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Ignorance Ain't Bliss
July 15, 2008

First I wanted laugh.

Then it was "uh-oh." The lesson just might apply to numismatics, too.

IndyMac Bank of Pasadena, Calif., failed Friday and yet a run on it by depositors seems to have started afterwards if the news footage from yesterday is any guide.

So, after the bank failed, after the government took it over, after the obligations of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to cover any deposit of $100,000 or less were triggered, that's when people decided to start a run?

How silly is that? Any money to be lost was already lost, and 98 percent of the depositors are covered by the $100,000 guarantee. Why was there a run at all?

The FDIC guarantee should be well known, but it obviously isn't. How can that be the case in the Internet age with so much information at our fingertips?

Apparently fingertips aren't close enough. It needs to be in your head.

What's the numismatic connection? Think about it. Collectors have always stressed knowledge and they are quite right to do so. However, the threat isn't from our lack of knowledge, but like the bank run, the danger comes from the lack of knowledge of the uninformed.

If coin dealers are going to be put out of business by overzealous regulators, it is the ignorance of those regulators we should be worried about.

A city council that cannot tell the difference between a fly-by-night motel coin buyer and a community based shop owner is dangerous.

The state department's seemingly willful blindness in equating collectors of ancient coins with looters is dangerous.

People who buy supposedly bargain coins online from sellers in China are dangerous because all they know is that they bought coins and they lost money.

It isn't our ignorance that's the problem. It's theirs.

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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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