I have an appointment with a coin dealer tomorrow, to appraise (and very possibly, liquidate) the coins that have been bequeathed me by my grandparents.
Let us leave aside for the moment the fact that my parents have been paying rent on four(!) safe deposit boxes for…well, let’s just say the better part of a generation, for the purpose of securely housing a portion of these two collections. Very possibly the least valuable part of the two collections, but I suppose I’ll know that for sure tomorrow.
Because yes, there are two collections. One from my mother’s side, and one from my father’s side.
Let us mark, but only in passing, the fact that I have already liquidated two toolboxes’ worth of loose change (contemporary mint marks) and rolled coins, to the tune of $1,735.86. All from my maternal side.
Let that sink in for a moment. Consider what that amount of money, in metal, weighs. Approximately 70 pounds, for those paying attention at home. Consider what it takes to walk, unabashedly, into a bank, with a toolbox full of that kind of money — and with a mask on, because Coronavirus — and deposit it into one’s account.
Perhaps people do this all the time (because Red Hawk?). Or perhaps this earns me a marker in a spreadsheet somewhere with law enforcement. Or not. What the fuck do I know about this, except that my grandmother collected well in excess of 5,000 quarters and then passed it on to me and my brother?
For whom I have kept a scrupulously detailed spreadsheet.
Speaking of that spreadsheet.
It occurred to me this evening, as I was listing out the comprehensive, and potentially quite valuable (or not. Who’s to say, except the coin guy?) run of Morgan dollars, that I have only been able to appreciate the scope and…well, the beauty, of my grandmother’s coins when I put them into a spreadsheet.
How perverted is that? That of all the ways in which one might appreciate a collection, what I find most immediately interpretable is fucking Excel. Not the visuals of the raw silver — because, oh right, it’s supposed to be locked away in some godforsaken lock deposit box on Florin Road or wherever.* Nor the careful framing in 5X7 cardstock with weirdly specific prose about what happened in each particular year, strung together in handsomely bound leatherette 3-ring binders. Because who could leave that sort of binder out, where anyone could paw through it for the purpose of appreciating the effort, and expense, of collating such a collection? No, in none of that. Instead, in a spreadsheet. Where I can calculate, with statistical precision, the size and value of the collection.
Pfaugh. Is this how I’m supposed to remember my grandmother? She who left Nebraska at age sixteen so she could dance on the beach at Avalon with Stanford fraternity boys, who was abandoned at the sanitorium gates by her feckless first husband but who went on to beat TB, bury that bastard, and the next, and finally found true love, forty years later, in the arms of a Boeing machinist she met on the Dixieland circuit?
That’s the narrative I want preserved. Not the 136 — because Excel, motherfuckers — dolled-up silver dollars my grandmother accrued at who knows what expense (actually, I could know. Because oh right she kept the receipts.). Not the surely more exquisitely more valuable gold that she also bequeathed me and my brother. And not, for pity’s sake please not, the other 13 banker’s boxes of coins she left me to inventory. Not that.
No. Let’s remember the casino at Avalon. And a summer’s late sunset on the beach, with the sun setting over Mt. Orizaba. And some blond beast of a fraternity brother happy to waltz away the last of the Depression in the arms of a Nebraska bank clerk’s daughter.
*Have I mentioned the weirdest part of my schizophrenic uncle’s funeral, where my cousin brought out the petty mountain of safe deposit box keys and openly admitted that he just assumed that his father kept a safe deposit box in every town where he kept a mistress, and wasn’t it a shame that we didn’t have a little black book to let us know where those boxes actually were? That his life for the next six months consisted of calling every petty savings and loan from Little Rock to Spartenburg to determine if they had an unclaimed account registered in his dead father’s name?