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Book still valuable tool

Remember the early days of the Internet when individuals asked questions and other individuals would refer them to the FAQ page for frequently asked questions?

That response was a little like being told by your mother to do your homework when you wanted to go outside to play ball with the guys.

I am put in that situation from time to time. This morning is one of those times. An individual has emailed me questions about grading.

To find the answer to his questions, the writer of the email needs to buy a copy of the latest edition of the Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for United States Coins. The seventh edition contains 375 pages.

There are a lot of color photos, which puts it light years ahead of my copy of Brown and Dunn, which was my guide to learning to grade almost 50 years ago. It used line drawings.

The American Numismatic Association book is not an expensive one. It is $12.71 on the Wal-Mart site that popped up in my Google online search when I typed in the title.

It is not an expensive book. That makes it accessible to virtually every collector. It has nice color photographs, which makes it easier to use. But that doesn’t mean it is easy to learn grading.

You still have to read it, study it, compare photos to real coins and look at it from every angle you can think off.

While I can tell readers all about the book, it is still up to them to actually go through with the effort required to learn grading.

Perhaps it was easier for us half a century ago. It was not cheap to communicate long distance by telephone, so budding collectors did not call anyone to ask questions. They could write letters, but that was a slow process and weeks could go by. Shows were few and far between without extensive time and travel. Clubs were usually in big cities far away.

Reading the book was simply the least bad alternative to learn grading. You did it by buckling down and studying it.

I am sure if my mother had told me to do it, I probably would have stubbornly refused to do it and that would have made me an accountant today.

Because I realized I wanted to do it, and nobody else cared, I did it.

Buying the book is still the best place to start to find answers for most questions in numismatics grading and otherwise. That is what I will write in my answer.

Once the basics are embedded in your brain, there is a world of grading service, auction house and coin dealer websites to look at.

However, telling someone to get the book still reminds me of my mother telling me to go do my homework.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."