Johnny Silverseed

Johnny Silverseed

By

Cognitive Dissonance

 

The Seed

I’ve been purchasing so-called junk silver coins every chance I get for the past 6 or 7 years. In fact I have standing orders at three local coin shops which I pick up on a monthly basis. Each of the shops has my credit card information so they don’t mind setting the silver aside since they’re assured they’ll be paid. However I make sure to pay in cash for obvious reasons. It’s so much easier to amass a precious metal cache if it’s added to on a regular basis. Like seeds carefully planted in the spring, there’s an inner joy derived from watching your silver garden grow all year long.

For those who aren’t sure what the term “junk silver” means, what I’m doing is buying quantities of old worn out 1964 and earlier US silver dimes, quarters and half dollars (along with the occasional handful of old Peace and Morgan silver dollars) primarily for their silver content. Because they’re well worn and any of the coins with collectable value have already been pulled, what remains are coins that are valued purely for their 90% silver content. Over the years I’ve accumulated several thousand coins this way along with my other precious metals.

After it was announced that silver would no longer be used after 1964, collectors culled the quality silver coins that had “numismatic value” from general circulation as well as from any private hoards and collections that came their way. Thus all the silver coins that were left were worn or damaged. Because these coins had no collectable value, those that remained were considered “junk” because the only thing of value left in each coin was the salvage value of the silver itself. And at the time this was barely equal to the face value. Isn’t it amazing how times have changed?

There are several advantages to purchasing silver in this manner. Since the coins remain US legal tender and at one point were widely distributed, they’re recognized and accepted the world over. Of course since the coins are 90% silver, one would be foolish these days to sell them for anything less than the value of their silver content. But their true value lay in the fact that since they are accepted worldwide both as legal tender and as silver bullion they’re extremely liquid and can be easily sold or bartered if the need arises. The same cannot be said about Grandma’s silver tea and flatware set.

In addition, because each coin’s silver weight is relatively small, the coins (valued by their silver content) are perfectly suited for small purchases. When, not if, the world’s population begins to fully understand what’s happening to their paper fiat currency, this attribute will take on even greater importance.

Finally, at this time there’s a relatively low premium charged by the seller over and above the silver spot price for junk silver coin. Meaning there’s a small markup when you buy in bulk. Bottom line, junk silver is extremely useful to the person who wishes to find an alternative store of value in small denominations.

Inception and Inspiration

About 6 weeks ago I sat down and began planning my Christmas gift giving. Of course this included tips for the various service and trades people I deal with, both as a small businessman and as an average Joe. As is my custom, I did an Internet search for the average holiday tip for various service persons to get an idea if my planned gift was in the ball park or if I would embarrass myself. It was at this time that I had an inspiration.

Coming from a poor family that rarely had much to begin with, as a child I was taught that it’s the thought and intent that really counts when giving gifts. Needless to say I learned real early in life to be creative. So in the past when holiday tipping I always made sure to provide cash and a small gift certificate or some other item of value that I knew the recipient would enjoy and which I always bundled up in a festive card. My holiday tips were always well received.

This year while brainstorming for alternative small gifts I began thinking about my true reason for giving. Aside from the usual social pressure to give, I really do wish to brighten the gift recipient’s day while sending a bigger message just like I was taught as a child. This led me to think about my community activism and the small ways I’ve touched people’s lives. What is always rewarding for me is when I can embolden or enable a person to act for the benefit of him or herself. This was the genesis of my idea.

Here on Zero Hedge we often talk about our frustration and the resistance we run into when talking to people about the various financial and social problems we’re all facing. Because we’re highlighting serious problems, but offering no real solutions, we are in effect creating emotional and psychological tension within those to whom we speak. In these situations, our desire is to avoid this tension by believing whatever we wish to believe, even if multiple beliefs are in conflict with each other. We are all walking talking cognitive dissonances, some more than others.

Is it any wonder then that our family, friends and acquaintances will do everything in their power to relieve this emotional tension? The result is that we are tuned out, ignored or outright rejected regardless of how illogical and self defeating their actions may be. We must remember that to the conditioned mind, it takes real courage to face its deepest fears. And regardless how unfair it may be to others, it’s not reasonable to expect the average conditioned mind to summon this courage without a little help from a friend.   

Preparing the Soil

I’ve learned over the years that a negative idea will always be received poorly. By carefully choosing my words and considering how my message will be received, I’ve come to understand that even a seemingly hopeless situation can be rallied around if you give people hope and a reason to fight that they can make their own. This usually requires a positive approach if one wishes to generate a sustained effort.

