Show Me the Money

If you had been at Denny’s Restaurant late that Sunday evening In California and caught a glimpse of the activity in the booth, you might have thought a drug deal was being transacted in plain sight. But it was something much different than a common drug deal; it was a stamp deal going down.

It all began earlier that day when a 24 foot Penske truck arrived at a modest home in San Diego.  Approaching, the front door, Sugar Bear, his road nickname, in his customary manner, bangs on the door and then crowds it as if his shirt was sowed into the screen. I will call him Mr. Suspicious, comes to the door with one eye on the rented truck and the other on the guy attached to the screen.

Suspicious: Yes, how can I help you?
Sugar Bear: Hi, I’m Mark Morrow I have an appointment to look at your stamps.
Suspicious: Do you have a business card?
Sugar Bear: I ran out (Sugar Bear didn’t run out, he didn’t believe in business cards back then)

Then a prolonged presentation took place in the attempt to prove that Sugar Bear was really Sugar Bear. Eventually, we could enter but the tone of the conversation that followed didn’t feel all that good to me.

So, Sugar Bear went to work and after an hour or so made “Suspicious,” an offer of $25,000 for the collection and it was accepted. Out comes the checkbook and he begins to write when “Suspicious” comes unglued at the thought of accepting a check, he wanted cash, only cash.

Once again Sugar Bear made a prolonged presentation on why the guy should accept a consumer sized check drawn on a bank in New York, from a guy without proper Identification who arrived in a rented Penske truck.  Suspicious didn’t budge, and Sugar Bear told him he would see what could be done and call him back.

Well, it just so happens that there was a stamp show in Los Angeles and I’ll call him Mr. Big Time New York dealer was in town and Sugar knew he never left home without substantial amounts of postage.

Postage was the code name used for cash. I’m not sure why cash was postage and cash just wasn’t cash and postage postage, but over the years I transported a fair amount of postage across the country. Of course, never forget the vigorish on the postage, 2 points of vig for that transaction.

It is late and Suspicious doesn’t want us doing the deal at his house. We arrive at the Denny’s, and apparently Suspicious felt that we were there to rob him because muscle accompanied him. By his side was a seriously large man that when he sat in the booth a portion of his belly had to make a reservation to lay up on the table surface.

So, Sugar Bear slides into the booth first and immediately Muscle slides in right next to him and locks Bear in place. Then, Suspicious goes and I lock him down but not with the same authority as Bear is experiencing. Next, the merchandise comes out and is placed on the table followed by the cash. Muscle was taking his job serious as the cash was being counted at the table. His head was on a swivel looking at the door, looking at me, glancing around the restaurant. Finally, the cash is good and Sugar Bear has confirmed the merchandise.

We are good to go, the deal is done, let’s get out of here. Nope, not so fast, Houston, we have a problem. At some point during the count, while Sugar Bears leg and side were getting sweaty, he determined they were going to rob us!

And yet again, he breaks out another presentation, this time on the topic of why they should leave the restaurant first. And of course, they were thinking the same exact robbery thing and wanted us to leave first. After a fair amount of discussion,  a solution was found.

I would be allowed to leave with the merchandise and bring the truck to the entrance while the Bear remained in lock down. Bear would then be allowed to leave while muscle and Suspicious remained seated. They would only exit when they saw the truck clear the lot.

And so, it was just another day on the road with the stamp buyer. I Have never figured out how something so mundane as postage stamps could create so much drama but it did and in the pages that follow I will take you out on the road as we experience some of the most unusual people and situations you can imagine and all because of some squares of paper.

A Fascinating Look At How Big Time Stamp Dealers Operate