The Sad Story of My Numismatic Friend

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by dcarr, May 28, 2024.

  1. dcarr

    dcarr Mint-Master

    The Sad Story of My Numismatic Friend (and my first significant coin).

    My friend “Jim” was my best coin collecting friend from long ago, back to Middle School in the early 1970s.

    The earliest memories are of the two of us looking at coins in the back of the classroom during Social Studies and the teacher telling us “boys, put the coins away”. Oh well, we were learning a lot more with the coins than we were in the class. We would often go to coin shops around the Denver area. Initially, we would require one of our parents to take us there. Later, when we were able to drive, we would make our own rounds. We were also “self-employed” during the summers in the mid-1970s. Our “job” was to drive around getting rolls of half dollars to search for silver. We had our kits and the process was practiced. I used a typical metal cash box with spare copper-nickel coins that were used to fill the spaces in rolls where I would remove a 90% or 40% silver coin. The searched rolls were exchanged at a bank for cash, and then on to the next bank we went. Back then, 40% coins were worth a profit of 15 to 20 cents each, and the profit on 90% coins was about $1 to $1.25 each. That wasn’t much, but it was enough to pay for gas and lunch, plus a little extra. I vividly remember our score at a bank in Evergreen Colorado. We bought a bundle of $100 (ten rolls) of half dollars. Out in the car when we started looking at the rolls we were excitedly hollering like someone who had just hit a jackpot on a slot machine. People walking by on the street were wondering what the hell was going on. Out of that $100, $6 of it was 40% silver. $90 of it was 90% silver. Only $4 of it was non-silver (copper-nickel clad).

    Early-on, I noticed some very troubling signs with Jim. He was always the first one (and usually the only one) to fall down drunk at the parties. He would try any drug that anyone presented.

    When Jim was about 22 his Dad passed away. His Mom and Dad were driving from California back to Colorado. They stopped for lunch in Salinas California. After eating, they walked out to the parking lot. Jim’s Dad suffered a spontaneous massive heart attack and dropped dead right on the spot. And that was that.

    Jim was smart and he attended the Colorado School of Mines and studied Chemistry, while I attended the University of Colorado and studied Mechanical Engineering. After Jim’s Dad died, his Mom moved to a retirement community in Southern California. During winter break from college, we would drive out to California and stay a couple weeks with his Mom. We would plan out our days and routes, mapping every coin store, stamp store, and bank that we wanted to visit that day. We went everywhere from San Diego to Los Angeles. In Beverly Hills in 1978 I remember getting an unusually-long $20 paper-wrapped roll of half dollars (normally, they are shorter $10 rolls). In that $20 roll was coins dated 1978 and all the way back to 1917.

    Jim became interested in full-step Jefferson nickels. We once went in together on a mint-sealed $200 face value bag of 1960 [P] nickels. I think at the time it cost us about $220. We agreed to split the value of whatever we would find. But whomever found an item would have first choice to keep it and pay the other partner half the value, or sell it to the other partner at half the value (if the other party wanted it). There was not much significant in the bag except for one coin that I found – double-clipped with a perfectly-formed “railroad rim” (partial collar) all the way around the circumference. We valued the coin at about $20 at the time. Since Jim was more of a nickel and error collector than I was, I sold it to him for $10 as per our agreement. Years later, I wished I had kept it since it was the first coin of real numismatic interest that I ever had.

    Towards the end of my college stint, one Saturday morning I was driving north back into Boulder and I saw Jim walking along the side of the road in the opposite direction. He looked all banged up. So I did a U-turn and went to pick him up. While I didn’t exactly get the straight story from Jim, I did eventually gather the pieces together. Apparently, the night before, Jim had driven from his apartment in Golden to a bar in Boulder. At the bar, he drank too much and then attempted to drive. He tried to drive up the freeway off-ramp (in the wrong direction) but couldn’t even do that right and crashed his car into a ravine. Luckily, he did not injure anyone except himself. The police put him in jail for the night. On Saturday morning he couldn’t get a ride so he started walking back towards Golden, which was about 20 miles away. That is when I came upon him. I gave him a ride back to his apartment. That was the end of the 1972 Ford Mustang that he had inherited from his Dad. Some years later I think he permanently lost his license to drive and never owned another car or drove again after that.

    Jim was never a “mean” drunk. He was always very cordial, happy, funny, friendly, and somehow direct-to-the-point when drunk. The only time I ever witnessed him get aggravated towards anyone was when they suggested that he not drink and smoke. His attitude towards that was basically a stern “that is none of your business”.