This positive approach concept is the cornerstone of sales and even manipulation. So it’s often incorporated into political posturing, propaganda positioning and corporate sales initiatives. With this in mind, what is it that we’re giving to people when we talk to them about the problems they face? Are we giving them hope and a way out or just bad news and no realistic end to their misery? If you promise me a life in hell, what incentive do I have to strive for redemption?

I’ve tried striking up conversations with casual acquaintances about the financial situation in an effort to enlighten. The following is a condensed version of how the information usually goes down.

“Your government is screwing you by diluting your savings and cheapening your labor. The game is rigged in their favor to such an extent that they become richer from screwing you. We need to stop them, but it’s going to be a tough battle which we will lose if we can’t get enough people to join with us. So please sign here and put everything you have on the line fighting a corrupt government who controls the strings of power and who have all the guns.”

While this might not be exactly what I’m saying, the following is what they hear.

“Suicide bomber volunteers needed who are expected to pay their own expenses and die for the benefit of others.”

How attractive. With a pitch like that, why wouldn’t they choose to muddle along in denial rather than select hell on earth? Worse, aside from spreading doom and gloom, what exactly am I bringing to the table? Do I have any skin in the game? What am I doing about the problems I just shoved their faces in?

These are valid questions under any circumstances and they’re especially pertinent to the conditioned mind that long ago learned to stay safely within the herd and away from emotional danger. This old dog has slowly learned that if I’m going to make any headway I need a special attractor, a shiny object to grab their attention and lure them out into the open. I need to sell the sizzle, not the steak.

Planting the Seed

With this in mind I went to my stash and grabbed a handful of silver, then began to work my plan. I purchased some silver polish and shined up the old coins as best I could. Then I placed them inside cardboard display holders that contain a plastic window front and back to show off the coin. With a variety of old worn out dimes, quarters and half dollars wearing their best set of clothes, I turned my attention to the verbal and written message I knew was vital to my success.

I searched the net until I found a small wallet size chart showing the various US silver coins along with their individual silver weight and other characteristics going back to the 1800’s. Along the way I also located a second chart for the gold US coins to place on the back. I then laminated the chart to make them sturdy and substantial enough so they would last a long time. I wanted the charts to remain in their wallets or purses without deteriorating.

A major component of sales is to create a belief in the person that it’s in their best interest to act and then an urgency to act now. Often this is done by convincing the subject that the item offered has great value or at least much greater value than the competitor, but only if you act now. In order to help instill a sense of real value into my small gift of silver, I needed to exaggerate the emotional worth of the coins beyond their physical replacement price of $10 or $20 dollars. After all a sum that small is hardly a reason to challenge your beliefs regarding the government and the financial system.

To do this I needed to combine something of much greater value with the coin I’m offering as a gift. This is why commercials appeal to your ego or sense of self worth or safety or the social standing of you and your family, all things that are emotionally much bigger in your mind than the item for sale.

This would be accomplished in part with a simple one paragraph contract between me and the person I was giving the silver coins to. The contract required them to promise me they would give me the right of first refusal if they ever decided to sell or give away my gift. I wanted them to think “Wow, this must be valuable if he’s that serious.”

It didn’t matter if the contract was legally binding or not, just that it conveyed my sincere belief that what I was giving them had great value and if they didn’t want it, I wanted it back. If you think about it for a while, many things we want or already own have value to us simply because other people attach great importance to it.

I wanted to transfer my sense of appreciation for the silver coins to the other person. Otherwise it might become just another coin in their pocket. I needed to make it bigger than its monetary worth. I was trying to create ideological converts with this gift, not hand out beads and baubles at Mardi Gras.

If I couldn’t spend at least a few minutes with the person to explain my gift, I wasn’t going to waste my time or silver just giving it away. I was looking for fertile soil here so to be effective I needed time to nurture the seed. This required a few minutes of one on one quality time within the person’s comfort zone. So for some people who were just too busy to talk I just gave cash. Since I didn’t want to travel too far off the beaten path, the majority of the holiday tip would still be cash with the silver coin or coins acting as the icing on the cake.

With silver hovering around $28 an ounce by the time I was ready, this meant a silver dime was worth around $2, the quarter around $5 and the half dollar around $10. To prove this to the person I would make sure I kept in my pocket a printout of the price of silver as well as a pocket calculator to do the math. I also typed up a short list of 5 coin shops with 20 miles where they could go to purchase junk silver. I needed to give them the opportunity and ability to follow up by purchasing silver on their own.

Because I had three coins to choose from, I made sure the silver portion of the holiday tip always included at least two coins. I then put the cash in the cards but left the coins, contract and the laminated chart and coin shop list outside so I could make the pitch without the need for the person to open the envelope. I was almost ready to have some fun.

