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October 15, 2009 -- (Ed Stein -- main page)

What if you were invited to a party to sell your dollars?cash and gold

Party Time

by Ed Stein


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," I said.

"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?"

cash for gold
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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.

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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.

"That's it?"

"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 fluctuations, right?"

"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 it?"

"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 shredding it?"

"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.

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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.


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