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All judged as one

How coin dealers treat collectors has been the subject of observation and complaint for all the years I have been an active collector.

Many dealers are the most charming and helpful people you can ever meet. A few aren’t.

Those whose interpersonal skills fall short sometimes prompt letters to the editor.

I had one in my email this morning. It was quite long. I will publish the whole text in an issue of Numismatic News.

The letter writer makes some good points. Further, the emailed letter was less a complaint and more a lament.

A portion of it below gives you an idea of the tone and subject of this missive:

“I have also been to the local coin show and find people to be pleasant, but they are all from out of town. This encouraged me to try the second local shop. While friendlier than the first, I also did not get a warm welcome. As soon as I said I was more interested in world coins than U.S. coins it was as if I did not exist. I was told ‘well, we have a few over in the corner there’”.

From this paragraph, we learn that dealers at a coin show were pleasant people – chalk this up as a win for organized numismatics and every dealer who sets up on a small bourse on the weekend.

Dealers at two local shops the writer did not find to be as positive as they might have been.

In the eyes of the collector, this reflects badly on the two shops. Worse, organized numismatics often is judged as one entity. Unsatisfying experiences are set against all of us in numismatics, not just against the offenders.

There is a logic to the behavior of the dealer cited. He determined in a few seconds that the stranger standing before him was not a customer he could serve.

World coins are a specialty area. Most shops require the active involvement of a population of U.S. coin collectors to pay the rent, or a steady flow of bullion buyers and sellers.

Serving either of these latter two groups requires little that would be useful to a world coin collector.

However, a few helpful suggestions at this point in the encounter rather than a dismissive reference to coins in the corner would have entirely changed the nature of this conversation from one that was negative in the eyes of the collector to one that was positive.

How we in organized numismatics achieve this positiveness in all places and in all circumstances is the challenge.

It is something that most dealers work a lifetime to achieve through their volunteerism, their donations and their mentoring.

But as this letter shows, there is still more work to be done.

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

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