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Hype or success: you choose

Marketing is a remarkably powerful force in American life. The hobby does not escape how it shapes our thinking.

I had a junk email this morning telling me the good news that I might qualify for a new super-duper computer model.


A computer is a product. All it takes to get one is to buy it.

Do I qualify for a new car, a new toaster, or for that matter, today’s lunch at the Crystal Cafe in downtown Iola? As long as I have the money in my wallet or funds in the checking account, I can say yes.

But simply being able to afford something at the time of purchase should not be the only guideline.

“Qualify” is a powerful word. It used to mean that a person had to have some combination of skill and education to be certified as something, or to have done something noble like serve in the military to participate in a specific program.

Now that powerful word is being used for just about anything.

Do you qualify to buy the coins you want for your collection? I use the word here more in its old sense. Do you have the skills to do so?

Yes, it takes skill to buy coins. The people who only have money to buy coins and do so without any real preparation usually end up with an unhappy exit from numismatics.

I was once called a crook over the telephone when the caller asked me what certain coins were worth that he had. He had paid something over $10,000 for them and the retail numbers I was quoting him were a quarter to a third of that figure.

He was not happy. I was the object of his ire.

But what preparation did he undertake to qualify for his purchases? There was none that I could tell other than having talked to someone who fed him a good line.

Numismatics is fun. It is fun precisely because the learning process required to do it right involves studying interesting topics like grading and history. It has a social element at shows and club meetings where we can rub elbows with other collectors who are working together to qualify to be true numismatists.

Try to ignore the marketing hype for any product, especially numismatic ones, and go for the long-term approach that involves both study and careful purchases.

If you do that, you will have a happy experience and qualify yourself as a successful collector.