Junk Silver and the Pastor

(reading time 5 minutes)

 In the late 1960s, I had a friend Jerry, whose hobby was collecting bags of what was referred to at the time as “junk silver”.  It was sold in bags, by weight, for the going price of silver bullion at time of purchase. Most of us thought Jerry was losing it mentally, and he was often the object of ridicule.  Jerry died in 1974.

The lawyer for his estate and his wife’s was also their executor.  Both Jerry and his wife were alcoholics. Neither was in good enough mental condition to even know the time of day, so they relied completely on their attorney John to make all decisions, in matters of money.

Jerry and his wife’s wealth was mostly from a shared family inheritance.  When Jerry came into his share of a cash allotment from the family estate, he would go to the Wilmington Trust Company in Delaware and buy bags of “junk silver” for whatever the price was at the time.  This was during the time when the Hunt Brothers from Texas, were pumping up the market price of silver.  It was on a rise to an all time high prices.  In June 1974, prices rose to $26 per ounce, from a low of $3 in the 1930s.  Jerry had collected many bags and many pounds, which he stored in the attic of his house.  His lawyer discovered the stash in the attic after Jerry’s death.  His wife, being an alcoholic, was disdainful about Jerry’s hobbies.  John, the lawyer and executor for the estate, offered to give Jerry’s wife the face value of the coins, mostly quarters and half dollars. One dollar for four quarters was face value.  Jerry’s wife said, “They don’t mean anything to me. I don’t want the coins. Just give me the face value cash.”

When Jerry died in 1974, silver prices had hit the $26.00 per ounce.  The agreement his attorney made with Jerry’s wife was a confidential arrangement, exclusively between them. Only close friends knew of Jerry’s “junk silver” hobby.  I happened to be one of them, but everything in this story happened and was over by the time I heard of it.

Lawyer John put the bags of junk silver in the trunk of his car, which weighed it down noticeably.  Within a few weeks after Jerry’s death in 1974, before lawyer John had a chance to unload the silver bags from the car, he was found dead with a bottle of brandy in his hand in his recliner chair at his home.  Beside him, sitting on the floor, was the urn containing the late Jerry’s ashes, not yet distributed according to Jerry’s wishes.

Lawyer John had a son who lived in South Carolina. He was John’s only heir and was very well off financially.  His son was too busy to come back to Pennsylvania and attend to his father’s funeral matters, so he enlisted the aid of the Pastor of John’s church.  In appreciation, the son gave the Pastor John’s Mercedes car, together with many other household and personal belongings that lawyer John had collected from his clients. There were many good and valuable leftovers from lawyer John’s clients, who had no relatives or living heirs.

The Pastor accepted the gifts gratefully and had an estate sale at John’s house, with proceeds going to the church.  The Pastor kept the Mercedes car for himself. He took it to the dealer to transfer the title and to find out why it rode so low in the back.  At the dealer’s garage, the mechanic asked the Pastor to pop the trunk with the electric lock on the dashboard.  The mechanic gasped. “Have you looked into this trunk since you got the car? Come here and see what I found.”  The Pastor looked and almost fainted. One of dozens of bags of the silver coins had spilled open all over the trunk floor gleaming in the sunlight, almost blinding the Pastor with brilliance and shock at the find.

The Pastor claimed this find as a “gift from God” since it was in the car given to him by lawyer John’s son. Remember, it’s been said, “Timing is everything.” That was the timing in 1974, when silver shined it’s all time high, thanks to the Hunt brothers from Texas.

The Silver was returned from where it came, the same bank named on the bags. There were hundreds of pounds, and each little ounce was worth $26. How much was there? Hundreds of pounds! You do the math.