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Great Numismatists I have known Part III - Mr. Indian Cent

Tom Becker

"Is he ever going to run out of wind?" whispered the person who was sitting next to me at the coin club meeting. "After all, itís only an Indian Cent!"

The speaker, who continued to carry on, looked to be about a hundred, maybe younger. He wasnít yelling at us because he was excited about the coin he was holding in a trembling hand. Iíd had several conversations with him before and understood he was rather hard of hearing.

Finally the gentleman, who was the only person in the room wearing a tie, amid mild applause, mixed with sighs of relief, took his seat. Everyone stopped yawning. It was time for the auction to begin.

At the close of the meeting the club president announced speakers were needed for future meetings. Only the old fellow volunteered. In addition, members needed to sign up now to help with the clubís annual show. Once again, the only hand in the air belonged to the person who knew everything there was to know about Indian Cents.

Back then, the clubís annual show was the focal point of the numismatic season. Following Docís example, I also offered to help. Being fit for the work, it was my job to help all ten dealers carry their heavy bourse bags and display cases into the hall. I earned close to two dollars in tips. I immediately informed the bourse chairman I was ready to assume this task for life.

Doc was in charge of selling the raffle tickets and judging the exhibits.

"Would you like to help me, young man?" he asked. "It would be fairer to everyone if a second opinion was offered."

"I just started collecting coins," I screamed.

"You pay attention when I give my little talks," said Doc. "That makes you special, if not extraordinary. Please stop yelling. Iíve learned to read lips."

As you might imagine, I was thrilled to be a judge. I may have been the youngest judge in the history of the coin club. After spending fifteen minutes studying the first display I was hoping my mentor and I could pick up the pace.

"Do you know what makes this group of coins important?" Doc asked.

"No," I honestly replied.

"Nor do I. Letís move on." said the doctor, who I later learned was at least partially responsible for delivering more than twenty thousand babies, the majority being dogs and cats.

"To be fair you should write your choice for Best of Show on a slip of paper and Iíll do the same," said Doc. "If we donít agree we can discuss it."

I was overwhelmed by the genuine respect this seasoned numismatist was showing me.

"I think number six is the best," I replied, while ignoring the formality of a written ballot.

"Why?" asked Doc.

"Well, like you do in your talks, they explain why every coin has an interesting story to tell if you take the time to learn about it. Like you said, at the June meeting, what a coin may be worth in money shouldnít be all that matters to a collector."

"I completely agree with your choice," said Doc, as he showed me the piece of paper on which he had previously written the number six. "Youíve been a big help. I notice several dealers are packing up. Itís been a good show. You could earn some nice tips."

Less than a half hour later, I was convinced assisting dealers to and from the bourse floor at coin shows was more profitable than buying and selling coins. If I could find a way to do this same work every weekend Iíd soon be wealthy.

I had told my mother she wouldnít need to pick me up until seven that evening. This left plenty of time to help with the clean up. After the last folding table had been stored, the floor swept, and the coffee urn scoured, a weary looking Doc excused himself and headed home. Two minutes later he stumbled back into the hall.

"Someone has stolen my car and my coins!" yelled Doc.

While Millie, the bourse chairmanís wife, steadied Doc and helped him to a chair, the rest of us rushed out to the parking lot. There was no question about it. Docís huge station wagon was gone!

"If Iíve said it once, Iíve said it a hundred times, this show is getting too big. We should have hired a security guard. How much did they get Doc?" asked the bourse chairman, as he placed a comforting hand on the old manís bony shoulder.

"Everything," Doc whispered. "Every last coin I own was in the trunk."

"Has anyone thought to call the police?" asked Millie.

"Donít bother," said the aged veterinarian who had removed his thick glasses while sitting, hunched over, with his elbows resting on the top of his knees. "In a few days the cops will find the car in the ditch on some country road. After ten minutes behind the wheel the thieves will realize it wasnít worth stealing. Then they will look in the trunk and find my coins."

"Are you about ready to go?" asked a tall man as he strolled into the hall. "Your land yacht is ready for immediate departure."

With so many people to choose from, I donít know why Doc decided to look up at me.

"Oh Lord, I forgot. I arranged to have my car serviced," explained the horribly embarrassed man. "They were to pick it up at four and return it at seven. Iím so sorry for all the trouble Iíve caused."

Nobody said a word as the great numismatist slowly followed the garage mechanic out of the building.

I left the Grange Hall and waited for my mother by the side of the road.

"It looks like youíve been crying? What happened?" she asked, as I opened the passenger side door.


Tom Becker is a regular contributor to the Canadian Coin Reference Site, you can direct your questions directly to Tom easily by or visit Tom's website @


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