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New Collecting Season; Same Old Problems
September 06, 2007



Two e-mails that arrived in the past week tell me that even though it is a new collecting season, the same old human nature dogs the hobby.

One e-mail came from an outraged buyer who wanted to share his story as a warning to others. The other came from an outraged would-be seller who wanted to know who the American Numismatic Association thinks it is interfering in his online auction business.

Let's start with the buyer. He bought an MS-67 coin that was "professionally" graded by the Backyard Slabbing Service (I am not using the actual name here). He wanted to cross it over into a slab from one of the leading grading services, but didn't want it put in a holder if it didn't make at least MS-60. Well, it didn't. He is upset.

What this tells me is he probably got the coin for MS-60 money or less and was hoping to profit on his "real steal." The steal, though, went against him.

He claimed to be a longtime reader. If that is the case, it didn't do him much good. Backyard Slabbing Service has never had an ad nor has it ever been mentioned in a story. That ought to speak volumes to him. If you never heard of it, perhaps a little caution is in order. Sure, new businesses spring up all the time and it might just be the one to take the market by storm. However if you are offered an MS-67 coin from a purported professional for MS-60 money or less, can you connect the dots here?

If I remember the quote correctly, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway fame said that if you play poker for 15 minutes and don't know who the mark is, it's you.

Then there is the seller. He was offering to sell an error that could bring a high price. ANA intervened with the online auction firm because of what was claimed. The item was delisted.

What does the ANA think it is doing interfering with business that way? Well, for one thing, it is the so-called consumer protection that everyone claims to want to have but so seldom ever seems to make itself evident in the marketplace.

For another, from what information I was given, the ANA had good reason to act. Perhaps I do not know the whole story here, but you get the idea.

In a free market, there are problems. The only true defense is education. Education cannot prevent all mistakes, but it reduces their frequency by enough to make this a very enjoyable hobby.

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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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