The last thing I needed was my elevator pitch. I needed to condense what I had to say down to five minutes or less, the most time I felt I could waylay anyone who was working. Short and to the point was paramount, but I also needed to hit all their hot buttons. Once I felt I had it down pat I practiced on my wife (always a sympathetic listener) and a few close friends.

Surprisingly, even though my wife and friends knew about my propensity for precious metals, all of them became excited when I practiced my pitch. I could see that the idea grabbed them in a way all my prior discussions about currency debasement and government corruption hadn’t. For the first time I began to think that maybe this could be the difference, however small it was, in my activism and recruitment against the Ponzi machine. I was fighting fire with fire and using the Ponzi’s own weight against it. Now I was ready.

Germination and Propagation

Over the following two weeks as I came into contact with the various people I had planned to give holiday tips to, I would thank them for their year’s service and then explain my gift. For example, the UPS guy is in my office at least once a week so he was an obvious choice for the holiday tip. We always talk for a few minutes and we’ve developed a casual friendship.

During the past two years he’s been coming in I’ve warned him on a few occasions that he should consider purchasing silver and gold. I would always get a non committal response. This time, after signing for the package I handed him his holiday card and thanked him. Then I said the following.

“Obviously you’re aware how tough the economy is. And despite what the government says, prices keep going up an up on many things we buy like food, gas, health care and so on. This year I wanted to give you a little something to protect a small portion of your money. But there’s a string attached.”

I had his undivided attention.

“You may not be aware of this, but up to 1964 the government made most of our coins out of 90% silver. They stopped because the price of silver was going to exceed the face value of each coin. Take a look at this chart.”

I then handed him the US silver coin chart and pointed to the various coins and their silver weight.

“As you can see, the quarter had a little less than two tenths of an ounce of silver, the half dollar about a third of an ounce and so on. The cost of the silver in 1964 was at most twenty five cents for the quarter, fifty cents for the half and so on.”

In fact, the silver cost may have been a little more or less back then, but it doesn’t matter. It was the concept I was trying to get across, not exact details.

I then picked out the quarter and half dollar I was giving him and I placed them directly into his hand. I did not hand the coins to him. This method of physical transfer is very important. As he raised his right hand to accept the coins, I took his right hand with my left hand and then placed the coins directly in his palm with my other hand. This is what you do with a person when you’re handing them something delicate or valuable. There is great psychological importance implied by this action.

“What do you think these coins are worth today?”

The answers always varied widely, but they rarely gave me a dollar amount higher than the present value. Regardless of the number they gave me I would say the following, modified for each person’s actual gift.

“Today the quarter is worth around $5 and the half around $10.”

I then pulled out the prior day’s closing price of silver and quickly showed the UPS guy how to calculate the price of each coin.

“You just multiple the price of an ounce of silver by point one eight, which is the weight of the silver in the quarter and point three six for the half dollar, to come up with the silver value for each coin. Those numbers are here on the chart.”

I then handed him the calculator and asked him to try. With my guidance, he quickly understood how to use the chart and calculator to figure out the price. This is important because it puts the power to determine value in his hands, not mine.

“So in less than 50 years the price of the silver has at least quadrupled, which makes sense because the price of everything else has gone up during that time. But silver or the other things don’t become more expensive. Your dollars become worth less and less every year. So it takes more of your dollars to purchase the same amount of silver.”

This always elicits a frown or puzzled look on their faces because it goes against what they’ve been taught; that the dollar is rock solid and stable. Most people really don’t understand inflation or currency debasement at all. So I make sure to repeat what I just said, only I use different words the second time to help it sink in.

“You need more dollars to buy the same gallon of gas than you needed 10 or 20 years ago. You need more dollars to buy the same size car or basket of groceries or a two bedroom home than you needed 10 or 20 years ago. Those things didn’t get more expensive; your dollars lost their value over that time so you need more dollars to buy the same thing today. This isn’t normal or natural. In fact it’s a deliberate act by the government. In effect, they’re stealing the value of your dollars from you because they’re printing dollars like crazy.”

While this isn’t a perfect explanation, it works for the purpose intended. To try to explain some of the finer details would quickly blank their brains. Stick to the basics and convey the idea, not the details. This is basic sales (and propaganda) technique. KISS or Keep It Simple Stupid.

Ready to Harvest

Now I just needed to seal the deal so I continued creating the image I wanted to plant in his mind.

“These coins are yours as part of your holiday tip. But there’s a catch. They’re going to become even more valuable very soon because the government has gone mad printing money. I want you to sign a promise that if you ever decide to sell or give them away, you’ll give me the first right to buy them back before anyone else. If you don’t want to sign that promise I won’t give you the coins, just the cash.”

