Dear Mr. Berko: 

I’ve sent you a World Reserve Monetary Exchange advertisement that appeared in the Tampa Bay Times. Our 77-year-old uncle, who lives on Social Security and a modest pension, sent WRME a lot of money over a dozen years to purchase presidential medals, gold pocket watches, key chains, Vatican coins, silver coins, commemorative issues and other collectibles. He’s currently hospitalized in Tampa, and when he leaves the hospital, we’ll take him to Oklahoma City with us. In going through his personal effects, we discovered he spent more than $21,000 on these collectibles. When we took them to several coin dealers, the most any dealer would give us for these items was $1,230.

We’ve written Mary Ellen Withrow, the executive adviser of the exchange, and Timothy Shisler, the senior numismatist, asking whether they would consider refunding some of the $21,000. We figured that Withrow, because she was once the treasurer of the U.S., would at least give us some consideration. No one responded to our letters or phone calls. Yesterday, to our surprise, Uncle Matthew received a collection of beautiful $2 bills, which are bound in a folder, in the mail from the exchange. Do you think these could have any collector value? We would appreciate your advice on how to get more money for Uncle Matthew’s collection.

B.T., Oklahoma City



Dear B.T.: 

Thanks for sending me that full-page advertisement from the Tampa Bay Times, featuring a one-time, limited offering of uncirculated U.S. $2 bills for sale from the World Reserve Monetary Exchange, located in Canton, Ohio. What an unmitigated farce – and a triple “boo” on the Tampa Bay Times for allowing such obviously misleading advertising to appear on its print pages. Mary Ellen Withrow has nothing to do with the management of WMRE, though she does receive a significant sum of money each year for allowing her picture (and title as former U.S. treasurer) to appear in WMRE ads. She’s a joke, and I wouldn’t trust the cadaverous Timothy Shisler to give anyone the correct change for a dime.

Assume an intelligent life-form from outer space landed on Earth and decided to measure the intelligence of the average American citizen. Observers agree that a precise barometer of human intelligence can be accurately measured by observing the ludicrous content of America’s newspaper, TV, radio and Internet advertising. And the WMRE is a master strategist of this concept; it preys on the gullibility and groupidity (the collective stupidity of a group of individuals) of many Americans – young, middle-aged and old. Only an American, upon being told that “the potential increase in the value of a $2 bill is impossible to predict in the future,” would eagerly pay $5 each for a dozen brand-spanking-new $2 bills in a cheap plastic folder. And according to a knowledgeable source, some 107,000 stupids were conned in the past dozen months and purchased $2 bills from the WMRE, paying $60 for a set of 12 and believing that it would increase sweetly in value.

Well, Jimmy crack corn and Jiminy Cricket, Better Business Bureaus around the country have been flooded with consumer complaints about WMRE for years. Those $2 bills are as common as dirt. One of the most egregious complaints, other than blatant fraud, concerns WMRE’s unauthorized use of the consumer’s credit card to purchase merchandise that was never ordered. This unscrupulous organization has taken tens of thousands of Uncle Matthews to the cleaners.

The coin dealers who offered you a fair value for that other rubbish and junk would suggest that you use the $2 bills Uncle Matthew got in the mail to help pay for his trip to OKC. Meanwhile, cancel his credit card immediately. You might place an honest advertisement in the classifieds or on the Internet and recover a tad more of Uncle Matthew’s pension money, but I doubt the effort would be worth the results. Lump it or like it, Uncle Matthew was bamboozled by WMRE. When you return to OKC, consider a WMRE garage sale.