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Add some quality coins to collection

The purpose of this article is not

The purpose of this article is not ?to win friends? but rather ?to influence people.?

I?m going to talk about the stupidity of coin collectors. I am sure that most collectors will say ?That?s not me,? but in many cases it is you and here?s why.

As a group, coin collectors have a higher than average intelligence simply because classifying and cataloging coins requires it. Thus, it can honestly be said that collectors are smarter then the average bear, but there the superiority ends and here?s why.

As a dealer for over 50 years, I have bought hundreds of collections and ? in many cases ? I buy from the heirs. They know little or nothing about the coins except that they have some value. Being an ethical person, I always try to be as fair as possible especially knowing that the sellers are unaware of whether the collection is worth $700 or $7,000. Now, before you assume that this is a personal ego inflating piece, hear me out.

Generally, in about 10 seconds, I am aware of whether the person who formed the collection was a connoisseur collector or just a run-of-the-mill saver. Even if the coins are in a blue folder, it can be an excellent collection or just trash.

So, what do I look for? Simply put, superior coins. Now, a lot of collectors collect out of circulation and that is OK if you do it with some purpose and don?t just stuff coins in holes and forget about them. Every collector should upgrade his collection even if it is just to swap from Fines to Very Fines or something similar. The person who puts a coin in a folder and never does anything else will have a trashy collection and that is a fact.

When looking over a collection, I search for a few MS-63s, MS-64s or even one MS-65 coin. This shows me that the collector at least recognized that there were better coins out there and they should be saved even if they are only fairly current Lincoln cents. If, however, I see lots of coins with stains, nicks, fingerprints, etc., I realize that I am dealing with a dum-dum who never got the word.

 Now, a question ? are you a connoisseur or a dum-dum? Think about it for a minute. Even if you collect large cents, you can still be a dum-dum. I have seen some horrible large cent collections. They had green corrosion, heavy mutilation, etc. It would be better to have a large cent collection of all AG coins as long as each piece was a perfect AG than to have a VF collection in which every piece was a ?problem? coin (that is to say, had something seriously wrong with it).

Now, I am not saying that you have to be a millionaire to have a good coin collection. A Good condition set of Buffalo nickels can be just as much of a joy as an 1804 dollar. We all have our monetary limits. But, and I mean but, you can show some class as to what you save. If you collect junk, it will always be junk and, when your heirs go to sell, they will get a junk price. If, however, you show some small amount of pride in your coins and save only better pieces ? however modest your budget ? your heirs will be much happier and things will be better all around both for them and the ultimate buyer.

So, the next time you have a choice between a bare MS-60 coin at $1 or an MS-63 at $3 or even an MS-64 at $5, think for a minute about how the choice reflects on you as a collector and what the final outcome for your heirs will be. A few bucks more up front for a nicer coin will have a huge effect on the value of your collection in its final sale.

Thanks for reading through this diatribe and I hope that I have opened at least a few eyes with this piece.

Jim Hirtle is owner of Chesapeake Coin Company, Westminster, Md.

To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send e-mail to