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It's Never too Late to Learn

If you’re lucky enough to have a great job, you’re probably surrounded by great people. The two go hand in hand.

Any numismatist out there would most likely agree that I have one of the greatest jobs around. Day in and day out I work with great people who are experts in the field of numismatics.

They are historians, writers, researchers and market analysts with a storehouse of information on U.S. coins and paper money, world coins and paper money, errors, tokens and medals. And although at times it seems they were born with this vast knowledge, they actually came by it quite honestly through study, curiosity and hard work.

Because the numismatic staff at Krause Publications has such expertise, we get our fair share of telephone calls from readers who have questions, most often about coins they have inherited or the latest offerings of the U.S. Mint. More often than not the switchboard operator will send the call to me so I can transfer it to the appropriate expert, whether the question be about paper money, world coins or the latest Presidential dollar.

At the top of my speed dial is George Cuhaj, editor of our world coin and world paper money Standard Catalogs. He also knows a thing or two about U.S. coins and paper money, tokens and medals.

Keep in mind that George, Tom, Dave, Bob, et al, really do have full-time jobs creating content, gathering images, updating pricing, tracking down new issues, writing articles and authoring books. So as helpful as they like to be, spending too much time on the telephone answering questions slows them down.

About a year ago, after a number of telephone calls had been transferred George’s way, he yelled over the wall that the next one would cost me. So, after sending yet another caller to his extension I grabbed a quarter from my change jar and plunked it on his desk. I paid him.

It wasn’t long before the quarters became dimes (I am not independently wealthy.), but my real goal was to cut down on the number of calls I had to transfer. Yes, before long, I was answering some of the callers’ questions. Ta da!

It’s amazing what you can learn from reading the right material. I collect coins but I’m “just” a hobbyist. I am far from an expert. But I’m learning. And I’m learning where to go for information that I don’t know off the top of my head. I read U.S. Coin Digest and Strike it Rich with Pocket Change. I read World Coin News, Bank Note Reporter and Coins magazine. I read all of Alan Herbert’s columns and his book Warman’s U.S. Coin Collecting. This stuff is all starting to make sense.

My newest favorite is a book by Robert R. Van Ryzin, editor of Coins, Coin Prices and Bank Note Reporter. Around here we call him Bob.

The book, U.S. Coins Close Up, is a perfect primer for the collector of U.S. coins. With clear images and understandable descriptions, he takes the collector through the various types of U.S. coins explaining their history and nuances. For instance, photos clearly show the difference between the Standing Liberty Type I and Type II reverses. Now I know.

You don’t have the privilege that I do of working daily with a group of numismatic experts. But you can still become more educated about the hobby you love. Buy some books. Read some articles. Check out some websites.

The saddest telephone calls we receive are from people who spent money unwisely on coins or bank notes merely because they hadn’t done their homework. The information is out there. Use it.

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OK. Fade away now for the commercial.

Anyone interested in purchasing U.S. Coins Close Up can buy it at a discount through April 1. Go to and at checkout enter code CloseUp10 for a 10 percent discount on the already discounted price. That means you get the book, which retails for $17.99, for only $10.80. Just don’t tell Bob!