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'Buy' Any Other Name
April 28, 2009

Are collectors losing the ability to think independently? Some days I wonder.

I cannot tell you how many e-mails I receive where the writer expounds upon a topic, a specific course of action and then ends by asking me if he should do it. It usually involves buying something to make money.

I am not an investment advisor. I believe in collecting coins methodically over time, building nicely matched sets that please the eye.

Because I am not an investment advisor does not mean that I don't recognize profits can be made in coins. Long-term collectors who follow the traditional hobby path usually make money unless perhaps the object of their ardor is XF Jefferson nickels.

I am also aware of the touts online. Buy this. Buy that. It will go to the moon. All the while the writer, often anonymous, is busily selling whatever it is online. The only person making a killing is the tout.

That's not collecting.

If you want to run with the touts, go for it at your own risk. Often what happens afterwards is I get withering e-mails blaming greedy dealers, the U.S. Mint and any other target that comes within range.

Usually after reading this kind of message I think that I have saved a family dog somewhere from being kicked out of frustration.

It is human nature, but it is not collecting.

There is nothing wrong from indulging the urge to make a killing from time to time. My introduction to this was my scramble to buy a 1968-S proof set on the secondary market when it was heading for the moon. The touts of the era were pointing to $50. I paid $15. Issue price was $5. Persons who bought directly from the Mint and got early delivery had a nice tripling of their money at that point.

The set hit $20. I felt ecstatic. But then the bottom fell out. Eventually, the set fell under issue price. I see it is being sold in retail ads for $6.75.

But I received more for my $15 than a proof set. I received a lesson in life that told me to recognize what it was I was doing and to know that even my best guess will not guarantee a profit.

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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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