Now I shut up. In the world of salesmanship I had just asked the customer to buy my product. A good salesman understands that at some point you must ask for a purchase decision and then shut your mouth. Often an uncomfortable pause follows. The first person to speak is generally the “loser”. If the customer speaks first, they most likely will buy. If the salesman speaks first, s/he has probably lost the sale. I wanted the UPS guy to “buy” the concept that his dollars are being destroyed. And that silver (and gold) can help maintain the purchasing power of his “money”.

The UPS guy thought about it for a second and then quickly agreed. I pulled out the contract and read the one sentence promise to him, signed both copies and showed him where to sign. I then gave him one copy and kept one for myself. Now the last thing I needed to do was provide him with purchase affirmation. We all need to feel we made the right decision after the fact.

“Here’s a list of coin dealers in the area where you can buy old worn out coins like these. They’re called junk silver and if you say those words they’ll understand. I suggest you try to buy $100 a month of silver and more if you can. You don’t need to buy collectible coins, just junk silver. Call ahead to make sure they have some in stock because they go fast. If you have a problem finding some, stop by my office and I’ll make a few calls and locate some for you. Is that a deal?”

I deliberately put my hand out to shake his hand and seal the deal. This is another important step. Remember that I had placed the coins in his right hand so now he needed to transfer them to his left hand in order to shake. This transfer of the coins from one hand to the other while agreeing to the deal is symbolic of his (unconscious) acceptance of the coins and the concept.

A few people had already moved the coins to their other hand so I deviated from my script a bit and asked for the coins back to show then a small detail. Then I placed them back in their right hand and immediately asked them to seal the deal. At this point the UPS guy, like nearly everyone else I did this with, had a broad smile on his face. My final act was to cement the big idea, meaning his budding liberation and emancipation, firmly in his mind.

“Don’t think of these coins as an investment because the price of silver will move up and down. Think of this as a way of protecting yourself from the liars and thieves in Washington DC. It’s your way of fighting back. Every time you purchase silver or gold, you’re saying to them ‘No more. You won’t steal the value of the dollars I just used to pay for my coins.’”

The look on his face was amazing. I had just turned a simple gift into a small act of revolt and liberation in exactly the same way the propaganda master Edward Bernays had conflated the act of women smoking with female independence and liberation. As I said before, I’m fighting fire with fire.

Teaching the Next Generation

The entire transaction never takes more than 5 minutes because I move it along quickly. If it takes too long, it becomes a burden for the busy person which in turn causes them to lose interest. I’m attempting to imprint an idea in a person’s mind so I need to move quickly with a rapid fire delivery of easy to understand concepts and beliefs.

BTW, the intelligence services call this a psychological operation or psyops for short. Now that you’re seeing some of the basic psyops concepts come together in seamless execution, hopefully you’ll take a closer look at what you’re being force feed on TV, in the newspapers and even in school. 

As I said earlier, I see many of these people on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and the feedback has been very positive. All of them thanked me again the next time they saw me. Over half quoted me the price of silver without being asked. Of the fifteen people I gave holiday coins to, three told me they’ve purchased additional silver since then and several others told me they would buy more coins after the holidays. I call that success.

After the initial gift giving I found myself a bit disappointed because I didn’t want to think my project was limited to just one month of the year. Then I realized it didn’t need to be. During my normal week I eat at restaurants or engage other services where tipping is customary. There was no reason not to continue spreading the silver seed. Because of time constraints I couldn’t do it with everyone I tipped, but over the next 3 weeks I was surprised to find that it worked most of the time if I was committed to doing it.

Now I always walk around with some junk silver dimes and quarters mounted in cardboard in my pocket, along with the laminated wallet card and the current price of silver. I made the coin shop list even smaller and added it onto the laminated wallet card so now everything is on one card. I’ve dispensed with the written contract because for the most part I don’t know the people I’m giving coins to. This has the added benefit of cutting some time out of the transaction. But I still ask for a verbal promise to sell the coins back to me.

I always make sure I give some cash along with the coin so the person doesn’t feel like they didn’t receive a tip. Remember that waiters and waitresses depend upon their tips for a substantial portion of their income. If I would normally tip four dollars on a twenty dollar meal (a 20% tip) instead I give them two dollars in cash and a silver dime worth two dollars.

The key is to give them a reason to walk away smiling and energized, not to have them feel like they’ve been under tipped or even cheated out of a tip. The cash means they got a 10% tip and the coin was “extra”. If the restaurant is busy, I’ll actually begin the conversation about the tip as I’m ordering and spread it out over the meal. It’s such an unusual conversation that I find they remain interested because they know from the start they’ll be tipped.

