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A set we don't want to assemble

Do you have a collection of bad examples?

Every collector makes mistakes. There is a learning curve in numismatics.

When I first learned of the sale of Aubrey Bebee’s 1913 Liberty Head nickel in 1967, the $46,000 price awed me. It made me wish that someday I might be able to afford one. But most importantly, it made me want to collect the Liberty Head nickel series.

Instead of studying up on it, I simply bought a Whitman album and turned to the Red Book, which I was buying every year.

After that, I went out armed with some paper route money to start buying Liberty Head nickels.

The first opportunity I had was at a local shop in town that had just opened in an old building.

The budding dealer had some Liberty Head nickels, but not many.

He happened to have an 1883 coin without the word “Cent” on it. I knew what it was. I was attracted by the story of the racketeer nickel, which was a gold-plated version that might be mistaken for a $5 gold piece.

The upshot was I literally bought the very first example of the coin I had ever seen.

It was in awful shape. I hesitate to state what it’s grade might have been.

Was it AG? I don’t remember.

I have not looked at the coin almost since I acquired it. It was a stupid purchase.

I had buyer’s remorse as soon as I got home with it and took a good look at it.

But I was stuck with it.

I wasn’t misled in any way. I just had money burning a hole in my pocket. I spent it.

Fortunately for me, in this instance, it was not that much money, and I learned from my mistake.

I don’t necessarily like being confronted by my mistakes any more than anybody else does.

There are other problem coins that I have like a slider silver dollar that I should not have paid BU money for, but I just had to have a 1923-S Peace dollar right away rather than waiting for a more suitable one to come along.

Like the nickel, I saw it. I examined it, but the need for the specific date overruled the basic collector consideration of buying a coin that I could be proud of.

How many mistakes of this kind I have made I cannot say. I have never attempted to count them.

But perhaps I should have.

Had I kept a small collection of mistakes in one place and taken a look at them from time to time, I might have made fewer mistakes over time.

I did not do this. That might be my ultimate mistake.
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."