Beanie Babies, Coins and Memories – Part 3

Don and I continued lunching on our take-out pasta from Anna Maria’s in Roscoe, as we sat in his Rockton coin and Beanie Babies shop.  Unknown

We continued talking about his love for collectibles, and why he opened his store after retiring from the Rockford Police Department in 1993, even though he continued working at the courthouse for the sheriff’s department.

Unknown-1      “You could have just retired, instead of this,” I pointed out.

“My wife died,” he said. “I didn’t want to just sit at home watching the stupid television all alone. I got tired of watching the…doggone stock market.”

“Speaking of markets, this doesn’t seem like a good time to be in retail,” I commented.  Unknown-2

“I couldn’t get into my third bedroom anymore,” Don said. “Boxes all over. Beanie Babies,” he chuckled.

I wanted to know about investing in gold and silver, and about Franklin Roosevelt making it illegal to own gold bullion–punishable by prison, even though only 22 percent turned in their gold back then.  Unknown-4

“Then he closed the banks, and things were bad,” I stated.

“They haven’t gotten better still,” Don said. “Then (we started) the Federal Reserve. It’s that guy Obama’s got for running the Federal Reserve. You’d think someone like Obama, who’s an attorney, would realize this.”

“Why don’t they?” I asked.

Unknown-5    “Politics.”

“Does it make you angry?”

“No. I just wish they’d do something else. What I’m afraid of is socialized medicine. I don’t like that. I’ve talked to people from Canada and different places that have (it). It’s not very popular because their taxes went through the roof. I’m not happy about it. I didn’t vote for it.”

“Will we ever go back to the gold standard?” I asked.

“Not as long as we have Obama. They’re talking about getting rid of the paper, and going to the European-type money system.”   Unknown-6

“Based on what?” I asked.

“Socialism,” he laughed.

“Everyone will have the same money. It will all be worthless. This guy came in (here) all upset, worried to death that our money isn’t going to be worth a nickel.”

“Well, it’s not worth much more than that now,” I laughed.

“My concern is for my children and grandchildren,” I added. “You watch CNBC and wonder if these Wall Street people are confused, or whether they know.”

Unknown-7   “They’re confused,” Don said.

“The Obama administration has told everybody not to say things bad…to get people all calm.”

“We’re not getting the real news?”

“No. You’re getting phony news–politics. He knew when he went into office…everybody knows he’s…lying.”

“Do you think we’ll ever go back to prosperity?” I asked.

“I do,” he said. “it’s not a fall-apart situation. If they keep lying long enough, people will start trusting…trusting…politicians…again.”

“It’s still precarious prosperity, I think. A bomb waiting to explode,” I mused.

Unknown-8   “The politicians will make it look prosperous,” Don said. “It will take three, four, five years. We’re going to do it, and then it will drop again. It’s alway done this since we’ve been in this country–(like) back in ’29.”

“History tells us that every nation that got greedy fell,” I said. “Americans think they’re invincible.”

“They’re finding they’re not invincible…especially people losing their jobs. As long as they don’t have socialized medicine,” he reiterated. “If we get (it), taxes will go up about 50 percent, I tell you.”

One of Don’s two daughters called. His loving tone told me lots about his parenting. He has two grandchildren.

He loves family and gardening.   Unknown-9

“I’d help my (mom) out cooking…raise stuff in my own garden,” he told me. “We used to doggone can stuff. Pint jars, quarts.

Unknown-10    We’d pick black raspberries and make jellies and jam and stewed tomatoes. Big deal down in the basement…a whole wall full.”

“You’re rather domesticated,” teased.

He smiled.

“Free tip on coin collecting?” I asked.   Unknown-11

“Get an education,” he said. “Read. Depends on what you want to collect. I pay 90 cents for Indian head pennies, and sell them for a buck.”

images   “They’re worth more than Mercury dimes?” I asked.

“People want ‘em,” he said.

“Pitfalls?”

Unknown-12
Authentic Morgan dollar

“Right now, China,” he said. “Major counterfeits–Morgan dollars, peace dollars, and other valuable coin from other countries.”

Unknown-13
counterfeit Morgan dollar from China

“We’re getting bad fish, bad pet food, bad toys from China,” I said. “Now you’re saying counterfeit coins and collector stuff too? Do they have an agenda?”

