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How many troy ounces in a quart?

My job of delivering news to collectors is an ever challenging one. One aspect of it is to determine how much information is too much and how much is too little. That is not as easy as you might think.

Consider some phone calls last week. One had to do with the Metals section on Page 4 that Numismatic News publishes every week. When markets are moving, collectors want to know what the reference point is. Advertisers put caveats in their print ads that bullion coin prices are subject to change without notice because of daily fluctuations.

The prices on Page 4 provide a useful reference point as to what prices prevailed as the paper was being put together. Gold, silver, platinum and palladium have been there for years. In recent months staff decided to add nickel, copper and zinc because of all the stories we have been running when these base metals were hitting new highs.

A phone caller asked what unit of weight was being quoted. I was startled. I admit I wanted to joke that gold isn’t sold by the quart, but I didn’t. The caller had a good question. Everyone has to find out this information at some point, but I had not figured on the possibility that even with the many published stories this year, someone would not know that copper, zinc and nickel trade by the avoirdupois pound and gold, silver, platinum and palladium trade by the troy ounce.

Another caller said he had driven 500 miles to Wyoming for a debut of that state’s quarter because of a box on the Mint Statistics page that said, “Wyoming Quarter Release: Sept. 4, 2007.” The caller interpreted that as the ceremony date when it fact it was the date the coins were released to the banking system and when the Mint began to sell bags and rolls.

When that box has been dropped out occasionally for space reasons, I get called by another reader who tells me he relies on that box.

What to do? It is simply a signal to me that my work is never done. Every week is a new one with a potentially new audience and I must do my best to keep the veterans engaged and yet help bring others along on the grand ride that is this hobby.

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