A friend of mine invited me
to a party a couple of weeks ago.
"They're all the rage,"
she beamed. "With the economy like it is, lot's of people
are doing them."
"I'm not sure I get it,"
"Look, it's simple, when
you think about it."
"A dollar-buying party.
Who buys dollars?"
"I don't know who they
are, exactly. But my friend Nina held one and she made out like
a bandit. See, if I hold the party I get a percentage of everything
that gets sold, on top of what I sell personally."
"That's nice, but what
do I get?"
"Don't you have some old
dollars lying around that you've never used? You know, they're
all worn out and thin, or the old kind that are way out of style,
or those silly Susan B. Anthony things that look like quarters?
You always meant to do something with them, but never got around
to clearing out of the drawer."
"Yeah, I suppose I could
dig some up."
"Well, come to the party.
You'll be able to sell them."
"Sell them for what?"
"Gold, what else?"
When I got home that afternoon
from another fruitless day looking for a job, I decided I might
as well give it a shot. I opened my wallet and found three dollar
bills and a five, along with an old lottery ticket I'd forgotten
to throw away. In the back of the drawer in my nightstand there
was a little box with ten one dollar coins in it. I'd gotten
it a few years back at a family holiday gift exchange, and I'd
forgotten about it until today. I counted the loose change in
the little basket I keep on top of the dresser for that purpose.
It came to a little more than $14. Then there was the $50 bill
I kept inside my passport, now two years expired.
Then I remembered.
In the very back of the bottom
drawer of the dresser was the little treasure I'd kept for decades:
an envelope with $18 in crisp new bills-a ten, a five, a two
and a one-that I'd gotten for my Bar Mitzvah. I should have spent
it years ago when it was actually worth something. I'd held onto
it for sentimental reasons, I suppose, or thinking I might need
it someday. Well, that someday was now.
All in all, I managed to scrounge
$127 in currency.
The party at Lisa's was a festive
affair. People brought suitcases full of money, bags stuffed
with old bills, jars filled to the brim with change. Lisa, ever
the entertainer, had put out a nice spread of cookies and cakes
and punch. After everyone arrived and had a chance to mingle,
the buyer set up at the dining room table, scale, coin counter
and loupe at the ready.
He placed a briefcase in front
of him, and slowly, theatrically, opened the lock. Inside was
a dazzling pile of watches, chains, pendants, pins, earrings
and rings, all of it gold.
As soon as he did the line
formed, people jostling each other and craning their necks to
see how much loot everyone was scoring. He counted out the bills,
weighed the change, and dispensed the payments, all the while
keeping up a jovial banter.
"That's right, folks.
You're smart to cash in those dollars while you can. They're
worth less every day. I'm giving you gold, which is going up
in value even as we speak."
The guests ooh-ed and ah-ed
as he handed out gold watches, long shimmering chains, heavy
rings. Some came with large bundles of bills and heavy bags of
coins, and walked away weighted down with armloads of shiny gold.
If you would like to broaden your view of gold market news and analysis, please feel welcome to join our free NewsGroup to receive by e-mail periodic gold news alerts, USAGOLD Market Updates, and thought-provoking commentary like this one!
When I finally came to the
head of the line, the buyer eyed my pitiful handful of cash.
Reaching into the near-empty satchel, he pulled out a watch,
and carefully pried two small links from the golden band.
"Actually, I paid premium
for yours. It was probably only worth a link and a half."
Afterwards I helped Lisaa clean
up. When all the guests had gone, I turned to the buyer.
"So, what do you do with
the money you collect?"
"I'm not really supposed
to tell," he answered, counting out the bills and arranging
them neatly in his valise.
"Let me guess. You trade
it on the world currency exchanges, taking advantage of price
"I don't suppose there's
any real harm in telling you. We shred it."
"Shred it? That doesn't
make any sense. You buy something that's losing value, pay for
it with something that's going up in value, and then you destroy
"Sure, we can make a little
on the fringes with arbitrage, but nobody really wants dollars
now. It's all Euros and Yuans these days."
"So what's the point of
"You've seen those bottles
of shredded dollars you can buy in the novelty stores? Well,
the new rich in China and the oligarchs in Russia think they're
the greatest things in the world. It's a big status symbol to
have them on their desks, the bigger the better. They all try
to one-up each other. They pay whatever we ask, and they keep
trying to outdo each other. The Saudi princes are more discrete,
since we're their buddies, but they love them, too. The Venezuelan
oil barons are getting into it, too. And you know how macho those
guys are. We can't keep them in stock, and I keep having to order
larger and larger jars. I guess it's kind of a celebration of
their economic triumph over America."
When I went home I carefully
placed the two gold links in the envelope that had held the Bar
Mitzvah money, and shoved it in the back of the drawer. I might
need it someday.
To get the latest Ed Stein releases and gold commentary by e-mail join the USAGOLD NewsGroup -- our free news and opinion service.
Ed Stein drew political cartoons
for the Rocky Mountain News opinion section for a good many years,
until it succumbed to the pressures of the internet age. He also
contributed cartoons, usually on the economy and Wall Street,
to our newsletters from time to time. Now he contributes regularly
to the USAGOLD website. As you can see, he can apply his special
brand of humor to the written word as well. We were very pleased
to get this piece from Ed and hope it isn't the last.