    After college I did not have as much contact with him, but I would correspond or visit with him from time to time. Over the years Jim worked at various laboratories. Some for a few years, but usually he would become unemployed at some point. I suspect that showing up at work while intoxicated was a reason. At one point when he had a steady job he bought a house. But a couple years later he apparently lost his job and just quit paying his mortgage. He ignored all notices. Then one morning he was woken up in bed at gunpoint. It was a deputy sheriff evicting him. They had an eviction order, so they forced him out. They took all of his possessions out of the house and threw them in the snow in the front yard. This included his safe and numerous other coins and valuables that were not in the safe. The locks to the house were changed on the spot. Later that day Jim called me and asked that I come take possession of his coins and other items. I immediately made the hour drive to the location where he told me to meet him. When I got there, it was a bar. Jim had walked a mile to the bar and left all his possessions unattended in his front yard. When I arrived Jim was drinking in the bar. We drove to his house. Some of this things may have “walked off” while he was at the bar. But, miraculously, the majority of what he had was still there. I loaded up everything of value that I could find in his yard. I remember picking up PCGS slabs that were scattered about the yard in the snow. After I picked up everything, I left. With no place to go, Jim apparently broke into his former house that very night and continued to reside there for some time. But eventually he ended up living homeless “on the street” and occasionally in a cheap motel. When he needed money, he would call me up and ask if I would buy this or that from his collection (which I was holding on his behalf). We would agree on an amount and I would make a deposit in my local branch of his bank. About this time I learned that he had some items being held at the pawn shop. After learning what the exorbitant fees and interest was on the “loans” I declared that it was nuts. In a year or less the amount owed on the items would be well above what they were worth. So I made to Jim the proposal to immediately go to the pawn shop where I would pay to get all his things out of there, and I would take some items equal in value to the payment I would make. That way, Jim would at least get most of his items back and not owe anything more. Jim agreed.

    Then he seemed to get things together somewhat and got a good-paying job as a chemist at a government facility in New Mexico. I believe that this job required a security clearance. He called me up and told me about the nice hot-tub he was sitting in at the fancy hotel where his employer had temporarily housed him. But a week or so later he called again and stated that he needed money for a bus ride back to the Denver area. I never found out what had happened but I suspect that either he showed up for work intoxicated, or his government employer did a background check and found some DUIs in his record that he did not disclose on his original employment application. So I bought some more of this coins and deposited money in a local branch of his bank so that he could get a bus ticket. He later told me that he had to live out in the desert for several days with only a backpack containing meager supplies and part of his coin collection.

    Once again back in Denver, he lived on the street and occasionally in shady motels. Eventually he was in a homeless shelter and that shelter hooked him up with a Vietnam veteran with similar problems. The shelter helped the two of them get into a two-bedroom apartment. They also helped Jim file the proper paperwork to start getting the nearly $2,000 per month in Social Security disability. With that, and having a roommate to share expenses, Jim could get by reasonably well and not have to live on the street. The county social services helped arrange a part-time job for him as a security guard at the headquarters of a major satellite communications company. He had to ride the bus and take light rail to his job, almost an hour each way, to earn basically minimum wage. One time, at the train station, a person asked Jim for a cigarette. Jim made a terse reply and declined to give up one of his. He was then stabbed in the back by the man. Jim had to get about 20 stitches. Some months later I learned of this and saw the scar.

    For a while he was getting by fairly well again, and with a little extra money he was even buying a few coins here and there on the internet. He asked that I return all his coins that I was holding for him, and so I did. He gave me spare keys to his apartment and the combination to his safe. He told me to take possession of his items if anything ever happened to him. His only living relatives are two sisters (both much older than Jim) and he hated both and wanted no contact with either. He never married or had kids. Jim’s mom had died many years prior. His parents and sisters all seemed to be very old in relation to Jim. My wife’s theory is that Jim was actually the “illegitimate” son of one of his sisters, and the family covered it up. Both his sisters were at least 16 years older than him. But I have no confirming information on that matter.

    A few years ago Jim’s internal organs had started failing, especially the liver and kidneys. His belly would swell up with fluid and periodically he had to go in for a procedure where they inserted a long needle into his abdomen to drain out multiple gallons of fluid at a time. He was prescribed various medications and diuretics to flush out fluid. Then he was diagnosed with throat cancer. Smoking and drinking undoubtedly caused it. The doctors determined that surgery was not an option. So they gave him some massive focused radiation doses. This was ironic since Jim worked frequently with radioactive compounds during his prior employment. I remember seeing him with significant radiation burns on the skin of his neck. However, his cancer did go into remission and never returned.

