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My first proof order made everything rosy

Krause staff member Fred Borgmann has pointed out to me over the years that I seem to like quoting Winston Churchill. That is certainly true. I used a quote of the great British prime minister  in the very first written piece I ever sent to Krause Publications when I was 15 years old. My article won the monthly ?What?s the Story?? contest in Coins magazine, a sister product to Numismatic News, in June 1971. I kept writing after that, ultimately deciding to make it my career and I ended up here April 17, 1978.

I have broadened my repertoire of quotations over the years. This week I will lean on Mae West?s bon mots for one. She said that too much of a good thing is a pleasure.

West?s words are humorous and it might be true, except when I think of how collectors have reacted over the past 40 years to the many changes in the Mint?s attitude to collectors and its customer service. If you read collectors?  letters to the editor as avidly as I do, you would think that there are an awful lot of collectors who do not seem to be taking pleasure in their dealings with the Mint.

That?s too bad. No organization is ever perfect. No organization gets it right 100 percent of the time. However, the Mint has made remarkable strides in the time I have been ordering Mint products.

My first acquaintance with directly ordering things from the Mint occurred in 1968 when I was 13 years old. I had seen the 1968 proof set frenzy. This occurred after the Mint had gone through a three-year period of blaming collectors for the national coin shortage, suspending production of regular mint sets and proof sets, suspending use of mintmarks on coins and replacing the circulating stock of dimes, quarters and halves with the new clad alloys. They truly were tumultuous times. Collectors saw their world turned upside down. It was exciting when in 1968 things started changing for the better with the return of mintmarks and the offering of regular proof and mint sets.

Perhaps it was during the years of deprivation that collectors honed their grievances. We had lost a lot. We had been unfairly blamed. We had been forced to change our circulation finds ways. Some collectors swore never to collect what they called clad trash. Many followed through and stopped collecting. That seemed silly to me. I was young. I was looking forward. I thought the hobby held great promise. I was eager to participate, all the more so because I had missed the 1968 set order deadlines. I don?t remember being aware of them when they passed. What I did know is that 1968 proof sets were trading on the secondary market for a premium. That premium took prices as high as $20 a set.

So I was fully primed and ready for the opening of sales for the 1969 proof set, which occurred Nov. 1, 1968. I got my order into the mail for two sets. They were priced at $5 each. I wasn?t alone in buying. They sold out in six days.

I chafed over delivery. Early deliveries saw 1969 proof sets trading for a premium. I received my sets the following summer. I wasn?t angry. I was grateful. I got the two sets I ordered. I knew the Mint had up to 14 months to fulfill orders and I knew others were still waiting.

Some while later, the hobby hailed it as progress when the Mint was required to fill orders within the same calendar year in which they were placed.

How times have changed. Nowadays most Mint products are delivered in just days. The exceptions still cause collector howls. That is to be expected. Human nature doesn?t change. But looking back, I wonder what my life would have been like had I gotten cynical at an early age and done something else.

Would I be sitting at a desk somewhere as an accountant or lawyer and just hating my job?  I don?t know. I am glad that I have had the opportunity to share in this great hobby for more than 44 years now.

After waiting for my 1969 proof sets, everything else just seems so much easier to live with.

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