“They’re going to win without shooting a shot,” Don surmised. “They’re buying pieces of our country from businesses and from the government. Counterfeit (coins) from 1949 or earlier–it’s legal in China.”

Unknown-13
Coins for sale on eBay

One of these counterfeiters brags about selling them on eBay.

“Costs him 50 cents to make a counterfeit Morgan dollar,” Don said. “He makes a thousand a day selling them to the U.S. and all over the world.”

“Does this affect your quality of life?” I asked.

“It’s going to when we get socialized medicine and all this other…socialism that Obama’s pushing,” he said.

“Parting words?”

Unknown-14    “Watch the politicians,” Don said.

“Live life like you’d like people to treat you.”
Unknown-15

 

(Note: this story originally published by The Rock River Times in 2009)

Beanie Babies, Coins and Memories – Part 2

Young Don’s dreamed of building his father’s local grocery store into a business empire. But in his first semester of college, his father sold the store.  Unknown-5

 

Unknown    Don moved to his next best dream: “Every little boy wants to be a fire or policeman,” Don said, as we lunched on baked mostaccioli from Anna Maria’s.

“My dad spent three hours trying to talk me out of it, but i wasn’t finding a job, so he told me they were hiring down at the police department.

I was the only guy out of 800 to pass the test the first time, and the first to go into the Rockford Police Department at 21.”

Don was quickly promoted from patrol to traffic, then to detective in that division.  images

“Anybody died, suicide, medical, we handled that in the white car,” he said.

“High stress? Police have a high divorce rate,” I commented.

“There’s a problem with some officers. These gals wait on you in the store–flirt like crazy. No thanks!” he emphatically stated about his own response to these flirtations.  Unknown-1

“It’s about who you are,” I said.

“That’s right.”

“How tall are you?” I asked.

“I’m 5-foot-9,” he said.

“The minimum to be a policeman.”

“Are you telling your age?” I teased.

“No.”

Unknown-2   “You didn’t have your goatee in the force,” I said.

“They don’t allow that.” Don said.

“I couldn’t wait…it (the goatee) just had to be there. Couldn’t have it for 30 years…now…nobody can tell me I can’t have it.”

Before the police force, Don spent a short time in the Air Force, but couldn’t go back after a surgery. He didn’t want to.   Unknown-3

“They were sending me…to become a paymaster,” he said.

“I’d have gone into banking, paying other airmen.”

“You were meant for business,” I said.

“Since I was 11 years old,” He affirmed.

Even as a policeman, Don was moonlighting: head of security at a local grocery store, and also traffic instructor for three counties of police departments.

“I loved to get in there and get things done,” he told me.

“Was your family supportive?” I asked.

“All the way through,” he affirmed. “Married 33 years. Not a problem.”

“They say happily married men remarry quickly,” I said.   Unknown-5

“Well, Regina died, and one year later, I was dating the girl I’m going to be marrying now,” he said.

“What’s the worst thing you saw in your 30 years of police work?” He described a murder scene so gruesome, I can’t write the details.

“Down on Harlem Boulevard,” he said.

“My partner and I were the first there…found a window open and crawled inside. He said, ‘You do upstairs, and I’ll check down here.’ Went upstairs and…looked in the door…a little girl…if I close my eyes, I can still see it. And a little dog…a hunting knife…killed it.”

“How do you live with those images?” I asked.

“You put it off and try not to think about it,” he replied.

Unknown-4    “The most rewarding experience?” I asked, eager to move on.

“Something simple,” he said.

“A football player broke his neck playing practice football; I managed to doggone stabilize the neck and everything, and get him to the hospital, and he’s up and around, walking today.”

“You saved him from being a paraplegic,” I gasped.

“Yes. There were a number of those,” Don said.

“Or, a car caught on fire, and you had to get the dang door open.”

“Do we educate people to see police as friends?” I asked.

“If they’ve got their minds made up, I don’t think you can change their minds,” he answered.

“Some people just plain hate police officers.”

“Are you a religious man?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Not brought up with it?” I pressed.  Unknown-6

“That’s the reason…Sunday. Not positive. You were sick and still had to get up, get dressed and go to church.”

“Strict parents?”

Unknown-7   “Yes. Trouble is, it wasn’t my parents taking me (to church). It was the neighbor. I don’t think it has anything to do with how I feel about God. I just don’t like church, period. There’s a bunch of hypocrites in that doggone church. And, I don’t believe in volunteering. I am not a person who volunteers their time. When I had a day off, I wanted to be working in my garden–that’s where I can talk to Him.”

