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What do you do with mistakes you make?

HarperD_color.jpgSummertime is nearly upon us, according to the calendar. According to my lawn, it has been here for quite a while. Over the weekend, I cut it for the umpteenth time. When I finished, I was hot and thirsty. I decided to walk two blocks to a local gas/convenience store and buy some Diet Dr. Pepper. Of all the diet sodas out there, this is the one that I happen to like best. I knew what I wanted. I had been thinking about it for the final five or 10 minutes of the time I had spent on the lawn.

I headed to the glass-doored refrigerator that stores a huge number of possible beverage choices. I spotted the plastic Dr. Pepper bottles, grabbed one, paid the cashier and was out the door in almost a single fluid motion. I took a couple of steps, stopped, opened the screw cap and downed a few swallows.

I had drunk about half the bottle before I really looked at the label. Then it hit me. In my haste, I had grabbed a regular Dr. Pepper instead of the diet version next to it. There was no real harm done, but I had not purchased what I thought I was purchasing due to my haste and inattentiveness.

Haste and inattentiveness are the enemies of collectors too. The price I paid for buying the wrong soda pop was a few extra calories. The price hobbyists pay for haste and inattentiveness in numismatics can be any amount.

What kind of mistakes can you make when the price of bullion is rocketing higher and it seems like you had better act quickly to get on the gravy train?

What kind of mistake can you make when you see what looks like a deal online?

What kind of mistake can you make when the U.S. Mint is offering something in limited quantity and you just know it is going to sell out?

We’ve all been there and done that. The point is, did we learn from it? Are we better collectors for it?

I remember when I was a kid in Lake Mills, Iowa. A coin shop opened briefly uptown. I thought it was wonderful to have such ready access to coins. Well, I was determined one day that I wanted an 1883 No-Cents type nickel. Nothing else would do. I had money earned from my paper route. I headed to the shop. The only version of the coin the shop had was so worn that not only did it have no motto, but virtually everything else was missing also. Nevertheless, I had worked my mind up that I wanted it. I wanted it now. So, I bought it. I still have the coin. I really appreciate it. Every time I look at it, I can hear that inner voice calling myself an idiot. “Look at what you purchased,” it says. “You know better than that.”

What can I say in my defense? I was young and didn?t know any better? I knew better. Even then I knew better. I had buyer’s remorse the moment I got home.

Do I claim I was out of control like a sailor on shore leave? What?

What I have found over the last 43 years in the hobby is that those kind of impulses occur regularly. I can think up some really stupid things to do. Sometimes I do them. Hopefully, my good sense will overrule these impulses before I do them. Most of the time, good sense and training do prevail.

I have read the grading books. I know the danger signs. Every collector needs to learn these, too. But despite it all, I still can make mistakes. I am fallible. It is my own fault. I hope I learn from it.

Life is like that. I have made some good car purchases and some bad ones. The bad ones were when I was younger and absolutely had to have it right now. There goes that haste and inattentiveness again.

How about stocks? Dave Kranz and I talk about them from time to time, often in the context of our company 401(k) plan. I have shares in a firm in which I lost 72 percent of my initial investment. I have kept them for 15 years. Why? I tell Kranz that when I see them in my statements, I hear the same inner voice. “What kind of idiot was I?” I did learn. I have made some better choices too.

Hobby life is about making mistakes, taking ownership of them, learning from them and then going on to better collecting. Is that what you do?

 

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