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When I’m called a crook, I know the story

HarperD_color.jpgIt has been a while since I have been called a crook. It doesn?t happen often, but it does happen. The pattern is always the same. Someone who knows nothing about coins spends a large sum of money on them. Then the jitters set in. Then the buyer calls me. I don?t usually get the details. Someone will just ask what the current value is for some coin or other. When I give them the value, the explosion occurs.

?Why you crook, I paid …?

?Well, that?s what Coin Market says,? I will reply. ?Let me look it up in another guide for you. This one says it, too.?

?I was told …?

So it goes. It is harder to sell some people a $36.99 subscription than it is to get them to send a perfect stranger $10,000 on some kind of wild, pie-in-the-sky coin offer. Readers, of course, know how to resist offers of this kind. When they do, they often send me an e-mail reporting the latest in sales pitches or high-priced stuff. I appreciate that.

However, this is a perfect opportunity to point out that a high price alone is not sufficient to call an offer fraudulent. It isn?t. In fact, it can be normal merchandising.

Just as you can buy a pair of jeans for differing prices at Wal-Mart, Target or Macy?s, you can also buy an identical coin for various prices in perfectly acceptable and legal transactions. Some coin prices can even be too low, and that fact can be a warning.

As long as a coin is properly described, you can ask any price you want for it. Any seller can. I can take a $200,000 house in Iola, Wis., and put a for sale sign on it and ask any price I choose. Will I get fives times its market value? Not likely, but if I merchandise it properly, I will get more than if I don?t. The same is true with coins.

There can be would-be sellers who do not describe a coin properly. That kind of potential fraud is a topic we can address another time.

However, if a coin is accurately described, a price that seems way too high is not necessarily fraudulent. There are two additional factors that should put you on your guard. The first is the sales pitch. Is the coin being represented as some kind of investment? That should be a warning to any would-be buyer. No one knows the future. I believe coins that are logically collected into sets over time by knowledgeable collectors will tend to reward their owners financially over time. I would never say absolutely that coin collectors will make money. That is impossible to know.

We as individuals have only our personal experience and the hobby?s history to use as yardsticks with which to make a judgment. I have bought coins that have gone down in value. I have bought coins that have gone up. I like the latter better, but I don?t know the future. I can only work in a logical fashion over time and make my best effort. If someone says a coin is a sure-fire investment, be on your guard.

The other difference is pressure. Do you have to act fast? Are you being asked to rush payment? That should put you doubly on your guard.

Pressure is a part of life. If you are bidding in an auction, online or otherwise, you might have to make a split-second decision. However, with any transaction that involves a salesman, that shouldn?t be the case.

Unfortunately, if you are reading this, you probably don?t need to. Those who need to read this aren?t subscribers and won?t check the Web site. The only time some of these coin buyers come in contact with Numismatic News is when they contact me after the fact. By then, some of them are in so deep that they will lose more money than a lifetime of Numismatic News subscriptions would ever cost. I get called a crook.

Nevertheless, I consider myself fortunate. My readers are on the whole vigilant against high-pressure, so-called investment tactics. I also am fortunate that some of them keep me updated with their ongoing experiences. I know that they are doing their best to warn others. Unfortunately, when our warnings succeed, we never hear about a transaction that never occurred. We just have to take pride in doing a good deed.

 

E-mail your comments to Numismatic News editor Dave Harper at david.harper@fwpusb.com. Include your city and state with your message.

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