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Bad ideas can be fun

When I was a kid, though I collected 12 months a year, there was no question that the peak activity time was during the summer.

With no school to attend and my paper route bringing me a small income, I had the time and the resources to try things.

Some things were smart. Some things were dumb (It took me a while to overcome my impatience to own things that were right before my eyes and overpaying just to get immediate gratification.)

As they say, a fool and his money are soon parted. I was a fool for numismatics and I was parted from some funds during the time I was learning my lesson.

Fortunately, my inherent skinflint qualities kept me from going too crazy.

But I still have a nearly slick 1883 No Motto Liberty head nickel to remind me of the cost of impatience.

But it is all part of the learning curve that we all climb in our own way.

Many collectors seem to be greatly tempted to clean coins even though professional advice is not to do it, because without the deft hand of a professional, you can easily destroy any numismatic value the coin might have.

The temptation I found impossible to resist was bound up in dateless Buffalo nickels. My eager eyes found an ad selling date restorer, which I quickly purchased.

Yes, I knew that date restorer did not produce coins that could be sold for the values indicated in price guides. I didn’t know that putting the acid date restorer on nickels even destroy their value for use in Southwestern jewelry such as hat bands and belt buckles.

Even if I had known about the jewelry effect, I doubt that the knowledge would have stopped me from applying date restorer to the dateless Buffalo nickels that I had.

I was such a fool for these nickels that I even returned silver war nickels to the bank just so I could keep more dateless Buffalo coins.

At the time, I expected the silver value of the war nickels to keep rising, so in effect I was paying a premium for the Buffalo coins that I kept.

I happily applied the date restorer to my nickels and I even bought a Buffalo nickel album to put them in.

Finding out what a previously unknown date is feels like winning the lottery, or learning some information that no one else could know.

It was an investment in summer fun.

From a numismatic standpoint, it was pure cost with no profit to offset the activity, but I guess since I got over the urge to apply acid to coins, it was money well spent.

While I might say that summer weather reminds me of those numismatic days long ago, that is not why I chose to write on this topic this today.

My motivation is an email that I received. It is from another collector who finds date restorer to be an irresistible product.

Good for him, if he has as much fun as I did with it. I think this is the case, but judge for yourself from the text below written by a North Carolina collector.

“I recently ordered five rolls of dateless Buffalo nickels and was amazed at what I found after I used a date restorer to restore the dates.

“My findings are as follows: four 1914-D, one 1913-S Type II, one 1921-S, nine 1913-D Type II, one 1915-S and the most amazing find, a 1918/7-D overdate.

“In the past I have searched many dateless nickels and restored the dates, but this latest find is by far my best ever. To all those Buffalo nickel collectors out there, there are still some good finds if you want to restore the dates. I realize a restored date is worth less than the unrestored, but it does help collectors complete their Buffalo nickel collection in an economical manner. You just have to have the patience to look for a bargain; they are out there.”

Ah, summer.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."