It is a common occurrence that people come into possession of coins, paper money, precious metals and other related items from an inheritance, gift, or discovery. In many instances, these new owners do not have the ability to easily identify these items, or what potential value they might have.
In the store where I work, we assist many people every day who are in this situation. Several of them state that they have tried doing research on the Internet with either no satisfying result or perhaps noticing a similar item of great value and wondering if what they have might be a valuable treasure.
Those who hold themselves out to serve the public as coin dealers, either in stores, at shows, online, or however, have varying degrees of numismatic knowledge. Some are deeply experienced numismatists across a broad range of niches. Others are exceptionally knowledgeable on a narrow category of numismatics. Still others have limited knowledge or are not up to date on valuations. When members of the public seek out a dealer to check on what they now own, what can dealers do to reassure these customers of their competence and credibility?
It is not practically possible to obtain a college degree in numismatics. Also, governments do not require coin dealers to be licensed. So, what can coin dealers do to reassure people they can properly assist them?
One way to exemplify your professional status is through numismatic memberships. At the absolute minimum, anyone holding themselves out as a coin dealer in the United States, even if you are just a casual seller in Internet auctions and stores, should be a member of the American Numismatic Association (www.money.org). Being a life member of the ANA is more impressive than just an annual member. Once joining, make sure that you are listed in the ANA’s dealer directory so that those checking that website can find you.
ANA membership is just the beginning of reassuring your potential customers of your credibility. You should also become a member of a local, state, and perhaps even regional numismatic organization, with life memberships being more impressive to the public. Beyond just being a member, consider serving as an officer or committee member. (For instance, when I recently testified before the State House of Representatives committee in Kansas that was considering a bill to exempt rare coins, precious metals and currency from that state’s sales tax, one of the local dealers had more credibility when he identified himself as the president of the Kansas Numismatic Association.)
If your business is focused on a particular numismatic niche, you should join organizations devoted to that sector. If you deal in paper money, as one example, consider becoming a member of the Professional Currency Dealers Association (http://www.pcdaonline.com/) and the Society of Paper Money Collectors (https://www.spmc.org/).
Another way to develop your credentials is to seek opportunities to speak about numismatics to school classes, service groups, scouting organizations, 4-H clubs, and the like. You can also write articles on subjects of special knowledge you possess that are published in a wide range of venues (some of which might pay you!).
The Numismatic Dealer Directory published by CDN Publishing (https://www.greysheet.com/DealerDirectory) lists more than 4,000 dealers online. Its 2015 printed edition listed more than 10,000 dealers. If your business is not listed there, you should contact them to be added, which may require a subscription to one or more of their products.
If a coin dealer becomes an authorized dealer for the major grading services, that business can be listed in their dealer directories.
In my mind, any coin dealership with a storefront or office to which the public can go should automatically become a member of the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (www.ictaonline.org). This is the national coin dealer trade association. At some coin shows in the past, an ICTA sticker has been attached to the dealer signs to signify ICTA membership. This gives those dealers more credibility to the public visiting such shows. Beyond just joining ICTA, a dealer should also support the Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force that is sponsored by ICTA.
Becoming a member of ICTA helps a coin dealer stick out from competitors. For example, the Numismatic Dealer Directory lists 44 dealers in Kansas. But there are only six Kansas dealers who are ICTA members. If you were a member of the Kansas public seeking a good coin dealer to patronize, ICTA members have a definite edge.
For those who have been in the coin business for a significant period of time, consider a membership in the Professional Numismatists Guild (https://pngdealers.org/). This is a more exclusive organization with higher membership costs. In Kansas, for example, there are only three PNG members.
In my public presentations on consumer protection issues when buying and selling rare coins, paper money and precious metals, I suggest that one way to vouch for the credibility of a dealer is to see if they are members of the ANA, ICTA and PNG. If they are not a member of any of these organizations, a member of the public might want to search for a different dealer. A better reassurance of a dealer’s credibility would be memberships in two or all three of these organizations.
In my opinion, it is not that important to become a member of the local Better Business Bureau. My experience has been that very few coin dealers become members. However, in the scandals of numismatic and precious metals businesses that have defrauded customers, it seems like a high percentage of these companies tout their BBB rating prominently in their online and printed materials. If I see a prominent reference by a dealer to the BBB rating, that actually diminishes a dealer’s credibility in my view.
The above list is not exhaustive of ways that coin dealers can build their credibility and distinguish their business from the competition in the eyes of the general public. For instance, non-numismatic memberships in local business or chamber of commerce organizations can be of value. Almost all of the above suggestions do involve spending money, but I think most or all of them will pay off in the long term with greater patronage from the public.
Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2017 Exemplary Service and 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2017 and 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
More Collecting Resources
• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700 is your guide to images, prices and information on coins from so long ago.
• The Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money is the only annual guide that provides complete coverage of U.S. currency with today’s market prices.