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Hiring gold buyers nothing new

There was much tut, tut, tutting at the American Numismatic Association convention last week about dealers hiring people to stand in line to buy the proof gold Kennedy half dollars at the Mint booth.

Some people wondered how they could so such a thing.

Some people lamented that hired public displaced real collectors.

Others simply were made nervous by such a large crowd.

Whatever the reaction, it should be pointed out that this should not come as a surprise. Hiring individuals to stand in line has been done before. In fact, it is a time-honored way that dealers get immediate supply to sell to others.

I had a nice conversation with California dealer Ron Gillio during the cocktail hour before the ANA banquet on Friday night. He has attended every ANA convention since Cleveland in 1964.

Gillio had a story to tell.

In 1968 the Denver Mint received 6,000 1968 proof sets to sell.

The set was hot. Issue price was $5, and that was the price the Mint was selling them for with a limit of two sets per customers.

On the secondary market, the set had already popped to around $20.

Gillio was in Denver. He hired college students to stand in line. He acquired numerous sets in this manner.

He gave me a photocopy of a newspaper clipping from the Rocky Mountain News that reported on this event.

In the article he was called “the man across the street.”

He hired Metro College kids.

As the story described it: “He’s giving the students a $10 bill, keeping a watch or something as security, then buying the two sets from each of them when they come out at $12.”

This short description was given to the reporter by a Mint guard.

Naturally, the authorities were upset and wringing their hands much as ANA officials and Mint staff were doing in Rosemont last week.

The assistant superintendent of the Denver Mint, Charles Miller, is quoted as saying, “Apparently there’s nothing we can do about it. It isn’t illegal.”

The parallel could hardly be clearer.

The lesson is the same.

If the Mint offers a desirable product, there are individuals who do what it takes to acquire that product.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."