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Keep That Skeptic in You Sharp
November 27, 2007

Wall Street calls them "pump and dump" schemes. What do coin collectors call them?

When you see someone online saying this or that coin will hit a certain price by a certain time, there is a possibility that the person making the forecast is not just being helpful. The writer might own what he is touting and hopes to make a quick profit on it.

If a group of Lincoln cent collectors were comparing notes online as to where they expect the price of XF 1909-S VDB coins to go over the coming year, that would be one thing. The presumption here is that they share a common interest, they are knowledgeable buyers and that all or a significant number of them already own the coin.

What if a writer posting an online opinion just happens to own a significant number of whatever it is he is touting?

Always ask yourself whether the opinion expressed online is a candid observation, or whether the person could own a large supply of the specific coin being mentioned. He would naturally like to unload them at a profit. You are the potential buyer who can help him reach his goal.

This time of year people tend to evaluate how their investments did in the prior year. Stocks look pretty saggy. Now is a good time to tend to your healthy skepticism so that you are inoculated against pie-in-the-sky coin purchases.

It is one thing to buy something for a collection. It is also fine to take a flier now and then as long as you know what you are doing. But beware the hot tip if it is in an area you cannot independently verify. Somebody might just want to dump the ready supply on you.

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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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