    Then Jim had a falling-out with his roommate Hank. Hank was terrible with money, far worse than even Jim. Whatever money Hank had, he would just blow it all in a day or two. Hank inherited $16,000 and bought a used car. The car broke down a day or two later and Hank went back to the dealer and threw the car keys at the manager and left. Hank never even tried to get any money back and he abandoned the car where it lay. The $16,000 was completely gone in a week and Hank was back to bumming money and whatever he could get. Then Hank apparently had a psychotic episode and for whatever reason broke down Jim’s locked bedroom door and they had an altercation. Hank was taken away from the apartment and never returned. Jim then had to pay all the expenses for the apartment himself and he had to start selling coins again. The county stepped in once more and got him regular deliveries of free food, a free phone, and free internet access. But I still bought most of his better items over the past couple years and he used the money for rent, alcohol, and whatever else.

    In recent years I never saw Jim drink. Not once. But he was always drunk. His speech was always slurred and his short-term memory was shot. He could remember things from years ago. But if you told him anything new, or tried to teach him anything new, it would never sink in, no matter how hard one tried.

    In January of this year I learned that Jim had not been going to his doctor appointments because he could not get to the offices. My wife and I volunteered to take him to his next one. So we drove the hour to his apartment to pick him up. He told us that he had previously fallen in his apartment and it took him an hour to crawl to his bed. I am a year older than Jim and I can still run up and down the stairs. Jim could barely step on or off a 2-inch curb, even with a walker and assistance. The skin on his face was gray and lumpy. He looked like walking death. I knew he was in bad shape, and that is why I wanted to go with him so I could be his advocate and talk to the doctor. Upon arrival at the appointment, we helped Jim to the doctor’s office. While riding up the elevator, I discovered a bottle of liquor in the pouch of his walker. His speech was slurred, as typical. In fact, I don’t remember ever seeing him not drunk in the last 20 years or more. At the appointment, they first wanted a blood sample. The nurse stabbed him three or four times in each arm and couldn’t get a flow and then she switched to his hand and finally got a sample. Then we waited and later the doctor finally came in. She said flat-out to Jim that he had to stop drinking. Jim lied entirely and stated in slurred speech that he only had one or two beers a week on Thursday night dinner with friends. The part about two beers on Thursday night was perhaps somewhat accurate. But he did not mention the other six days a week spent drinking all the time. The doctor looked at Jim directly and said emphatically that she knew he was lying. This was a Monday morning, and she was holding Jim’s blood work report which showed his blood alcohol level at the time. It was well above “DUI” levels. She was clearly frustrated with him. At one point I asked the doctor if we could step aside and talk. I told the doctor that Jim had fallen and it took him an hour to crawl to his bed (which was just a mattress on the floor). I said that he needs to go into hospice right now. She told me that his vital signs did not qualify for hospice and she would not recommend hospice care for him at that time. Thinking back on it, I believe that maybe what she meant was, hospice isn’t for people who are chronically drunk and/or engaging in substance abuse.

    A couple weeks after the doctor’s appointment, I got the call. Jim only had three friends in this world. He had apparently succumbed on the floor of his apartment several days earlier. The police were called by someone, probably a neighbor because of the smell. The police went into the apartment and discovered the body. They looked around and found contact information for one of our mutual friends and called him. The mutual friend emailed me and we decided on a time for the three of us to go over to Jim’s apartment.

    Jim’s apartment complex is, pretty much, a dump. There was evidence that a homeless person had been camped just outside Jim’s front door in the recesses under the outdoor stairwell. Our mutual friend told me that Jim would sometimes pay that homeless person $100 to go buy a couple bottles of liquor for Jim.

    Inside Jim’s apartment it was the most deplorable living conditions that I have ever seen in person. Bio-hazards everywhere. We had to be very careful where to step and what to touch (and what not to touch). The police and coroner had already removed the body a few days earlier, and two antique (but basically worthless) guns that Jim had on the wall were apparently taken by the police. What little Jim had left in the form of valuables, the three of us took possession of. There was one box of coins that contained everything that I had given Jim over the years. I took possession of that. Most of it was from a few trips that Jim had made to my mint where we struck some things together for fun. I never charged Jim anything for any of that. The best item in the group was one of my “1964-D” Peace over-strikes.

    But there was one other coin in that box and I think Jim put it there so that I would get it. The 1960 [P] mint error nickel from the mint bag we shared many years ago. I will always keep this coin as a remembrance.

    Not once did Jim ever ask of charity from me. He never asked to borrow money, or asked for housing, transportation, or food. We occasionally offered. He only asked me to safeguard some of his possessions a couple of times. When he needed money, we would have a numismatic transaction at fair market values.

    Looking back, I wonder if anything could have been done. But unless a person acknowledges that something needs to change, nothing will succeed. Even the slightest inkling of a desire, or acknowledgement, is worth an “intervention” attempt. But I never saw in Jim even a miniscule of regret or a desire in any way to change, even when he repeatedly hit the rock bottom of the pit.