Don moved to 6 acres out of the city as soon as the department allowed it.

“I was running fast a I could to get out of Rockford,” he said. “I just don’t like the city of Rockford.”

Beanie Babies, coins and memories

It’s Donald. He prefers Don. “I don’t like my middle name either,” Don informed me over our carryout baked mostaccioli from Roscoe, Ill.’s Anna Maria’s.   Unknown-1

He wouldn’t leave his shop, Don’s Coins and Collectibles, long enough to talk with me over lunch.

“What’s your middle name,” I goaded.

“Denton.” After his grandfather’s middle name.

Unknown     I had lots of questions about his trend-sensitive business, especially since I have quite a collection of Beanies myself.

Don reflected on how his late wife, Regina, had inspired his love for collectibles.

“She worked with the newborns at Rockford Hospital, and was known as the Beanie lady. She’d sit in a chair, rock the babies and the girls, the nurses, couldn’t get downstairs to the gift shop where the Beanies were. So she’d go get the Beanies for them.

“Pretty soon,” Don remembered, “we’d end up driving around, picking up Beanies from different Ty wholesalers.”

Unknown-2 “Did you anticipate their future value, or were you just helping your wife?” I asked.

“Just helping,” he said, matter-of-factly

“Then your entrepreneurial wheels started turning?”

“Yeah–there’s money to be made in this,” he recalled, punctuating the memory jog with his distinctive belly laugh.

“I would buy the meal to get the Teeny Beanie, then threw the food out,” I confessed.  Unknown-3

“Yep. I did that too,” he told me.

“Are Teenie’s still valuable?” I asked.

“No. You can’t get even 50 cents for them. They gave millions of them things out. I couldn’t drink that much coffee, so I’d go throw that in the dumpster.”

Don recalled seeing lines around the block to stores in Beanie’s heydays.

“The people running these stores were selling out in about two hours; they wouldn’t have to sell another Beanie for the rest of the month. They paid the rent, the lights, the gas bills.”

That was before he opened his own store. At first they sold the collectibles from their own home’s front yard.  images-1

“We’d put up a tent, Saturday and Sunday. We’d make anywhere from $2000 to maybe $4000 on a weekend, at about a 60 percent profit. Back then we were paying $5 and selling them for $15. A dealer pays $2.50. Some sold for $50, $60, $70. Now they’re selling for less than $5.

“But you were always into collectibles,” I said.

“I was working for my dad’s grocery store in Rockford. My dad told me I had goofed up enough at 11, so I became a butcher.”

“Aren’t there child labor laws?” I half-kidded.

“Not when you’re working for your dad,” he explained. But it was at the store that Don began to appreciate collectible coins. There was nothing better than exchanging coins out of the cash register, a penny for a penny, a nickel for a nickel, to fill all those books up,” he said, pointing to the coin books in his shop.   513HNN1AGIL._AA160_

“I had those too,” I told him.

“This bis good mostaccioli” I remarked.

“It sure is,” he agreed. “Lots of mozzarella on the top,” he added.

“When I was 16, I found out my brother was taking me.” he told me.

Unknown-4    “He collected Indian pennies that came through the store. Problem was, I would put a penny in the cash register, take it home to him, he’d give me a penny for it, and he’d run to the coin shop and get a quarter apiece for ‘em.”

“How much older was he than you?” “He was younger,” Don said.

“Let me get this straight, your younger brother was taking you for a ride?”

“Yep. Probably looked through one of my books that I never bothered to look at, the red book with the prices inside.”

“The price of ignorance,” I echoed.

“Yep, he didn’t get no more pennies.”

“Did you end up in the grocery business?”   Unknown-5

“I loved it. There was only one little problem. I went to college. I was going to be another (big name) grocer.”

“You wanted a chain?”

“Umm-hmm. I was going to move that store into a big store, then a bigger store, and then more stores.      Unknown-6

Then after one semester away, my father sold the damn store.

 

“Right under your feet! Did he tell you?”

“No. He also decided to clean out the basement while I was gone. He got rid of all the 5- and 10-cent comic books, which are expensive now. I had boxes of those.”   Unknown-7

“That would make you a little bitter,” I said.

“Yep.” Don’s stereotypic John Wayne style said much in a few words. …to be continued