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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hong Kong-Cat Street

Hong Kong
Cat Street

            I’m still converting slides to digital and came across this one of Upper Lascar Row, better known as Cat Street. It’s lined by antique shops now, a long steep alley that was once frequented by sailors and thieves. Thieves were known as Rats, and people who bought from them were called Cats—thus the name. When I was there, almost forty years ago, the alley was lined with guys and women squatting on the sidewalk selling stuff from piles of junk—all kinds of stuff. You could find anything: old plates, false teeth, lamps, paintings, pots and pans, toasters, knives, fans, eye glasses, coins . . . .

            It was this coin that caught me. One of the oldest cons there is, and I know it, but I still can’t resist. It was this U.S. silver dollar, dated 1797. The guy wants $10 for it. I know it’s probably a fake, but if it’s not this coin is worth a couple thousand—or more. It’s kind of like buying a lottery ticket. And I’m thinking, this is Hong Kong. Maybe this Chinese guy doesn’t know anything about American coins. Somehow it just turned up from God knows where and he’s tossed it in his pile of junk.
I bought it of course. Took it home with me and took it to a coin dealer—who laughed. 
The coin was bogus. I was not surprised.


The following was written by Carl Crow

"Every fine morning you can see these ancient playboy merchants trudging to their favorite corners carrying their precious cargo with them. There they assemble their stock, carefully separating rusty screws from crooked nails, and there they sit all day in the sun. It is a pleasant life. They see the moving picture of the crowds on the street, pass the time of day with an acquaintance, chatter with competing merchants, and once in a long time they may actually make a sale. But these old merchants do not have to worry about their customers or make any reports on sales volume. A son or a grandson provides them with bed and board and they keep shop for the fun of the thing, just as old gentlemen in other parts of the world play golf or pitch horse shoes or go to offices where they are no longer needed. If that is the way they want to spend their time, their children see that they are allowed to do so, for in China the whims of babies and of old men are always gratified."

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