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Hop Away from "Bargains"
March 18, 2010


I started my day in the dentist's chair, so I am a little late getting started in the office this morning.

As is the custom, I was visiting with the dental technician/hygienist who was cleaning my teeth between periods of simply keeping my mouth open as she picked, scratched and polished.

Her daughter has reached the point in her life where she has figured out that the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist. The story of how she figured it out was interesting as every kid is different.

The technician figured that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny would soon be toast as well.

That got me thinking about the numismatic equivalent of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

What I came up with was the strong tendency among collectors to equate a low price with a good deal. Buying coins for 50 or 60 percent of the usual retail price has been the goal of some hobbyists.

While it is by no means impossible to score a deal from time to time, the appearance of being able to consistently buy coins for significantly below the prices printed in retail price guides should cause the would-be purchasers to have a flashing red light in his mind.

These coins might just be not what they are represented to be. They might be tampered with or overgraded.

Coin offers significantly below retail should be approached with caution. Have the coins checked out by a grading service, or make sure there is a return privilege in case it becomes necessary to return the coins.

Bargains are nice. They can happen. But when you see nothing but bargains think that it might be a case of the Easter Bunny – a delusion or fable, but without the happy ending.


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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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