    But even though we led vastly different lifestyles, I can still say rest in peace my friend. At least, now you are free of it and “sober”.

    Attached Files:

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  3. mikebell

    mikebell Well-Known Member

    A 'like' hardly does justice. A requiem for your friend, and well told.. Rest in peace Jim.
    dcarr likes this.
  4. Rheingold

    Rheingold Well-Known Member

    After all Jim was a poor, but good soul.
    RIP Jim.
  5. longnine009

    longnine009 Darwin has to eat too. Supporter

    Jim could be a composite for so many people in this country who are killing themselves with booze, weed, debt and delusions.

    R.I.P Jim :(
    Last edited: May 28, 2024
    derkerlegand likes this.
  6. 2Old

    2Old Active Member

    Thanks for sharing.
  7. rte

    rte Well-Known Member

    RIP JIM...
    Excellent story Dan.
    I'm not a nickel person but that's a keeper for sure.
    I have a cousin that was at a party when he was about 17. Got to drinking with some friends and tried some drug other kids were passing around.
    It put him in the hospital for a few weeks and messed up the metals in his body.
    That resulted in him loosing his Short term memory.
    You can talk to him about anything but 2 minutes later he doesn't remember.
    That was 40 years ago and no real change.
    He's been on disability for 30 years now and getting by, short term memory with the help of prescriptions is slightly better but doesn't seem to remember much of anything or anyone from his past.
    Mood swings that his parents are dealing with until they can't and then he becomes a ward of the state till he gets better.
    He had a promising career as an Auto mechanic or something mechanical related engineer...he could tear down anything and put it back together without a manual fixing the issue... after that one night party everything changed.
    He is a year younger than me, I was born in 1964.
    I would love to get one of your 64 Piece dollars.
    I have a couple of the 64 Morgan's as core pieces in my collection.
    I think some male's are inherently stubborn.
    I don't drink or do drugs, would prefer not to take the prescriptions the doctors are pushing towards everyone and try to eat/get healthy naturally.
    kountryken and ZoidMeister like this.
  8. derkerlegand

    derkerlegand Well-Known Member

    You were a good friend.
    ZoidMeister and rte like this.
  9. derkerlegand

    derkerlegand Well-Known Member

    and don't forget schizophrenia and other mental diseases
    longnine009 likes this.
  10. lardan

    lardan Supporter! Supporter

    The "like" for you is for sharing this with us, and the fact you remained his friend throughout his life. Amazing the differences lifestyle can take young friends through their lifetimes.
    Randy Abercrombie and rte like this.
  11. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    Bless you for being a good friend and writing a very touching tribute.
    masterswimmer and kountryken like this.
  12. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    Thank you for sharing this. I'm sorry for Jim's suffering, and I'm sorry for your loss.
    masterswimmer and kountryken like this.
  13. jensenbay

    jensenbay Well-Known Member

    But for the coin part, this is the story of my dad. Even the being found later part. It is very sad when someone is so addicted that they don't stop. I thank God every day that I, with His help, was able to break the addiction, 20 some years ago, I got from my dad. Thank you for sharing.
    Eduard and kountryken like this.
  14. fretboard

    fretboard Defender of Old Coinage!

    Good read, good on you for sharing that story! :shame: I had a brother like Jim and as terrible as alcohol made him look and live his life there was no stopping him, he drank himself to death years ago. :cigar:

    Attached Files:

  15. cladking

    cladking Coin Collector

    Alcohol is pernicious.

    It takes lives only after ruining them. Even the finest people and finest friends can be removed slowly and a bit at a time.

    I don't think there's ever a single thing you can do except stay loyal as long as they do and hope they seek help.

    longnine009 likes this.
  16. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    RIP, Jim. There, but for the grace of God, go I.
  17. ZoidMeister

    ZoidMeister Hamlet Squire of Tomfoolery . . . . .

    Your telling of his life is an honorable and fitting requiem for your good friend. May it be preserved for eternity on this forum.

    I too lost a good friend too early under similar circumstances. Sincere condolences for your loss. I too questioned for years if I could have / should have been more involved in his life. Maybe I could have made a difference? Hindsight is a very dark cloud over the present.

    Ironically, he lived in Durango . . . .

  18. mrweaseluv

    mrweaseluv Supporter! Supporter


    DONTNOMUCH New Member

    Remember the good times and remember you did what you could!
  20. Tall Paul

    Tall Paul Supporter! Supporter

    RIP Jim. You are finally at peace.
  21. Pickin and Grinin

    Pickin and Grinin Well-Known Member

    Some look at it as coping, the world lately I completely agree with the mask,
    I just hope that folks can see past the delusion.
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