I make sure to tell the person that I’m only doing this once and that now it’s their responsibility to protect themselves. It’s important to use the word “protect” because it places the coin in a different mental category. And I tell them it’s one and done because I don’t what them to see me as their savior or benefactor, but rather their educator or instructor. I’ve shown them what to do as well as how. Now go do it.

This has gone over very well, particularly in the restaurants. I make sure to go back to the same restaurant over the next few weeks, but I sit at different tables so I can give coins to the other people working there. This helps build excitement and buzz which generates its own momentum. I’ve actually had a few people ask for extra wallet cards so I make sure to carry plenty at all times.

Other than the time it takes me to clean and mount the coins and make up the wallet cards, there really is no cost for me to do this. Remember that in every case I’m splitting the tip I normally give between cash and silver coin or coins. So I’m not spending any more money than I would normally spend. There isn’t even an opportunity cost from the loss of future appreciation of the silver because I’m replacing the silver beforehand. That handful of silver coins I started with was replaced the day after I decided to go forward with my idea.

This is very important for in order for this idea to spread each person who decides to do this must not be burdened financially. Otherwise internal resentment might build which could quickly kill participation. While giving is important to building one’s character and maturity, it doesn’t need to be a hardship in order for it to be constructive all around. The emotional joy I receive from doing something positive and constructive for others is an added benefit. There’s just no other feeling quite like the pleasure of giving of oneself for charity sake alone.

Passing the Baton

Before I close, let me tell you about the latest development. From the start my intention was always to see if I could get the ball rolling. I didn’t want to be the only one moving the mountain one wheel barrel at a time. I had assumed it would pick up speed on its own and it has. But the other day I realized I might be able to convert some of those who have received my coins into someone who gives away their own coins if I could apply the right incentive. It was worth a try.

A little over a week ago the UPS guy came in smiling and quickly told me that silver had hit $30. He was one of the people who had purchased additional silver on his own (an important qualification because it shows he’s bought into the idea) and each week he showed me the two coins I gave him as if to prove to me he was keeping his promise. I mentioned to him I was giving away silver dimes and quarters as part of my tip at restaurants. Suddenly I had another idea.

I asked him how many silver dimes equal a silver quarter. He pulled out his chart (which made me smile) and told me it came to about two and a half dimes. I then offered him three dimes for his quarter, to which he quickly agreed. Then I made the new pitch. If he would give away one silver dime to three different people as part of a normal tip, I would give him six dimes in return when he was done.

He couldn’t give them to friends or family, but only as part of a transaction in which he would normally include a tip. I told him straight away that I wanted him to teach others like I had taught him and I would only do this one time to get him started. I would also give him extra wallet cards, but he would need to make his own after that. Essentially it would cost me about $12 in silver dimes to create a new teacher, cheap by any standard of measurement even if it didn’t take.

At first I could sense his reluctance and I suspected he thought it was a trick or that it would cost him money. But I carefully explained that since he was going to tip someone anyway, if he split the tip between cash and silver coin, it wouldn’t cost him anything extra to give away the silver. I gave him the $4 tip example and suddenly he understood. I sealed the deal by reminding him that he would actually double his money by giving it away. He would get two silver dimes for each of the three he gave away. But he had to give them away first.

As he turned to leave he paused, then asked me how I would know if he really did give the coins away. I smiled and asked him if he was trustworthy. He immediately stood a little bit taller and said of course he was. I quickly replied.

“Well then, that’s good enough for me.”

I cannot describe the smile that came over his face when he realized he was being trusted at face value without a contract or even a handshake. But what surprised me was that he never asked me if I could be trusted to give him the six dimes. After all, he had to give away his silver first; only then would I give him mine.

I’ve since made the same offer to the two other people who bought their own silver coins and all of them have accepted the deal. While it’s still early and I have no results to report, I can’t wait until the UPS guy comes in next week to hear how he did. It will be fun to see if my Johnny Silverseed has germinated and what the new sprout thinks about his own personal growth.

The most powerful force in the universe is the seed of an idea that is embodied and made real, first in our minds and then with our hands. Often the cost of implementation is minor except for the activating ingredients, those most precious and rare elements called imagination, inspiration, initiative and leadership. But in the right hands, your hands, a seed carefully selected and nurtured to germination knows no limits to its growth and propagation. Look within yourself and discover those rare elements. Then become a Johnny Silverseed and cast your ideas to the wind to be the change you wish to see.

 

Cognitive Dissonance

01-02-2011

 

Special thanks to WilliamBanzai7 for the artwork below.

A Plan is Hatched