There are few things I like better than good conversation.

Which is why it warms my heart when readers like you care enough to write in and tell me nice things or not-so-nice things… things I should know or things I’ve messed up.

Frankly — because of our subject matter — UCW has one of the most interesting, thoughtful and unconventional communities around. It should come as no surprise that we frequently hear some of the most interesting, thoughtful and unconventional opinions as well.

So every now and again, we open up our mailbag and bring out some of the best letters — your most interesting stories and the questions that give us pause.

Today is one of those days. Without further ado — these are your letters.

A delightful article, Mr. Cole. I certainly agree with the concept of a handmade piece that becomes an heirloom. In fact, we did just that when our daughter married some years ago.

We lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is surrounded by artisans of various types, including a renowned furniture maker by the name of Blaise Gaston. Blaise made for us a custom-fitted silver chest as our wedding gift to our daughter. It was designed to hold all the pieces of a set of silver that was being handed down from several generations. Sadly, I don’t have his exact address, except that he lives on Fair Hope Road in a small community near C’ville. You can probably find him online… Look him up.

— Carolyn W.

Thanks so much, Carolyn! Writing about my “extravagant” purchase — which is actually an investment in disguise — was a pleasure. And judging by the number of letters I got in response, it struck a chord with a lot of readers as well.

Indeed, my handmade rocking chair is so comfortable — and I sing its praises so often — I have a few friends who are actively thinking of getting one themselves before Gerry Grant retires.

I’m glad you’ve got your own favorite artisan to follow as well.

By the way — for anyone who would like to invest in their own handmade furniture — this is Blaise’s website, and here’s the one for Gerry Grant and his famous rockers.

I think this is a great idea. I am a widow and have already found (and lost) the love of my life. I have also had to move to a new location and have lost my “social network.” Now I find myself alone and would like just to meet new people without the stress of dating. A cup of coffee and some good conversation with a friend sounds about right. No stress.

— Victoria H.

Hi, Victoria. First, I’m sorry for your loss.

Next, for everyone wondering what Victoria is referring to, a couple months ago we talked about how the sharing economy includes renting out friends for events, shows or even just a cup of coffee and conversation.

It’s a great way to get out there and meet new people, without the expectations that often come along with other avenues.

Just one thing… I’d rather be the one being rented, instead of doing the renting. You’ll have similar experiences either way — but one way you have to pay, while the other way pays you.

A couple of times I have
filled retail secret shopping assignments. Since I received a modest sum for my efforts, I guess I can be qualified as a professional.

I don’t carry myself differently, walk differently or even talk differently. My friends at church still speak to me. I think that is a good sign.

— Karl J.

Nice job, Karl. You’ve discovered one of the great secrets in retail. I say keep it up!

Secret shopping isn’t hard… it isn’t sneaky… it isn’t verboten. It’s just a way to enjoy luxury experiences… while getting those luxuries free of charge — often with a nice stipend attached.

I’ve rarely considered collecting things with an eye toward future reward. The one thing I did buy with that in mind was a case of Primo Hawaiian beer. I lived in Hawaii in the ’70s and saw an article in the local paper that the Primo brewery was shutting down permanently in 1979, and Primo would thereafter be brewed on the mainland. I bought a case of the bottled beer, which has Hawaiian language labels. They’ve never been opened and always been kept in the original case. The Primo replacement does not have Hawaiian language labels. So maybe 40-year-old pristine Primo may yet be worth something more than I paid for it (though the beer itself… ugh!).

— Carl N.

Now, this is one of the most interesting collectibles I’ve heard about. After doing a little digging, I found that antique Primo bottles alone can be worth $100 or more — for a single one!

But I haven’t even been able to find an unopened Primo with the beer still inside. You might have a truly unique item there — with a truly unique price attached as a result.

Having a case — instead of a single bottle — will likely up the value as well. (When you invest in wine, for instance, you usually want to start with a case and go up from there.)

If you’re interested in exploring the value of your collectible, I’d head to the closet antique shop or auction house. Whoever is there probably won’t know much about your item… but will know someone local who might.

Since condition is so important, I recommend you try out everyone in your area first. They’ll be able to inspect your case.

If that doesn’t work — with such a rare item, that’s highly likely — I suggest heading to the JustCollecting forums and see if you can find anyone there who has the knowledge you need.

Let us know what you find out! A photo would certainly be appreciated, along with the ending to your adventure.

Unconventionally yours,

Ryan Cole

Ryan Cole
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth

P.S. Have a question about something you collect? Read something in UCW that sparked a thought, an objection or a comment? Let us know at — you might just appear in a future mailbag. And while we can’t respond to every email, I promise we read each one and get to as many as we can.

Ryan Cole

Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.

Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...

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