August 9, 2011

Get Rich Quilt Schemes

Family Left to Right: Maggie, John, George, and Ruby. 1985.

“Fear of economic insecurity; they had it. That’s for sure,” the Geezer said yesterday.

When I met the Geezers parents, they were selling pet rocks at the swap meet. They were children of the depression, and they had once been very well off. Now they were working as apartment managers. He once drank and gambled until bankruptcy, and now in fear and panic she was caretaking the two of them into a series of “get rich quick schemes.”

On the surface, they were the nicest folks you would ever meet. Even though they didn’t like or accept me for many years, I was fond of them though often amazed at what they got themselves into.

Kimono’s. They would drive to LA and buy kimonos by the bale. They hauled them down here and tried to sell them at the swap meet. The bright and pretty ones sold right away. We discovered after her death that there were still vast numbers of unsold heavy, black, silk kimonos in garbage bags deep in basements around the complex she lived in. Even quilters didn’t want the things.

They bought gold. They tried penny stocks. They bought storage auction lots often getting the family silver or the family cameras. Anything they thought they could make money on, they tried.

As G’s dad’s eyesight worsened, G’s mom, Ruby, began making teddy bears. It was something she could do by herself. She made all types of bears each with a ruby earring in its ear. Costumed, dressed up, and fanciful, these sold quite well at the swapmeet for a while and even in the malls. When she died, there was a whole room literally full of half finished bears in plastic bins just waiting for her to take them in hand.

When cleaning out the garage this weekend, G found a binder filled with 24 carat gold stamp replicas. He had tried to sell them once before. The jeweler didn’t want them, and they went for nothing at all on eBay. Nada anywhere in any market. Sunday he set this thick binder aside to deal with later…and later was yesterday afternoon.

Again, our favorite jeweler wasn’t interested. But he did pull one of the envelopes out of its plastic casing to look at it a little closer. When he started to hand the whole thing back to G, I said, “Oh, just take one of them apart.” What would it hurt anyway.

I must say, each gold stamp was thoroly sealed first in paper, then felt, then in a plastic container that suggested what was inside was thick and valuable. Ripping it open layer by layer revealed, voila, a pressed, cutout stamp on very thin paper with an even thinner overlay of gold foil. Trash. Garbage. Again, a nada that we think his folks spent real money on…at least twenty bucks a stamp.

Perhaps I am no better in my own way. With my severe numerical learning disabilities, I let a broker handle my money. Who am I to say that pet rocks or cardboard gold weren’t a better way to get rich in any market.


  1. That is so sad.

  2. Those poor people. How tragic for them!

  3. Sad. I worry about financial stability a lot but these days when the bank is as likely to rob you as some scam artist, I almost think stashing one's cash in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall's back porch is one' back porch is the safest bet.

  4. There are quite a few people putting all their money into gold...not gold stocks...these days, I and I think that is so foolish. There is no sure thing anyway. Just spread out the investments.

  5. What a hoot. Now you've given me an idea for my blog today. Stay tuned. Dianne

    PS Was I insensitive for laughing? It hit too close to home....

  6. Somehow it doesn't matter how careful you are. I was searching for some useless stock certificates this morning (which I didn't find). But I did find:

    1. The release of our mortgage -- nearly thirty years ago.
    2. My husband's original certificate of GI insurance, dated 1951. (We cashed it in to help pay for his nursing care.)

    I read and hear about all these schemes for people who were less careful, and I realize that, although I'm not eligible for any of those aids, I'm not in much better shape.

    The only gold I have is some jewelry, and I gave my best earrings to my daughter-in-law last month. At least she can enjoy them.

  7. So many people involved in so many scams. I wonder if the half-finished bears would make a comeback though. Good for you on working through your own garage-0-stuff though.

  8. My sister is a bit like G. parents, always trying to come up with something new. Or, that was before she came down with MS. It is amazing how people express both their anxiety and hope. Thanks, Maggie for sharing this story with us.

  9. My sister's husband's parents were just like these folks. It was really rather sad. I don't know that they thought that all of these ventures and purchases were a scam, but they bought more to sell at flea markets and such than they ever sold. It was quite a feat for the children and grandchildren to deal with when they died.

  10. I feel really bad for the people like US who dont really have money to play with but Wall St makes it sound like ANYONE can play..dont think so, only the ones who can afford to loose--its like a trip to Vegas--I do have one stamp collection its worthless and the bonds Will probably mature when Im dead and GONE--

  11. I think there are more people like this than we could count! I easily recognized George, but who is Maggie? That's not you?!

  12. Having lived my entire life in horrible poverty I understand all too well what your parents must have felt as they grabbed at what they hoped would be financial security. I've never had enough to invest; considering my judgment on fiscal matters, maybe that's a blessing in disguise.

  13. This is so sad. It sort of reminds me of a neighbor in Illinois. She ended up losing everything she had. It was awful. We called her nephew in Michigan who came and picked her up.


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Peter in front of a wall sculpture. We were invited up to Peter Knego’s home to see the latest installation.   Abstract flat ...