It’s car show time in Iola, Wis.
The show tents have been pitched. The grounds have been prepared. Just add 100,000 people over the next 72 hours.
What little I know about cars I picked up by volunteering at this event over the past 34 years. When I began, the Model T and Model A Ford owners were big groups. Now the Muscle Cars of the 1960s are the big items of interest.
With my level of knowledge, I would never buy a collector car. I don’t want to care for it. It don’t want to store it. I don’t want to insure it.
But once a year I can feel the tug of nostalgia as generations of cars parade before me.
It would be an act of will and courage for me to break my habit of all these years to purchase a car. But when I think about this, it is a good thing.
A car is a big purchase and most people want to educate themselves before they go out and buy one as a collector car or for regular use.
Coins, unfortunately, don’t make people pause that way before making a purchase.
That’s a bad thing for the organized numismatic hobby.
Newcomers might ask themselves, “what harm can it do if I spend $10, or $20 for what I am holding in my hand?”
Does it matter to them that what they have might be overpriced or counterfeit?
“Why sweat it, it’s only $10 or $20?” they might reply.
A first coin purchase might even be an “investment” undertaken during a single phone call from a stranger.
“The country is on a path to economic destruction,” they are told. “Time to buy some coins as a lifeboat.”
In neither circumstance with these potential coin buyers does the first thought seem to be educating themselves before doing anything further as they would most likely do when buying a car.
Some of these stories don’t lead to particularly bad outcomes and so the individuals keep doing it. They apparently can’t help themselves.
You might be surprised by how many coin owners have little acquaintance with the popular guide books like the Red Book or Coin Digest, let alone more in-depth specialty books.
I once had a call from someone who had for 50 years been buying proof sets directly from the Mint. In that time he had apparently never read a numismatic reference, subscribed to a periodical, or gone to a coin show. Someone had simply once told him that proof sets were good buys.
The question to me was how was he supposed to sell what he had?
Had he bought a car, he would never have been able to let his education slide for 50 years.
Sometimes I am envious of the old car hobby.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”