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Advice worth more than gold

If you could give a word of advice to every new collector, what would it be?

We all make mistakes that we should have avoided. A little guidance from prior generations might have helped.

Not every bit of numismatic information comes from books.

People like the personal touch that comes with interaction with another person or group, such as a coin club.

We have truisms that we share. “Buy the book before the coin” is one such. It comes from a 1966 ad from Aaron R. Feldman.

He wanted to sell his books, so it is natural that he would give this advice. But it is also true.

Collectors need the information that books provide in order to maximize the value and enjoyment they derive from their coins.

But what books? There are so many.

Once a collector buys a Red Book covering U.S. coins, he very often is like a deer in headlights.

The Standard Catalog of World Coins book series provides a wealth of information covering 500 years of the world’s coins.

Most collectors can function very nicely with one or two volumes.

Those that cover the 19th and 20th centuries are probably most useful, but the rapid rate of issuance of 21st century coins also puts this volume on many must-have lists.

So when you are thinking of buying the book, there are more than one.

How about the truism, “Buy the best you can afford”?

While it is true, it is also cryptic.

Spending your collecting life buying the best Jefferson nickels you can afford is entirely different than putting your money into the best Mercury dimes, or best Morgan dollars.

However, top-graded coins in most series ultimately do register the largest price increases over time even if gains in series like Jefferson nickels have been more meager.

Silver coin series periodically get a boost from soaring bullion prices, so if the best you could afford years ago was an assortment of circulated silver coins taken from circulation, you did much better than in the nonsilver series collected in the same way.

Does that mean you should always buy series that are underpinned by bullion?

That might be true.

As we get further and further away from the heyday of the circulation finds era of filling albums, general collector interest has focused more and more on large silver coins.

Buying the best you can afford can also be interpreted to mean buying brand new issues, or coins of the last 10 or 15 years that can earn MS-70 or Proof-70 grades from third-party grading services.

This comes with a caveat that you have to watch population reports.

Coins that have had high numbers slabbed and graded at the very top of the 70-point scale will be less valuable than coins of the same grade that show fewer pieces making the top grade.

Being in the best condition possible alone does not automatically translate into the scarcity that means higher prices, but it is one of the requirements.

If you could distill your accumulated numismatic knowledge into a few catchy phrases, or just short sentences, what would you choose to share?

The next generation might thank you for it.