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It's Not the Price of Silver, but it is Essential
February 04, 2011

Culture is not a word that comes readily to mind to describe the numismatic hobby. It might seem a bit snooty to even use it.

However, culture is the perfect word to describe the interests and knowledge that we all supposedly share as coin collectors.

What is numismatic culture?

What comes quickest to mind in answer to that question includes knowledge of what coins have been made, what they are made of, how many were originally struck and what historical and economic forces caused them to be struck in the first place.

You should assign the ability to grade to numismatic culture.

A phone call yesterday reminded me that we all need to include the basic knowledge of how to act correctly in the many numismatic transactions that occur in the life of a collector as both buyer and seller.

This perhaps has been neglected.

The caller had purchased MS-69 silver American Eagles. The coins purchased from the seller were in the slab of a grading service.

The buyer looked at the coins and decided that some of them did not meet his standard of what an MS-69 should be.

What did he do?

He sent them to the grading service and complained about their grading standards. He did not contact the seller of the coins.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Contacting the seller is the correct response in this situation.

The collector who bought these coins acknowledged that the seller had a return privilege and perhaps he should make use of it next time.

Why did he call me?

He wanted to write a letter to the editor to denounce the grading service.

I told him I would not run such a letter. While it is possible the grading service made a mistake, I cannot know that without seeing the coins, nor can my readers.

In any case, the grading service had no part in the economic transaction that set off this whole chain of events.

A dissatisfied buyer must go back to the seller in the first instance, not third parties. That knowledge might not be glamorous or even interesting, but it is an essential part of the numismatic culture.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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