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January 07, 2009



With my return to work and a full five days to do it in this week, my telephone has been ringing quite a bit. One person wanted to know if the sales figures on the "Mint Statistics" page of Numismatic News were accurate because some of the collector versions of the American Eagle coinage seemed kind of low to him. They are as of the week they were printed.

The ultimate question from the caller, of course, was should the caller invest in some of them? That's not a question I can answer. I am not an investment advisor. I am a newspaper editor.

Taking a flier in this or that issue is part and parcel of being a coin collector, but it is not the fundamental aspect of coin collecting.

If I say, sure, go ahead and buy it, or don't buy it, I give the caller grounds to come back at me if the price goes in the opposite direction. And even if I am right every time someone asks me that question, I am denying that person the opportunity to develop as a collector.

At its root, coin collecting is about making your own decisions. It is my job to put before collectors the many possibilities that exist in this hobby. It is the essential characteristic of being a coin collector to make one's own decisions after reviewing those possibilities and matching them to personal taste, budget and time.

Chasing possible speculations might be fun and interesting, but it is overlooking the surest investment of all: collectors who assemble sets over time have the highest chance of gaining financially from their efforts and they have the satisfaction of knowing that they met the challenge on their own.



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Recent Comments
On January 7, 2009 Jimmy said
Dear Mr. Harper,

I have been reading your blog for some time now and find it to be great reading as a collector.  In fact I have now been collecting coins for over 20 years.  The reason I am writing is because there seems to be somewhat of a theme in your ideology that collecting coins is about financial gain/worthiness - i.e. how much a coin is valued in dollar terms.  This is reflected in your most recent column where you state "collectors who assemble sets over time have the highest chance of gaining financially..."  It is also reflected in your comments regarding the price of gold where you have stated that higher prices in gold are better for collectors.  Personally, and I think there are others out there, that collect coins for other reasons - they are a piece of art work that also tells us about our history, for example the only actualy image that we have of cleopatra is from a coin (and frankly if gold goes up I find it more difficult to buy a coin I would like).  

In my early days of collecting I remember going to a store and wanting to buy the best coin I could for the money I had.  I asked the store keeper which was the most valueable coin I could get to which he replied "I don't collect coins for their value, but for what I like and what they represent to me."  Since then I have collected under this mantra.  If one gets coins for their value and wants to sell them later, then by definition they would be an investor and NOT a collector.  

As a collector I wish the frame of mind of collecting articles would be: if the price goes up - great, if not, so what.  It is the history and beauty of the item that matters most.

Sincerely,

Jimmy

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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, Bank Note Reporter 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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