When John Van Emden says you have five minutes, he means it. Van Emden, president of International Postal Marketing Corp., an $18-million distributor of coins and stamps in Montville, N.J., has devised a unique way to limit appointments: He uses a desktop basketball timer with a powerful, built-in stadium horn. When he wants to goose an appointment along, he sets the timer for five minutes, and the horn blares when his hapless guest has run out of time.

"I'm not known for having an awful lot of patience," Van Emden declares. "The horn is partly a gag, but it makes people more aware of time, and they tend to move faster." To keep pace with the volatile collectibles market, he adds, "I've found you have to be forceful.