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Write a letter and become part of the action

?Why do I print all these letters from oddballs??

That question was posed to me by a telephone caller just before I needed to pick a topic for this column. Bingo. I have my topic.

Why do I print letters from so many different points of view? As I told the caller, collectors have always had opinions on a wide range of topics. They have always loved to express them. I said their letters were written from the heart.

Do I believe that all readers share the same views? Oh, not by a long shot. Just look at the recent exchanges about Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is amazing what heat can be generated by a President who died 62 years ago.
I myself started an exchange about President John Adams in this column. Adams left office 206 years ago. But what is time? History is alive to coin collectors. History is not settled. History is to be discussed and sometimes argued about. That?s life and the life of the Letters column.

The topic that set this particular reader off was he thought the Mint was being unfairly picked on with complaints. He said he was 68 years old and a regular buyer of coins from the Mint. He said he has never had a problem.

I said I was glad to hear it and I hoped he would express that point of view in a letter. He had told Maggie Pahl, who got the call first, that he did not want to write a letter. That?s how I got the call. He was not receptive to my suggestion he write one, either. He wondered why I just couldn?t stop them. I said I wouldn?t do that. The Letters section was the most popular part of the paper.

At the close of our conversation he said he didn?t expect to receive the answer that he had gotten.

Perhaps I have lost a subscriber. That is unfortunate. He is going to feel cut off and lonely separated from the rest of us oddballs.

The whole Internet phenomenon of user generated content will ensure that ever more collector opinions will be ever more widely shared. But that phenomenon isn?t for the bashful.

I used to debate in high school and college. The clash of opinions is not everybody?s cup of tea. I can understand not wanting to enter the fray. That is anybody?s right. What I do not understand is trying to stop others from engaging in what they clearly enjoy doing. I could not lure the caller into what I and most readers clearly think is an enjoyable and interesting part of hobby life.

I felt like I had lost one for the team. What makes sharing opinions so interesting is that they cover a wide field. When we get down to all being on the same side of every question, the letters will dry up and there will be nothing to read.

For almost 30 years I have been privileged to see them as they come in whether by the old-fashioned way or by e-mail. Though the means of delivery are evolving, the collectors at the core are doing what they have always done: building their collections, acquiring the information they need and sharing their views with others on the salient points.

If you have never written a letter, jump in and try it. You?ll like it.

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