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Complete Disclosure, Complete Nonsense?
June 02, 2011

If a doctor told you about your condition in nothing but technical medical terminology, would you understand?

Same for the dentist?

If you are like me, you know some things and rely on others to navigate the fields you know little or nothing about.

How about coin collecting?

I don’t worry about genuine collectors. They learn and they thrive. Sure, they make mistakes, but these mistakes are more than amply repaid by greater success in the long run.

Currently, though, the coin hobby has lot of visitors in it who will never actually collect. They are simply following the recent trend to use bullion coins as vehicles for investment in precious metals.

Their actions can be well thought out and productive for them. Or they can be disasters.

They don’t understand grading. They don’t understand pricing and they don’t understand the basic plumbing that connects one coin dealer to another.

But some of them do get full disclosure statements before they buy something.

The statements are less intended to provide sound explanations to novices than serve as a legal shield for the seller to claim that it’s all the novice coin buyer’s fault if he didn’t understand what he was doing.

I have people who telephone me who don’t even know that a price guide is read from left to right with lower grades rising to higher ones. This doesn’t even include the many who don’t understand what all the numerals in grade heads are for.

How much of an informed decision can they make no matter how many booklets they get?

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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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