopy above. When I was a kid, my mom would tell me that time flew by faster as you aged, and me, the smart-assed teenager fresh with ideas of time and science reminded her it was physically impossible.

the edge of the Superstition Mountains, Arizona

the edge of the Superstition Mountains, Arizona

Surprise! While in Denver, I ran into a fellow dealer and old friend named Eric who works with World Numismatics, LLC out of Carefree, Arizona. I’ve known Eric since he was a young kid on his first new bicycle – that was 40 or so years ago now – a well-earned reward from a guy named Bob Vanaman. If you know the name, it’s because you frequented a place called Van’s Coins at 1876 East Apache Blvd. in Tempe, Arizona between 1970 and 1990, give or take a few years, as my memory is aging as rapidly as I am.

Van, as I called him, or Bobby, as his wife Patty called him, ran a Saturday afternoon bid-board at his shop, and I would be there like clockwork for my weekly visit. At the time, I wore a brass hoop through an ear and a lengthy ponytail – old hippies died hard in the mid ‘70s. I was Van’s “resident hippie” and we enjoyed a good-natured relationship that lasted for decades afterward.

When I lost my job in late 1978, the coin market and silver market were just beginning to heat up. My wife, Peg, was pregnant with our daughter, Jenna (who is nowadays the right-hand person at Douglas Winter Numismatics in Portland, Oregon). Van pulled me aside one Saturday and asked if I could work full-time for him, off the books, and I said yes immediately. Van was well-known throughout the area, and we started to come in to the shop at 7 AM instead of 10 AM just to accommodate the growing crowds that waited each morning to sell their silver and gold into the rapidly exploding market of late 1978-early 1979.

At Christmastime 1979, Van gave my wife a black agate and silver native American bracelet from the 1940s, a real beauty and highly unusual because of the nature of the stone. She still wears it on occasion, and it always brings back memories of our stay in the desert when we were much, much younger. I worked at the shop until March, 1980 when we bid farewell to the Valley of the Sun and headed back East.

I got to see Van on a few visits to Phoenix over the decades, and we spoke occasionally on the phone as well. I could go on for hours about Van, but let’s just say he was a major influence in my numismatic outlook and career, and was the first guy to ever sense some potential in me above and beyond that of simply being a collector.

In Denver this August, Eric told me Patty said “hello.” I asked after her and Van and he told me Van passed away. I was taken aback, but he insisted he told me earlier in the year at the Santa Clara show – actually, I didn’t attend that show so the news was raw and shocking to me. We tend to think old friends will last forever, or at least as long as we last, perhaps out of some unspoken social more – how many times in this lifetime must I fall victim to that mindset?

Obviously, the best time to end a blog is when your eyes well up, so I’ll see you soon, at NumoBlog-a-Rootie #2...